Wape - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The visible social units are the Nuclear family and the village. Kinship ties to a father's and mother's lineages and clans—and, by marriage, to those of one's spouse and one's children's spouses—are still of Paramount importance in terms of mutual obligations throughout one's life. The strict exchange obligations of these relationships, supplemented by a general passion for gambling among men, make it almost impossible for a man, even today, to amass wealth and power over others.

Political Organization. Traditionally, each village was a minination composed of a number of patrilineages belonging to several different clans and, although some men were more influential than others, there was no custom of a village headman or chief. Ties to other villages were via these clan ties and the kinship ties of in-marrying women. These ties continue to be important although today the nation has imposed other political institutions including elected regional councils, the police, and courts. The Wape also participate in elections to send representatives to the House of Assembly, the nation's highest law-making body.

Social Control. Ancestral ghosts and the demons resident on one's land are perceived as being very active forces in everyday life. Since these spirits are omniscient, a person offends them at her or his peril. Lineage mates also keep close track of one another and any social infractions are met with disapproval. Fear of sorcery as a reprisal for offending others is also still an active concern.

Conflict. The Wape generally are a pacific people who dislike conflict and work hard to prevent it. When a villager is deeply offended they go to the offender's house and, standing outside, give a haranguing lecture. If a problem escalates, the village is called together to hash out the dispute and reach a consensus decision. Villagers generally avoid using the courts for recourse when possible. Traditionally, pay-back killings with enemy villages did occur, but sometimes there were intervals of several years between killings. Some villages had abandoned feuding even before visitations by government patrols.

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