Limba people (Sierra Leone)

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19th century Limba arrows held by Mamadou Mansaray, town chief of Bafodia, Sierra Leone (West Africa) 1967 (441008707).jpg
Total population
566,529 (8% of Sierra Leone's population) [1]
Regions with significant populations
 Sierra Leone
Limba, Sierra Leone English, Krio
Predominantly Christianity 55%, Islam 40%, Indigenous beliefs 5%
Related ethnic groups

The Limba people are a major ethnic group in the Sierra Leone. They form the third largest ethnic group in the country, about 8.5% of Sierra Leone's total population (about 566,529 members).

The Limba are Indigenous people of Sierra Leone and speak various dialects of a language largely unrelated to other tribal languages in Sierra Leone. They are primarily found in the Northern Province, particularly in Bombali District, Koinadugu and Kambia District. During Sierra Leone's colonial era thousands of Limbas migrated to the capital city of Freetown and its Western Area. As a result, a significant number of Limbas can be found in Freetown and its surrounding Western Area. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th century, many Limba people were shipped to North America as slaves.

The Limba are mainly rice farmers, traders and hunters who live in the savannah-woodland region in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. They predominate in 7 of Sierra Leone's 149 rural chiefdoms, and their community affairs are dominated by the local paramount chiefs.


Members of the Limba tribe believe that they have always lived in Sierra Leone in the Wara Wara mountains and were probably the first rulers of the country. It is believed by some historians that the Limba have already been living in Sierra Leone when colony take place. They were also brilliant scholars and philosophers brought their knowledge of agriculture and trade with them and with that built a society based on this sole ideal: If you work and respect the land properly then you are worthy to enjoy the fruits of your labor. During the colonial era of Sierra Leone, many Limba people were captured and sold at Bunce Island as slaves to the Americas through the Atlantic slave trade. To escape this, many Limba people traveled to the capital city of Freetown and the Western area and as a result, most Limba are located in these places.


The Limba consider themselves to be a mountain people and have at points in their history found themselves pushed into the mountains particularly during the periods of Susu expansionism. Historically, they also had to fight off incursions from the Fula and the Mandingo. The Limba take pride in their unique language which differs from the other languages spoken in Sierra Leone. As a result, Limbas strive to be very articulate with their vocabulary as a way of sticking out among the rest. They are mostly rice farmers, palm wine brewers and stone builders. They have names similar to the Temne people. They also have a past and current interest in politics, for example Siaka Stevens as the first president of Sierra Leone from 1971-1985, Ernest Bai Koroma as the current president of Sierra Leone from 2007, Christian Alusine Karamara-Taylor as a founding member of the All People's Congress and Paolo Conteh, the current defence minister and Eric Dura Sesay as the Bombali district chairman.According to folklore, Limbas make excellent political leaders because they are descendants of the original rulers of Sierra Leone. The Limba's main sport of interest is soccer which is quite common amongst nations in West Africa. Some popular Limba soccer players are Lamin Conteh and Saidu Tibati Kanu. The Limba have a spiritual home called Kakoia and they believe all Limbas return to the mountain through the town beyond a "door" through the rock. An ancient wooden figure discovered in a cave at Kakoia was probably made by the Limba people. Now in the British Museum, it may have represented an ancestor or deity.[1] They also have a folklore about spirits called Krifi but information about this is limited.

Religion and spiritual beliefs[edit]


The Limba in the southern province are mostly influenced by Christianity. Portuguese Christian missionary efforts began before the Protestant Reformation but had no lasting effects on the Temne. The Protestant presence accompanied the founding of Freetown in the late eighteenth century; Church Missionary Society representatives were active up the Rokel River and elsewhere in Temne country throughout the nineteenth century. In the 1890s the Soudna Mission was the first American mission in the Temne area; American Wesleyans and the Evangelical United Brethren subsequently joined the field. Today, 65% of Limba are followers of Christianity.


The Limba in the Northern Province are somewhat influenced by Islam. Muslim contacts probably go back several centuries, and fifteenth-century Portuguese were cognizant of Muslim peoples. Early traders, holy men, and warriors brought Islam into the Temne area from the north by the Susu and northeast by the Fula and Mandinka. Through the nineteenth century, as the volume of trade grew, Muslim influences increased; in the late twentieth century a significant proportion of Temne claim to be Muslim converts.

Although 30% of Limba have converted to Islam, they still practice their traditional religion, as well.

Notable Limbas[edit]

Common Limba surnames include Conteh, Sesay, Dumbuya, Kargbo, Samura, Kamara, Turay, Bangura,Thoronka, Mansaray, Koroma, and Kanu.


Notable people[edit]

External links[edit]