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Kusasi people

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Kusasi people

The Kusasi people (var. Kusaasi) are an ethnic group in northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso. They speak the Kusaal language, a Gur language.[1]

Geography

Around 400,000 Kusasi are found in the Bawku Districts of northern Ghana, a region inhabited by a mixture of peoples, including the Mamprusi who came over from across the White Volta in Mamprugu in the era preceding the colonization of the area and other minority groups like the Bisa or Busasi, Moshie, Fulani and Bimoba communities. The relations between Kusasi and other ethnic groups have been troubled in recent times. Control of Bawku and the paramountcy located there has caused sour relations and the ethnic distrust. Previously, the various ethnic groups maintained good relations, and ethnic intermarriages mediated by a substantial bride wealth settlement have been characteristic of the area.

The Kusasiland is divided culturally into two divisions – the western or Atoende division that lies to the west of the Red Volta and the Agolle division to the east. Though Kusasi constitute a fairly homogenous cultural and linguistic group, there are perceptible cultural and linguistic differences between Agolle Kusasi and Atoende Kusasi. The Atoende have been culturally influenced by their neighbours to the west, the Nabdem.

The multi-ethnic town of Bawku is the largest commercial town in the Upper East. Its growth has been in response to its commercial role and its attraction of traders and merchandise from Burkina Faso, Togo and beyond. Its specialties include kola nuts from Southern Ghana destined for Burkina Faso, livestock, onions and other local produce.

Traditional authority

Traditionally, the paramount chief of Mamprugu (the nayiri) installed five chiefs directly from Mamprugu to the Kusasiland. The main function of these chiefs was to keep open the trade route between Nalerigu, the Mamprusi capital and Tenkudougou in Burkina Faso, and to provide escort for traders and slaves from the north.

The Kusasis had no chiefs but rather Tindaanas. The Tindaana is a religious figure who serves as the intermediary between the gods of the land and the people of Bawku. As a result, when the British arrived and needed chiefs for purposes of indirect rule, the five Mamprusi chiefs were useful as aides and had their authority extended, thus strengthening the power of Mamprusi under the British empowerment. In Kusasi localities, some Tindaanas were made de facto chiefs by adding secular functions to their religious powers.

Control has changed several times between Mamprusi and Kusasi since the time of Independence. Bawku is now ruled by Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka 11, a Kusasi, who is also the former president of the Upper East Regional House Of Chiefs.

Disputes over leadership and territory date from at least 1929, when, according to Naba Azoka, the British colonial government in 1929, specified the administrative districts in the then Northern Territories of the Gold Coast according to colonial boundaries. At that conference, he said, the Mamprusi District was clearly separated from the Kusasi District, and the Bawku area which the Mamprusis claim was the Kusasis’ original base.

Religion

The cult of the earth and the role of earth priests go further back in time. Kusasi traditional religion, like that of other neighbouring peoples, recognizes the role of the ancestors and local divinities represented by material objects like rivers, hills and forest groves in the lives of the people. Household heads have an obligation to make periodic sacrifices to the ancestors and the local gods for the prosperity of their dependents. They have traditionally celebrated the Samapiid festival in commemoration of their ancestors and for expression of gratitude to the gods for a successful year and the harvest. Today Islam and Christianity are also practiced.

References

  • Kusasi, Eastern of Ghana. Joshua Project. Page Last Modified: 28-May-2009.
  • Ghana: Kusasi Opinion Leaders Attribute Recent Violence in Bawku to Armed Robbers. Baba Kofi Yaro, Public Agenda (Accra) 8 May 2009.
  • The Peoples Of Northern Ghana. National Commission On Culture of the government of Ghana.
  • ISBN 0-312-22405-2 pp. 57–67
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