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
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Sierra Leone  Guinea
Christianity 55%, Islam 40%, Indigenous beliefs 5%

The Limba people are an ethnic group in Sierra Leone. They represent 12.4% of the total population, making them the third largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone.[1][2] The Limba are based in the north of the country across seven provinces, but are predominantly found in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone.

The Limba are believed to be the earliest indigenous people of Sierra Leone.[3][4] They speak a distinctive language that is unrelated to the other languages in Sierra Leone.[5]

They are primarily found in the Northern Province, particularly in Bombali District, Koinadugu, Kambia District, Karene District and Tonkolili District but a small number are found in Guinea.[6]

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 16 of Sierra Leone's 190 rural chiefdoms in Sierra Leone, and their community affairs are dominated by the local paramount chiefs.

Major Limba Towns include: Bafodia, Wara-Wara Yagala Chiefdom, Kabala, Kamakwie, Binkolo, Kamabai, Madina, Fadugu, Kamasasa, Mabonto and Kamasigi.


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 territory. Some historians[who?] believe that the Limba were living in Sierra Leone prior to colonialism.

They were also brilliant scholars and philosophers[citation needed] who 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, 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 Mandinka people.

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 also have a past and current interest in politics, for example Siaka Stevens as the first president of Sierra Leone from 1971 to 1985, Ernest Bai Koroma as the former president of Sierra Leone from 2007, Christian Alusine Kamara-Taylor as a founding member of the All People's Congress and Paolo Conteh, the former defense 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 primary sport of interest is soccer, which is quite common amongst nations in West Africa.

The Limba have a spiritual home called The Kakoya Village, Wara-Wara Bafodia Chiefdom, 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 The Kakoya Village was probably made by the Limba people. Now in the British Museum, it may have represented an ancestor or deity.[7] They also have a folklore about spirits called Krifi, but information about this is limited.

The Limba people also utilize practices of the Bondo secret society which aims at gradually but firmly establishing attitudes related to adulthood in girls, discussions on fertility, morality and proper sexual comportment. The society also maintains an interest in the well-being of its members throughout their lives.[8][9][10]

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, 55% 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 40% of Limba have converted to Islam, they still practice their traditional religion, as well.

Notable Limbas[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Sierra Leone 2015 Population and Housing Census National Analytical Report" (PDF). Statistics Sierra Leone. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  2. ^ Nabe, Med (2009-03-08). "The Limba tribe is the third largest tribe in Sierra Leone – Cocorioko". Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  3. ^ Manson, Katrina; Knight, James; Connolly, Sean (2009). Sierra Leone : the Bradt travel guide (1st ed.). Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks: Bradt Travel Guides. p. 32. ISBN 9781784770631. OCLC 1017822434. The Limba may be the oldest inhabitants of Sierra Leone.
  4. ^ "The People & Culture". Consulate General of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Australia. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  5. ^ Manson, Katrina; Knight, James; Connolly, Sean (2009). Sierra Leone : the Bradt travel guide (1st ed.). Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks: Bradt Travel Guides. p. 32. ISBN 9781784770631. OCLC 1017822434. This is borne out of a lack of myth in Limba folklore explaining how they came to arrive in the land and because of significant linguistic differences between Limba and other tongues.
  6. ^ S.J. Shennan, ed. (2003). Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Identity. Taylor & Francis. p. 126. ISBN 9781134866298.
  7. ^ British Museum Collection
  8. ^ Pemunta, N. V., & Tabenyang, C.-J. (2017). Cultural power, ritual symbolism and human rights violations in Sierra Leone. Cogent Social Sciences, 1–27.
  9. ^ Bjälkande, Owolabi, et al. Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone: Who Are the Decision Makers? African Journal of Reproductive Health / La Revue Africaine de La Santé Reproductive, vol. 16, no. 4, Women’s Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC), 2012, pp. 119–31,
  10. ^ "FMG in Sierra Leone" (PDF). 28TooMany, Registered Charity: No. 1150379. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-12-22. Retrieved 2021-12-28.