Kuranko people

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Regions with significant populations
 Sierra Leone200,000
Kuranko, Sierra Leone English, Krio
Islam 80%, Christianity 10%, Indigenous beliefs 10%
Related ethnic groups
Mandinka people

The Kuranko, also known as the Koranko, or even as Karanko[1] are an ethnic group living in Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Koranko occupy a large section in mountainous region within northeastern Sierra Leone and southern Guinea. Within this geographical region, different dialects, as well as distinct social groupings can be found. In general, the Koranko are a peaceful people who have maintained a separate ethnic identity, despite years of tribal mixings. Each Kuranko village is led by a chief and a group of elders.

The Koranko speak the Kuranko language (or Koranko), a dialect of the Mande branch of the Niger–Congo language family.[2] The Kuranko are nominally an Islamic people, but many people in this isolated area still follow traditional religious beliefs, identifying as Muslim without adhering to all the strict protocols of that religion. The Kuranko speak a language similar to the Mandinka language, and their language can be understood by their neighbour and close allies the Mandinka and the Susu people.[2]

The Kuranko occupy a mountainous region within the northeastern Sierra Leone highlands, extending into Guinea. This region lacks adequate road systems and is not easily accessible, leaving the Kuranko socially isolated. This may explain why most Kuranko have held on to their traditional culture and religion.


The Kuranko moved into the territory of present day Sierra Leone from what is now Guinea, under the leadership of warrior Mansa Kama, who lived approximately between 1650 and 1720.[3] Mansa Kama founded Kamadugu, now contained within the Sengbe Chiefdom of Koinadugu District, as well as Kholifa, which is still a chiefdom to this day.[3] Kama travelled widely across the area with an Islamic alfa in the late 1600s, encountering numerous military battles on the way.[3] This included establishing the town of Kamadugu, which is named after him.[3] Eventually he settled in Rowala, which became the centre of the new Kuranko country, where he remained the leader until his death.[3]


The Kuranko are primarily a hunting and trading people, with these activities exceeding farming as their primary employment.[4] Since their origins were in the savanna lands, they have taken active measures to preserve their habitat as this type, including setting fires as part of the hunting process, to ensure that large plant life and woodland does not dominate.[4] As the Kuranko have moved south over time, so they have maintained this savanna and burning lifestyle, leading to a gradual southward moving of the limit of the savanna lands.[4]

Culture and customs[edit]

Men in the Kuranko culture undergo various initiation rituals on reaching puberty, becoming members of a secretive "club" when they do so.[5] The initiation consists of a circumcision, training sessions, and the right to wear certain articles of clothing.[5] Once initiated, men are free to marry, paying a bride price to the family of the chosen woman.[5] The Kuranko are polygamous, and some men have more than one wife.[5]

Religious and traditional beliefs[edit]

The Kuranko lands was one of the first areas of Sierra Leone to adopt Islam as its religion, and many Kuranko are nominally Muslim.[6] However, the region is very isolated, and many of the more formal aspects of the Islamic faith are not adhered to.[6] The people are also not politically Islamic, with the dichotomy between Catholic and Islamic African populations not a major issue here.[6]

In place of formal Islam, the people continue to believe in many aspects of their ancient religion.[6]

The Kuranko believe that in the forests, the rivers, and the mountains live quasi-human beings known as Nyenne. These are "bush spirits," who are believed to influence Kuranko life in different ways.[7]

Notable Kuranko people[edit]


  1. ^ West, Harry G. "Ethnographic Sorcery" (p.24); 2007. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-89398-3 (pbk.), ISBN 0-226-89398-7 (pbk.) Note:West references Jackson (1989).
  2. ^ a b Fyle, Magbaily C. (2006). Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone. Scarecrow Press. p. 96. ISBN 9780810865044.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Heroes". Sierra Leone Web. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Fairhead, James; Leach, Melissa (1996). Misreading the African Landscape: Society and Ecology in a Forest-Savanna Mosaic. CUP Archive. p. 34. ISBN 9780521563536.
  5. ^ a b c d Schierling, Jake; Schierling, Ruth (2013). From Football to Freetown. WestBowPress. pp. 130–133. ISBN 9781490804538.
  6. ^ a b c d Coulter, Chris (2015). Bush Wives and Girl Soldiers. Cornell University Press. p. 62. ISBN 9780801457241.
  7. ^ Ingold, Tim (2002). Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Taylor & Francis. p. 604. ISBN 9780415286046.
  8. ^ Fornah, Ibrahim Sorie. "Who should President Koroma Look for?". Retrieved 7 November 2016.