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The Kuranko of Sierra Leone

[IMAGE] The Kuranko, also known as the Koranko, are a branch of the Malinke tribe that immigrated into Sierra Leone from Guinea. The Kuranko, therefore, occupy a large section in both northern Sierra Leone and southern Guinea. Within this geographical region, different dialects, as well as distinct social groupings, can be found.

The different groups each have their own chiefs, traditions, and heritage. Some are hunters; some are warriors; some are traders. Some are pagan, while others follow Islamic belief. Tribal mixing and cultural mixing characterize Kuranko history.

The Kuranko occupy a mountainous region within the northeastern Sierra Leone highlands, extending into Guinea. This region lacks adequate road systems and is not easily accessible, leaving the Kuranko socially isolated. This may explain why most have held on to their traditional culture and religion.

What Are Their Lives Like?
The Kuranko are primarily farmers. Rice is the main crop cultivated, and the money made from it barely covers the expenses of the family. Supplementary crops include corn, cotton, potato, pumpkin, and indigo. Each household also owns fruit trees around the village, which produce bananas, papaya, coconuts, and other fruits.

Groundnuts are eaten by the Kuranko, but the highest source of protein comes from fish. Fishing is usually done by the women, who use skilled and innovative methods for securing their catch. Hens and chickens are kept by every family, and are usually used for gifts.

To the Kuranko, a child is not considered to be a complete person and is considered impure and dirty. Childhood for a boy or girl lasts until puberty. At this time, a ritual purification ceremony, called a biriye, ushers them into adulthood.

An adult is expected to show honor and respect for the customs of the Kuranko past. This may be demonstrated by joining various cult associations. The Gbansogoron ("cheek piercers") use self-inflicted pain as a way of showing bravery. The Segere is a women's cult that supports the rights of women.

Today, schooling has become a symbolic replacement for the cult system and initiation rituals. As literacy and educational opportunities increase, perhaps the power of the cult societies will decrease.

What Are Their Beliefs?
Less than one-third of the Kuranko in Sierra Leone are Muslim. The majority of the remaining Kuranko follow their traditional ethnic religion.

The Kuranko sometimes think of "the wild" as opposite to village life, and they use animal metaphors to identify evildoers. Someone without faith is likened to a dog; one who steals is as a monkey; and a traitor is as a snake. The Kuranko believe that certain people can change into animals to harm others. Certain animals, such as the vulture, the bat, and the black cat symbolize witchcraft.

The Kuranko believe that in the forests, the rivers, and the mountains live quasi-human beings known as Nyenne. These are "bush spirits," who are believed to influence Kuranko life in different ways.

The Nyenne are rarely seen but are somewhat feared. They are thought to live in the bush near the villages, and are said to live as humans: in houses with their families. A Kuranko will make a sacrifice to one of these Nyenne when clearing land for his farm. It is believed that the Nyenne can make women barren, cause insanity, and cause farming accidents. The Kuranko also believe that they can be friendly, bringing good fortune.

What Are Their Needs?
The Kuranko already have the Bible available to them, and four missions agencies are currently working with them. Unfortunately, however, only a small percentage of the Kuranko has become Christian.

There is a strong need for further evangelization into this socially isolated region.

Prayer is the first step toward seeing the Kuranko reached with the Gospel.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are currently targeting the Kuranko.
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth additional laborers to the Kuranko of Sierra Leone.
  • Pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to the Kuranko through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will give the Kuranko believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Kuranko bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will soon be made available to the Kuranko.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth strong local churches among the Kuranko.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Kuranko
  • Country: Sierra Leone
  • Their language: Koranko
  • Population: (1990) 177,500
    (1995) 200,100
    (2000) 225,000
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 68%
    Muslim (Malikite) 29.9%
  • Christians: 2%
  • Church members: 4,103
  • Scriptures in their own language: Bible
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 4
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 70,100 (35%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 16,100 (8%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 54,000 (27%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 70,100 (35%)
  • Country: Sierra Leone
  • Population: (1990) 3,999,100
    (1995) 4,509,000
    (2000) 5,069,300
  • Major peoples in size order: Mende 28.5%
    Temne 26.6%
    Krio 7.5%
    W. Central Limba 7%
    Kuranko 4.4%
  • Major religions: Ethnic religionist 47.2%
    Muslim 43.5%
    Christian 9.2%
  • Number of denominations: 37

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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