Lobi-Dagarti Peoples - Sociopolitical Organization



Political Organization. Except for the Wala and the Gan, the peoples of this group lacked chieftainship and central political organization until the coming of colonial rule. Before that, settlements were basically parishes, ritual areas under the supervision of a Master of the Earth, who conducted expiatory and other sacrifices in a sacred grove on behalf of the community. Particularly severely reproved was the shedding of the blood of any member of the community. In addition to the Master of the Earth, there was a leader in armed conflict (and the hunt), the Master of the Bow. The Earth priest was always advised by the heads of the constituent lineages of the settlement, who made up an informal moot and entered into complex patterns of reciprocal action in funerals and on other ritual occasions. A powerful man in the settlement might, on occasion, build up both riches and a following, and thereby temporarily gain influence over community affairs. On some of the trade routes running north and south, Muslim merchants established settlements and engaged in local as well as long-distance trade. Today all areas have had chiefs imposed upon them by the government authorities.

Social Control and Conflict. In earlier times, the absence of central authority meant that the feud played an important part in the settlement of disputes. Men always traveled equipped with bows and poisoned arrows, a practice that early colonial administrators tried to modify with varying success, especially in Lobi country. The main causes of conflict were rights to women and access to forest products. Within the parish, conflicts of this kind were rare because of kin ties and respect for the Earth shrine. Strong sanctions existed against adultery, theft, and other delicts, which were settled within and between local lineages. More recently, local chiefs and headmen have exercised supervision on behalf of the government, and local courts of law have been established.


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