Kwoma - Sociopolitical Organization



Political Organization. Kwoma are divided into a number of named, politically autonomous tribes. Traditionally, the clans composing a tribe formed a discrete settlement group (see above); today several tribes can be divided into two or more villages. Leadership at the tribal level is exercised by men who have risen to positions of prominence through their debating skills, their greater knowledge of social and ritual matters, and, formerly, their prowess in warfare. "Big-men" usually are also outstanding artists. There are no inherited political offices. Political leaders reach the height of their power in their sixth and seventh decades. Men under the age of about 50 carry little weight in tribal politics. Today, Individual villages elect councillors to represent them in the Ambunti Local Government Council.

Conflict and Social Control. Formerly, warfare between tribes was common. Warfare between clans in the same tribe was strongly reprobated, but such clans were and still are believed to fight with sorcery, suspicion of which is the major cause of lasting ill-feeling between individuals and clans in the same tribe. Intratribal conflict ideally is resolved nonlethally, through discussion, mediation by clan leaders, (traditionally) fighting with sticks, and payments of compensation in shell wealth. Village leaders regularly convene meetings in the ceremonial houses, attended by all members of the local community, to resolve disputes and discuss other matters of village concern. Long-standing unresolved conflict is believed to precipitate retaliatory sorcery.

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