Brief History of the Limba ethnic group and why Akutay?

Who are the Limba? small logo

The Limba are indigenous people of Sierra Leone and speak various dialects of a language largely unrelated to other tribal languages in the country. The Limba ethnic group is often described as peaceful and laidback. During the pre-colonial period, they were primarily found in the northern province, but today it is reasonable to argue that they are all over the country as with other ethnic groups.
The Limba are mainly rice farmers, palm wine traders and hunter-gatherers who live in the savannah-woodland region in the north of Sierra Leone. The Limba system of governance is by paramount Chief and sub-chiefs. They also have a system called Council of Elders made up of men and women drawn from respectable people in their communities and people with different skills such as the blacksmith, religious head and the Mammy Queen.
Members of the Limba tribe believe that they have always lived in what is now part of modern day Sierra Leone, the Wara Wara Mountains, and they were probably the first rulers of that region. Some historians support the above claim that the Limba were already living in Sierra Leone pre-colonial times. Leading local, West African and African historians such as Professor Cecil Magbailey-Fyle agreed that the Limbas are brilliant scholars in diplomacy and philosophers in politics and agriculture. Their knowledge of agriculture and trade enable them to build a society based on the belief that if you work hard and respect the land then you will enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Gbaku Almamy Suluku ca. 1820 - 1906

sulukuOne of the notable and powerful Limba rulers whose history is well documented is Gbaku Almamy Suluku. He was a shrewd politician, a master diplomat and also known to be a great warrior. As a young man, and under his military leadership, Biriwa became one of the largest kingdoms in Sierra Leone. During British Protectorate and colonial rule, he maintained his independence through brilliant political manoeuvring.

The Birth of Sierra Leone small flag

The Nation's birth marked a turning point in the history of the Limba people. As British rule extended to the hinterland of modern day Sierra Leone, some tribes were encouraged to send their children to formal schooling and upon achieving a reasonable western education were employed as civil servants and some took an active part in politics. During this period, the Limbas were known to live in clans in the edges of towns away from mainstream society hence the coined words 'Limba Corner'. Their economic activities are menial jobs, palm wine tapping and farming. As Sierra Leone moved towards independent and a new nation state in the 1960s, few Limbas could boast of western education. They had no financial means to send their children to formal education.
Those who were fortunate to be adopted as 'house boy' by those of other affluent ethnic groups such as the Creole were sent to schools and most of them became prominent Limbas and contributed significantly in all aspects of Sierra Leone nation building. Such individuals are the late Dr. Siaka P. Stevens and the late Christian Alusine Kamara-Taylor who along with the current prominent Limba Chief S.A.Y Sesay championed the liberation of the Limba people. It was thought then by these founding fathers that the Limba laidback attitude had to change if they were to contribute towards their communities and nationwide. This brought about the birth of Akutay as a friendly organisation. Akutay therefore aimed to promote the Limba cultures and values as any other ethnic group in Sierra Leone in a friendly manner.

Progress since the birth of Akutay:

Although there are still places called 'Limba Corner' just as we have the 'Corner Shops' in England, the Limba as an ethnic group has moved on. It has been proven that not all Limbas are palm wine tappers. Some do not even drink alcohol due to their religious belief or for other reasons. Nowadays many Limbas are highly educated and I am proud to be amongst those.

Limba Origins

The idea that the Limbas have always live in Sierra Leone is in my view a contested subject. This is a subject that requires further research and it is my hope that an Organisation like Akutay would invest money and moral support in any research designed to find out the truth for the purpose of knowledge about the root of the Limba around the world. History has taught us that in ancient times Europeans, Scandinavians, Indian, Africans and other ethnics constantly moved looking for food and water or running away from wars as is even today. The question historians have to answer is why should the Limbas be an exception to travelling or moving from place to place?