Agape Kanyiri Damwah, The Samori Invasion of Western Gonja (1895): A Study of the Impact of War on Society

In about 1895 the forces (Sofas) of the Mandingo warrior and empire-builder, Samori Toure, engaged the western part of the centralized state of Gonja in a bloodiest war at Jentilipe. The war unleashed a torrent of events with an astonishing and disturbing legacy. It was by far the greatest upheaval in the history of Gonja and left in its wake intractable and complex problems for Gonja, who, was already confronted with a troubled political situation and a suspect stability prelude to the invasion

The Samori invasion brought far-reaching political, social and cultural transformation in western Gonja. The event left in its wake questions about ethnicity, belonging, legitimacy and inclusion/exclusion in the socio-political system. The work examines the extent to which the social, political and settlements arrangements are influenced by the event of 1895/6. Using the qualitative method of historical research, and drawing from oral, archival and some secondary sources the work endeavors to understand the changes Gonja underwent as a result of the war. It also argues that the socio-political arrangements in Gonja and the Kong-Bole conflicting claims of jurisdiction over some territories are a direct product of the war.

This research intends viewing change from the perspective of war which eventually was exacerbated by both colonial and post-colonial forces. In this regard, while studying the Samori invasion of western Gonja within the general context of changes, my approach is to analyze and explain the event using a number of components or themes. These components will include the destructive component of war and migrations, the way in which war tests existing institutions, war alliances and mutual defense, of the manner in which participation in war affects social cohesion, and finally, war and identity and the politics of belonging. This approach will by and large help in my discussion and analysis of contentious issues created by the war such as the question of Kong eligibility to Yagbum, Gonja internal unity, the quest for inclusion and the conceptualization of identity with regards to the Kong question in Gonja.

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