Khasonke in Gambia

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Khassonke ethnicity has been identified historically as the kingdom Khasso which opposed the advancement of the kingdom of Kaarta Bamanan led by Deniba Bo, to the years 1758-1761.

Where Are they Located?

The ethnic origins of the settlements are located in the Mande (Malinke) communities among or along the territories that were Sarakole (Soninke), specifically on the north bank of the river Senegal between Kita and Kayes, in the period of expansion the kingdom of Mali, which began after 1235 to 1255 during the administration of the first emperor, Soundiata.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Mande communities began a process of notable ethnic mixing with the Peulh (Fulani), a people group composed of nomadic groups from Ethiopia. The process began when the Mande gave their daughters in marriage. Mothers taught their children to speak in language sent, and the influence of the father tongue Peulh language was taking different phonetic forms. Over time the words were set in well-defined sounds, while different from the Mande and Peulh. In light of this language they developed practices and beliefs that were differentiated from other neighboring ethnic groups: Sarakole, Bamanan and Peulh in what is now known as the region of Kayes, Mali.

According to Bamba Keita, development of the Khassonke language is: first the Sarakole language, then the Malinke language developed from Sarakole, then the Khassonke language with influence from Peul.

The basic diet in ancient times was based on millet, fonio, native rice, goat, lamb, beef and fresh or smoked fish. Since the introduction of maize and peanuts from America, corn is the primary product to be harvested, followed by millet and peanuts. Peanuts (arachide) are almost always present in the diet of the poor and the rich.

Depending on the area (near or far from the river or the mountains) and the number of family members, each family may or may not have cattle and sheep, and access to gardens or orchards. The lower the number of members, the less probability they will have of owning a garden. The Khassonke are mostly farmers. The richest are devoted to livestock graze if they have someone to care for them (family or hired). The poor or moderately rich send their young children to seek work after harvest to cover what they lack.

After November the Peul pastoralists arrive and some families have agreements with these to corral their cattle in the fields, so that when the period of sowing comes, the ground is properly fertilized. This often happens naturally because there are usually family ties between them.

Socially one can identify in a village the noble families, the founders of the village or older families, the Imam, the Marabou and the rich. Jeli castes (griots), forgeron and slave. The three in turn and in the absence of any of these roles meet protocol in marriage ceremonies, baptisms, deaths, and businesses. Although a slave-class family can become wealthier than the nobles, not lose the social role assigned by the local community. But in the major cities these roles are not necessarily represented.

Presently, in the area close between Mahina and Diamou, there are enclave communities of Sarakole Bamanan who have given their children to marry Khassonkes who have similar habits and language. They have no qualms in saying that they are Khassonke. Mr. Sacko (an obvious Sarakole family name) was a promoter of Khassonke culture who died in 2011 in Kayes. The last names Traore, Diara (Bamanan) and Dembele (Mianka) have been assimilated as Khassonke. It was common previously for them to have Peulh or Malinke surnames.

Currently, in areas of high influence by the Bamanan language, Khassonke is only spoken in the home. This is due to two factors: First, Bamanan is spoken natively nationwide. It is the lingua franca. Second, there is a Khassonke self-esteem problem that comes from the cultural bias against this new neighboring tribe. This means that in this region of Mali, the uneducated do not consider them a people group because they did not exist there previously, regardless of the fact that they do exist there today. So to deny their existence invented stories of dishonest and malignant behavior that surely only the Khassonke could commit. That's a half truth, for the same behaviors were practiced by the group making the accusations.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The religion of the Khassonke is linked with a popular Islam, mixed with animism. This is more common in rural areas. There are two points where Christianity is noted among the Khassonke: in Kakoulou near Medine in the Circle of Kayes there is a Catholic church and in Ousoubiagna Bafoulabe Circle, a Norwegian Lutheran Protestant church: a mother church and three annexes at three other locations, excluding Bafoulabe church. There are other points of Christian witness, but are still in an embryonic state.

There is a Khassonke New Testament, prepared by the Norwegian Mission and published by the Bible Alliance, Genesis, Ruth and Jonah are in process.

Prayer Points

Scripture Prayers for the Khasonke in Gambia.

Profile Source:   Mario & Rossy Mendez  

People Name General Khasonke
People Name in Country Khasonke
Pronunciation kah-SOHN-kay
Alternate Names Kasonke; Xasonke
Population this Country 2,700
Population all Countries 1,012,000
Total Countries 3
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 12655
ROP3 Code 104921
ROP25 Code 303956
ROP25 Name Khasonke

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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.11 %
Ethnic Religions
5.00 %
0.00 %
94.90 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Xaasongaxango (2,700 speakers)
Language Code kao   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Xaasongaxango (2,700 speakers)
Language Code kao   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Xaasongaxango
Photo Source Mario & Rosa Mendez 
Profile Source Mario & Rossy Mendez 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.