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Structure of the Gambian Village

Family Structure      Compound
The Gambian chief of a village is called the Alkalo. He is usually the oldest male of the founding family of the village. He would then be followed by an assistant who is normally a close relation to assist him in the administration of village affairs. One of the central areas of the village is called the Bantaba where men would sit to make important decisions concerning things like communal works.

Every village family belongs to a lineage clan which is called in Mandinka a a Kabillo. The head of the clan is the oldest male of the related families and is also known as the Kabillo. The eldest male of the founding family of the village becomes the village leader or Alkalo. The Kabillo are responsible to the Alkalo and together with the head of the local mosque, the Imam, form a so called Council of Elders which has the function of being the village’s governing body working alongside the Alkalo. The alkalo’s duties and responsibilities include tax collection, liaison between the village and local councils, governmental and non-governmental organisations and land allocation as well as mediation of disputes at village level.

The Kafoo is a general term for a social group of people with common interests, local objectives or professions in the community that can be single or mixed sex. In most Gambian communities and in a variety of ways these both provide a dynamic network of kinship and social organisation in which gender, generation and descent intersect to shape patterns of development in the traditional/rural communities. Since colonial times the highest traditional political structure in The Gambia operating at district level has been the Chieftaincy. The Chief commands respect, power and authority over Alkalos in his district. Apart from being the point of contact for national and local Government, the Chief mediates disputes.
 Culture      Family Structure
Family Structure        Compound

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