Losso people

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Losso Home & Migration Map

The Lossos (Nawdba, sing. Nawda) are an ethnic and linguistic group of people living in the Doufelgou District (Préfecture) of the Kara Region in Northern Togo, West Africa. The district capital is Niamtougou which is also an important regional market town. The Lossos live on a plateau in the Togo Mountains between two mountain ranges: the Kabiyé Mountains to the South and the Défalé Chain to the North. They occupy the communities of Niamtougou, Koka, Baga, Ténéga, Siou, Djogrergou, Sioudouga, Kpadeba, Hago, Koukou, and Kounfaga. The Doufelgou District is bordered by the Kozah District to the South, by the Binah District to the East, by the Bassar District to the West, by the Kéran District to the North, and by the international border with Bénin to the Northeast.

People[edit]

The Lossos are primarily engaged in subsistence farming and small animal husbandry, especially chickens, guinea fowl, goats, pigs, and sheep. They grow millet and sorghum that they make into a thick porridge (la pâte) that is the staple of their diet and that they brew into a thick low-alcohol beer called daam. They also grow yams and cassava, groundnuts (peanuts), beans, and fonio. In the late 1800s, early European explorers such as the ethnographer, Leo Frobenius, baptized them the "palm tree people" because of the concentration of oil palm trees in their home area.[1]

The Lossos have migrated in search of fertile available land to the area along the North-South National Road No. 1 between Sokodé and Notsé, where they have founded numerous communities. In addition, they have migrated to Togo's capital city, Lomé, and to Accra, the capital of Ghana, in search of wage employment. They have also migrated to the Plateau Region of Togo and the Volta Region of Ghana where they work as sharecroppers in coffee and cocoa plantations. Losso men served in the colonial armies of Germany, Britain, and France as well as in the Ghanaian and Togolese armies in the years following the independences of the two countries.

Language[edit]

The Lossos call themselves Nawda (singular) or Nawdba (plural), and their language is Nawdm. There are approximately 200,000 native speakers of Nawdm in Togo and Ghana. Nawdm most closely resembles the Yom language of the Pila-Pila and Tanéka people who live near the city of Djougou in the Donga Province (comprising the Southern portion of the old Atakora Department) of Northern Bénin. Nawdm and Yom, like Mòoré, the language of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso, are classified under the Oti-Volta sub-group of languages in the Gur (or Voltaique) group of the Niger-Congo languages.

"Losso" is a name by which the Nawdba call themselves in dealing with non-Nawdba. The origin of the name "Losso" or "Lossotu" is unclear and may have its origins in the name that their Kabyé neighbors called them. Confusion arose and has continued when the name "Losso" was attributed by Togo's French colonial administrations to all residents of what is now the Doufelgou District, regardless of their ethnic or linguistic affiliation. Residents of Yaka, Agbandé, Kadjalla, Alloum, Léon, Défalé, Massédéna, Pouda, and other villages in the Doufelgou District speak languages generally classified together as Lamba, but have also been called Losso by the colonial administration. While there has been considerable mutual influence between the Nawdba and their closest neighbors, the Kabyé and the Lambas, their languages do not resemble each other and are not mutually intelligible.

History[edit]

Like most of Togo's ethnic groups, the Lossos (Nawdba) claim to be the original inhabitants of their region. Also like other groups, their formal tradition states that the original Nawdba descended from the sky directly into two sacred forests – one in Koka and one in Siou.[2] The original inhabitants were in each case a man replete with bow and arrows, hoe, and other tools of his gender and a woman also carrying the tools appropriate to her roles.

Informally, many older Lossos stated that the Nawdba came "from the East, toward Djougou (in Bénin)." This statement is supported by the close relationship between Nawdm and the Yom language of the region near Djougou. The apparent similarity between the Yom-Nawdm languages and Mooré of Burkina Faso suggested that the Nawdba, Pila-Pila, Tanéka, and perhaps the Woaba peoples may have a common origin in what is today Burkina Faso. The Nawdba were thought to be the last elements of a migration from the East that infiltrated into the plateau between the mountain ridge home of the Lamba to the North and the mountain ridge home of the Kabyé to the South.[3]

More recent scholarship has increased knowledge of the origins of the Nawdba. The founders of Niamtougou have been identified as a man named Kégidimgbada and his wife Iya. Researchers have concluded that the 35% lexical similarity that was identified between the Nawdm and Mòoré languages is sufficient to confirm a common ancestry between the Mossi and the Nawdba, Pila-Pila, and Tanéka peoples. It does not support the idea, however, that the latter are offshoots of the Mossi nor that their languages have their origins in Mòoré. Further study of the Nawdm language has determined that informants who stated that the Nawdba came from the sky may actually have been saying that they came from the North. Researchers have concluded that the Nawdba immigration into their present home area probably began in the 15th Century and came in waves from the North and East rather than in a single movement. [4]

Prominent Lossos[edit]

ADZALLA, HOLA[edit]

Hoja Adzalla was born in June 1950 and died in 1996. Among his contributions to the Nawdba and the Nawdm language is the elaboration of a calendar in the Nawdm (or Losso) language.

ALASSOUNOUMA, BOUMBÉRA[edit]

Boumbéra Alassounouma was born in Niamtougou, Doufelgou District, on December 31, 1942. He completed primary and secondary school in Togo before attending the University of Caen in France, where he obtained his licence in psychology. From 1973 to 1978, he was Director of the Pedagogical Institute. From 1978 through 1982, he served in the Cabinet of President Eyadéma as Minister of Labor and the Civil Service and as Minister of Education and Scientific Research. From 1983 through 1985, he was Ambassador to China, North Korea and Japan. From 1985 to 1992, he was Ambassador to France, Spain, and Italy. He was a technical advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation from 1992 to 1994. He was named Foreign Minister in 1994 in the coalition government of Prime Minister Edem Kodjo. On June 2, 1995, Alassounouma was killed in a freak accident at the construction site of his new home in Lomé. [5]

BARANDAO épouse BADJASSEM, BAKÉLÉ KOHOGLAMA[edit]

Mme. Bakélé Kohoglama BARANDAO épouse BADJASSEM was named Chef de Canton of Siou on May 12, 2004, one of only three women Canton Chiefs in Togo at that time. She succeeded her father as Chef de Canton. He had encouraged her to become chief of the canton that is composed of fourteen villages and two hamlets. She was born in Siou in 1942 and received her primary school education there. After professional training at l'École Pigier in Lomé, she entered the Togolese civil service in 1967 as Executive Secretary at the Ministry of Health in Lomé. She occupied several other posts in the Health Ministry before retiring in 1997. While assigned to Atakpamé, she served as Secretary of the Board of Directors of the National Union of Togolese Women (l'Union Nationale des Femmes du Togo, or UNFT) and as Treasurer of the Health Ministry Personnel Union (Syndicat du Personnel de la Santé du Togo, or Synpersanto). She was a City Council member for fourteen years beginning in 1987, concentrating on environmental and social welfare issues.[6]

BARANDAO, JEAN-MARIE[edit]

Jean-Marie Barandao was born in 1937 in Siou Birgou, Doufelgou District, and educated in Bénin (at the Ouidah Seminary) and in Togo. Barandao joined the Togolese Statistical Office in 1962. With the arrival of the Éyadéma regime in 1967, he was appointed interim Directeur de Cabinet (Permanent Secretary) the Ministry of Finance. Between 1967 and 1969, Barandao served as Préfet of Bafilo and Aného. In 1969 he was appointed Ambassador to France, returning to Togo in 1974 to continue his career in the civil service.[7]

BIRREGAH, EMMANUEL[edit]

Emmanuel Birregah was the son of the Paramount Chief (Chef Supérieur) of the Lossos (i.e. the inhabitants of the Doufelgou Prefecture). In 1952, during the final years of the French mandate in Togo, he was one of the founders of the Northern regional political party, the Union of Chiefs and Populations of the North (L'Union des Chefs et des Populations du Nord – UCPN) that was allied with the Togolese Progress Party (Parti Togolais du Progrès – PTP) of Nicolas Grunitzky. In 1969, he was one of a group of young men referred to as the "Group of Ten" (Groupe de Dix). They were called upon by President Gnassingbé Etienne Eyadéma to carry out the national public consultation campaign that led to the creation the single national political party, the Togo People's Assembly (Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais - RPT) on August 30, 1969. He was Chief of the Secretariat at the Ministry of Finance. He died on October 27, 1999.[8]

DADJO, KLÉBER, COLONEL[edit]

Col. Kléber Dadjo, was born in Siou, Doufelgou District, on August 12, 1914. Col. Dadjo served in the British Army during World War II and in the French Army in the IndoChina and Algeria conflicts. At the time of Togo's independence in 1960, he was the longest-serving and highest-ranking Togolese in the French Army. He held the rank of Captain and commanded Togo's tiny defense force, the Garde Togolaise. He was promoted to Major and eventually to Colonel after the 1963 coup d'état and served as head of the military cabinet of President Nicolas Grunitzky. After the second military coup d'état on January 13, 1967, Dadjo was named interim President of Togo (as Chairman of the Comité National de Reconciliation), a position that he held until April 14, 1967, when Lt. Col. Gnassingbé Etienne Eyadéma was named President. From 1967 through 1968, he served as Minister of Justice. In 1968, he retired and returned to his home in Siou where he became Chef de Canton. He died in 1988 or 1989.[9] In 2006, Col. Dadjo was recognized by the government of President Faure Gnassingbé along with former Presidents Sylvanus Olympio and Nicolas Grunitzky and former Vice-President Antoine Méatchi as part of a decision to rehabilitate the image of Togo's previous leaders. The former avenue de la Nouvelle Marche in Lomé was renamed avenue Kléber Dadjo in his honor. Col. Dadjo is frequently and erroneously identified in print as a Kabyé rather than a Nawde (or Losso). [10]

NGUITA, ODILE BARARMNA[edit]

Mme. Odile Bararmna Nguita was named Chef de Canton of Niamtougou on May 13, 2004, one of only three women Canton Chiefs in Togo at that time.

YWASSA, LÉONARD BAGUILMA[edit]

Léonard Baguilma Ywassa was born on December 1, 1926, in Koka, Doulfelgou Prefecture. Ywassa was an agronomist who graduated from the Agricultural College of Nancy (France). In the 1950s, he served in several positions of the agricultural services. He was active in the UDPT political party (l'Union Démocratique des Populations Togolaises) that resulted from a de facto fusion of the UCPN (Union des Chefs et des Populations du Nord) with the PTP (Parti Togolais du Progrès) of Nicolas Grunitzky. He held a ministerial post under Grunitzky from 1956 until the latter's ouster in the elections of 1958. He was an opposition politician of the UDPT under Sylvanus Olympio's CUT government until opposition parties were banned and a single-party state was created in 1962. When Grunitzky assumed power after the January 13, 1963, coup d'état, he served as Director of Agriculture and then Minister of Rural Economy until Grunitzky was overthrown in the January 13, 1967, coup. In 1968, he was named Ambassador to France, Great Britain and the European Economic Community and later served in several high-level positions in the Ministry of Rural Development until his retirement in 1986. He died in 2004. [11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cornevin, Robert, Histoire du Togo, Paris: Editions Berger Levrault, 1962, p. 185.
  2. ^ Froelich, Jean-Claude, Pierre Alexandre, and Robert Cornevin, Les Populations du Nord-Togo, Presses Universitaires de France: Paris, 1963, p.69.
  3. ^ Froelich, Jean-Claude, Pierre Alexandre, and Robert Cornevin, Les Populations du Nord-Togo, Presses Universitaires de France: Paris, 1963, p.65.
  4. ^ Gayibor, N.L., (ed.) Histoire des Togolais, Volume I: Des Origines à 1884, Lomé: Presses de Université du Bénin, 1997, pp. 135-139.
  5. ^ Source: The program and remembrance card from Alassounouma's funeral.
  6. ^ Source: The official biography of the Chef de Canton of Siou Mme. Bakélé Kohoglama BARANDAO épouse BADJASSEM provided by the Chef de Canton herself in June 2007.
  7. ^ Decalo, Samuel, Historical Dictionary of Togo, Third Edition, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996, p. 65.
  8. ^ Togo: Décès d'un honnête homme Benoît Yaya MALOU, Témoignage de Atsutsé AGBOBLI, Historien http://www.letogolais.com/article.html?nid=3357
  9. ^ As reported by the Chef de Canton de Siou in June 2007. Currently seeking precise date.
  10. ^ Sources include: Decalo, Samuel, Historical Dictionary of Togo, Third Edition, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996, pp. 106-107.
  11. ^ Sources include: Decalo, Samuel, Historical Dictionary of Togo, Third Edition, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996, pp. 292-293.