The Loma and Mende

The Loma and the Mende came from the northeast, skirting the great Mandingo Plateau. the Loma were a vigorous and warlike people and today they are relied upon to furnish some of the best recruits for the Liberian Frontier Force; they settled among the mountains and High Forests of northern Liberia, a wild and remote watershed where five of the nation’s greatest rivers find their source.

The Loma pressed against the peoples south of them, and were engaged in sporadic feuds with their neighbors. When a powerful Mandingo raiding force came down from the Mandingo homeland in the north, led by a man named Foli, a Loma Chief called Nyakwe joined the raiders with his army.

The Mandingo-Loma combination made a treaty with the Kpelle, attacked the Gola and drove them west into uninhabited forests. The raiders carried the war into Via territory, and it is said that Yabakwa on the Japala Creek was founded by these warriors.

The Loma later turned against the Kpelle, and a warrior called Bau led his people into battle. Amongst many places the Loma captures was Malawo Hill, and here Bau built a town which soon gained the reputation of being the most feared and dreadful place in the land.

The people of this town were known as Gizima, ‘the People on the Hill,” and they were the most powerful exponents of black magic and the art of poisons known in the land.

This town was also the home of outlaws, renegades and refugees from tribal justice, but has since been made aware of the law and power of the Liberian Government.

Legend tells of a movement south from the High Forests by a group of Loma people who were sent forth to find a route to the sea. They included some hundreds or warriors; they made their way down through Gola and Dey country and established a beach-head on the coast. They began sending salt back to their people, but the Dey, who had developed the manufacture of salt by boiling sea-water and were jealous of their monopoly attacked and drove them north.

The Loma fought their way north to Gola country, and the Gola pushed them further until they came to the southern limits of their own land. Here they settled and became the Belle.

So much for the legend: but if the facts of the coastal sortie as described are based on truth, it must be pointed out that this group of people did not become the Belle. The Bureau of Folkways has evidence that the Belle belong to the Kru group and came from the east as an organized group.

Once a group of Loma people who knew the use of horses made an alliance with the Mende, hoping to conquer the remaining bulk of the Loma. The attempts failed, and the Loma-Mende group had to fall back behind a huge rock “fossa” called Kpaky fossa. There are many such granite domes hereabouts and this one is between Bolahun and Kolahun. The defeated band settled here and became known as the Bandi.

WRITTEN BY: Patrick