Posted by / Saturday 21 October 2017 / No comments

The pre-colonial political organization of the Wolof ethnic group of the Gambia

The Wolof ethnic group is native to both the Gambia and Senegal though the bigger chunk is found in Senegal. In the Gambia, the Wolof make up 16% of the entire population. In the pre-colonial times, the Wolof took to farming as their main occupation. Some though, were also hunters in addition to their farming activities. 

Prior to the coming of the colonialists, the Wolof maintained a strict social caste system. A Wolof was either born a Royal, Nobleman, Free-born or a slave. Once one was born into a caste, one could not change it till death.

Burba Wolof (Ruler of the Empire)
The Wolof Empire was primarily made up five kingdoms. The empire was headed by an Emperor called Burba Wolof. He was appointed by an electoral body of king makers. This Electoral College included the rulers of the five kingdoms constituting the Empire. 

Rulers of the kingdoms
The empire was made up of five kingdoms. Each kingdom was headed by a ruler. He was a male descendant of the original founder of the kingdom. The Noblemen of the kingdom had to engage in a final balloting before the BurbaWolof was finally chosen. His main duty was to ensure peace and harmony in the kingdom and to maintain peaceful co-existence with the other kingdoms within the empire. The kingdoms were virtually independent of the empire but they were expected to collaborate when it came to the issues of trade, defense and the payment of taxes.

Village Chiefs
The kingdoms were made up of various villages, each headed by a Village Chief. The chief was a male descendant of the founder of the village, coming from the line of the father. The Village Chief made sure there was peace in the village. He maintained law and order and ensured taxes were collected. The Village Head was assisted by a Council which he appointed himself. The Council members were appointed from among the Nobles of the village.

Lineage Heads
The villages of each kingdom were populated by members of lineages. The Lineage Head was duty bound to settle disputes among the members of the lineage and to ensure there  was peace at all times.

1. Highlight the pre-colonial political structure of the Wolof.

Related Posts