Konkomba

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From Harold Barclay, People Without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy:

The Konkomba number about 50,000 people and reside in northern Togo where they are chiefly grain farmers raising sorghum, millet and yams. They have a typically African segmentary lineage system based on patrilineal descent (cf, Lugbara example). Konkombaland is divided into several tribes each of which in turn segment into several clans. Each clan rarely has more than 250 members and is the basic unit occupying, and being identified with, a specific territory that is its own. Clans divide into two or more lineages. The oldest man in, a lineage is its head, while the clan head is the senior of all the several lineage heads. Mutual assistance in work occurs within the clan and more commonly among members of the lineage segment of the clan. The clan is also a church or a parish of the prevailing fertility religion, the members of which are responsible for major rituals associated with sowing and offerings to the sacred land. Not only is the clan defined by economic, religious and kinship functions, but it is the primary mechanism of social control. Within the clan, disputes are to be settled by mediation and no violence is tolerated. Disputes with individuals outside the clan require no obligatory arbitration and one may resort to force or threat of retaliation. Within the clan the elder demands observance of the rules, but he has no power to enforce his decisions. The power he has is of a ritual and moral nature rather than judicial. As the chief and oldest kinsman his fellow clansmen owe him a moral obligation which is reinforced by the fact that as the eldest he is nearest the sacred ancestors. In addition he is guardian of the land. Within the clan, infractions are dealt with by ostracising a culprit, or by assessment of fines. For the latter there is no means to compel payment, aside from the expression of disapproval by fellow clansmen and the feeling of a moral-ritual obligation to conform. We must appreciate, however, that in a small closely-knit community, in which everyone 'believes' and where there are no cynics or atheists, such sanctions are extremely powerful. As was noted with the Pygmies, the most horrendous crimes are not punished by men at all, so with the Konkomba, if a man kills a fellow clansman he would himself die. "God", say the Konkomba, "will not suffer to live one who has killed his brother and there is no ritual or medicinal protection for the fratricide" (Tait, 1950, 275). Tait, however, believes that murder of fellow clansmen does not actually occur.

Aside from the elders within a clan, another man of influence is the diviner, who may build up a reputation which extends over a wide area.

Ordinarily the relationship between clans is one of relative hostility, but those which are neighbours and others which may co-operate in ritual affairs have harmonious relations . Such groups do not feud, especially those with close ritual ties. Clans which have, or claim to have, a near kinship relation are also not supposed to indulge in feuds. Nevertheless, Tait reports two closely-related clans whose feuding with one another was so notorious that it was widely remembered among Konkomba 30 years later.

Clans within the same tribe which engage in feud may formally end hostilities by negotiation and ritual burial of the arrows of war. But feuds between clans of different tribes are 'endless' and there appear to be no formal means to bring peace. Apparently, those involved might eventually get tired of fighting.

The tribe among the Konkomba is an amorphous entity. It has a name and is associated with a territory in that it is the sum of the lands 'owned' by its several clan components. Face marks usually indicate a person's tribe. But tribes have no elders, ritual leaders or chiefs. In inter-tribal fighting, clans of the same tribe come to the aid of their brethren.

Konkomba, in sum, exemplify a highly decentralised polity organised along typical segmentary lines. They represent about as clear cut a case of anarchy as one can find among African horticulturalists.