Yakö - Sociopolitical Organization



Although indigenous political integration did not extend beyond each agro-town, it is clear that so many people were resident in these settlements that their organization and the maintenance of relatively peaceful and orderly conditions within these towns depended on a high level of social and political skill.

Social Organization. Each town was divided into wards, which in turn were subdivided into smaller territorial units claimed by patricians. Within each ward, age sets cut across these smaller units and united men and women of the same age, regardless of kin affiliation. The political significance of this arrangement was, of course, particularly salient for men because they were residentially more restricted to patrikin areas than were the women. Each man was in many respects ultimately dependent on his age mates rather than on his kin. Since adjacent age sets were traditionally hostile to each other, rather like rival groups of football supporters, each set developed a strong esprit de corps that was an important counter to kin rivalries and provided a firm basis for work groups to be mobilized for communal activities on behalf of the ward. The many societies provided additional territorial rather than kinship links; the most important of them were solely for men and operated on a townwide basis. These societies imposed sanctions, sometimes as severe as death, on those who flouted their rules. They therefore became targets for action by the colonial administration in the very early years of the twentieth century. By the mid-1930s, it was already difficult to determine their precise political significance in the indigenous system. It seems probable, however, given the fact that their entrance fees were high, that they were to some extent vehicles for the exercise of power by the more wealthy members of the community.

Social Control. Problems of social control, when they involved fellow group members, were dealt with by the leaders of those groups; however, because the Yakö lived in such large settlements, other control mechanisms were also utilized, notably the granting of rights to important men's societies to punish particular categories of offenders by seizing and eating their matrikin's livestock. It was then in the interest of these kin to bring the recalcitrant members into line. As male matrikin were dispersed, this system had the advantage that such a sanction did not antagonize territorial groups.

Conflict. There was a specific war society ( eblembe ) for each town. The most meritorious way of entry into such a society was by payment of a fee and proof of success as a warrior, especially the presentation of an enemy's head. Officeholders had titles indicating their military functions (e.g., Leader on the Path and Leader of the Rear Guard). Upon the death of a member, it was the duty of his patrilineage to supply a successor and pay a joining fee.


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