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Fuuta Jalon

A Brief History

 

Among the numerous stories about the origin of the Fulani, the more recent research in anthropology and linguistics lends support to the following : The Fulani originated from the  Senegal river region. They traveled widely; some wandered east, where they were became Muslims, and eventually returned west.

The Fuuta Jalon was settled by the Fulani in two waves: the first, possibly as early as the

13th century, consisted of pagan (non- Islamic) Fulani, known as Pulli. The second

began in the 16th century and consisted of Muslim Fulani from Masina in what is now

the republic of Mali.

This group of Fulani originally shared the Fuuta Jalon with its other inhabitants, non-

Muslim Fulani and Jallonke. Sometime in the 17th century, holy war on pagans. This jihad was long and bloody and featured a number of atrocities.After the Jihad, around 1725, the Muslim Fulani had established a federal theocracy under Islamic law, with a central ruler in Timbo (near present-day Mamou), a holy city in Fougoumba, and seven other provinces (diwe) with a certain amount of autonomy. Labe quickly became the wealthiest and most powerful of these, expanding its borders to the north and west until it encompassed an area nearly as long as the rest of the kingdom put together.

From the outset this kingdom was plagued by power struggles. The descendants of the first Almaami (Imam/king) quickly split into two houses, the Alfaya and the Soriya, which fought more or less incessantly throughout the history of the kingdom.

For a while a system of bicephalism  (dual leardership) was formalized, in which there were always two Almaamis, one from each house, who would trade off power every two years. In practice this didnt work out very well.

The French were able to establish themselves in all the surrounding areas long before they made any headway in the Fuuta. They were finally able to capitalize on internal power struggles, and on Labes hopes for greater autonomy. In 1896, at the battle of Pore-Daka, the French defeated the last Almaami, Buubakar dit Bocar Biro.

The colonial authorities moved quickly to consolidate their power over the area, putting chiefs in place, dividing the Fuuta in order to strengthen leaders favorable to them, and little by little diluting the role of the Almaami. As Alfa Yaya watched his authority slip away, he tried to organize an uprising against the colonists.He died in a prison in the then colony Mauritania.


The People
 

Fuuta Jalon , highland region, c.30,000 sq mi (77,700 sq km), central Guinea, W Africa. Largely a rolling grassland (average alt. c.3,000 ft/910 m), the region is grazed by cattle of the Fulani. The Niger, Senegal, and Gambia rivers rise there. Fuuta Jalon is often referred to as the head waters of West-Africa. It is also called Land of Waters, Fruits, Faith and Freedom.

The Fulani of Fuuta Jalon are a large people group located in the western African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. The majority live in the Fuuta Jalon of Guinea, an area consisting of mountains and plateaus. They are semi-nomadic and raise crops as well as livestock. The high plateaus serve as part-time pastures for their herds.

 Along the plateaus of Fuuta Jalon, there are grassy plains and fields of millet. Traditionally,the livelihood of the Fula Jalon is primarily based on farming and shepherding. Gathering forest produce, hunting, fishing, and trading are also part of their daily lives. Staple crops include millet, rice, and peanuts. Cattle herds, along with sheep and goats, are the primary livestock. The cattle are not the usual Fulani humped breed, but a native Fuuta Jalon breed that is resistant to the disease-carrying tsetse fly.

Herding cattle is usually a male activity; however, the women milk and take care of the cattle. Women also care for the poultry and small livestock, as well as cultivate the gardens. Women often carry containers of milk and cheese to sell or trade in local markets. Daughters remain with their mothers until they marry. However, as soon as a son reaches puberty, he leaves the family compound and lives alone in a nearby compound, usually with some cattle. This new compound becomes the home of the son and his future wife.  The first marriage of a man is usually arranged by the man's father.
Children belong to age-sets until they marry. An age-set is grouped at three or four year intervals, with every child born in those years belonging to that set. The children in an age-set go to school together and may participate in community labor, or may help someone in their set with bride-service. Each age-set has a leader, a deputy, and a judge.

Although Fuuta Jalon villages are scattered, each village has a central court and a mosque. Houses belonging to the settled Fula Jalon are typically round with mud walls and thatched roofs. Each hut has an encircling verandah. The nomadic Fula Jalon lives in open, beehive-shaped huts without walls or verandahs. Each hut is surrounded by a cattle corral.
 The Main cities in Fuuta Jalon are: Labe  and Mamou.(Map of Guinea)

 

For more information see www.fuuta-jalon.net