The Banda people are an ethnic group of the Central African Republic.
They are also found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, South Sudan and Chad.
The Banda are the largest single ethnic group in the Central African Republic. They numbered about 1,300,000 at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Banda speak a language of the Adamawa-Ubangi subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family that is related to that of their Gbaya and Ngbandi neighbours.
The Banda observe patrilineal descent and live in hamlets of dispersed homesteads under the local governance of a headman. Rural Banda raise corn (maize), cassava, peanuts (groundnuts), sweet potatoes, yams, and tobacco. Men hunt and fish, and women gather wild foods and cultivate crops. Banda craftsmen produce carved wooden ritual and utilitarian objects; they are best known for their large slit drums carved in the shapes of animals.
Stateless when first encountered by Europeans, the Banda selected war chiefs only during times of crisis, after which the warriors were divested of their power. Age grades and initiations called semali assured intergroup unity in time of war. Marriage traditionally required bridewealth, often in iron implements. Polygyny, although still practiced, has declined with the rise of a money-based economy.
The Banda comprise a number of ethnic groups, including the:
Banda subsistence activities include hunting, gathering, fishing, and the Cultivation of crops such as melons, millet, okra, and yams. Success in these activities was believed to depend, in part, on proper sacrifices to ancestral and other spirits or on the acquisition of special powers.
The French colonial authorities promoted the cultivation of cotton as a cash crop and cassava as a subsistence crop in many Banda regions, and Christian missionaries won many converts among the Banda during this era. Still, most Banda in rural regions continue to rely on subsistence acclivities, and elements of their pre-colonial worldview persist in syncretic combination with Christian beliefs. Christian pastors have come to play an important leadership role in many Banda communities, and some Banda pastors leave broken their ties with foreign missionaries and started their own independent churches.
The Banda is made up of sub-tribes (clans) namely: Dukpu, Wundu, Junguru, Vedere (Nvedere), Govvoro, Buru, Wasa, Wadda, Sopo-north Banda, Tangbagu and Togbo. They are distinguishable from each other by their distinct and different languages and dialects.
In Central African Republic they are concentrated in the prefectures of Basse-Kotto, Haute-Kotto, Kemo, and Ouaka in the central and eastern parts of the country.
The exact number of the Banda and its sub-tribes is difficult to determine and requires further research. Their main towns are Raga, Mangaya, Sopo and Deim Zubier.
The Banda occupy the crest of the Nile-Congo watershed. The terrain is rugged plains with isolated hills cut by deep valleys in which drain several perennial streams. The climate is tropical and the vegetation is thick forests with tall grasses. The rainfall regime is one long season that sustains extensive agricultural activities of these people. The tribe is agrarian and their economy is essentially subsistence with little trade and barter with neighbouring tribes. The natural resources are mainly forest products - timber, honey, and wild life. It is yet to be established whether gold and copper mineralization (in hofra en nahas and Kafiakingi) reaches this area.
In pre-colonial times, the Banda were divided into clans, with no hereditary rulers or other officials. Clans were dispersed in small hamlets that usually consisted of a few clansmen and their families.
The Banda are said to have migrated into the Bahr el Ghazal from Central African Republic in successive waves which may have divided them into three categories:
a) Those who fled from French Equatoria Africa under the pressure of Sanusi in the 18th century;.
b) Those who came after the defeat of Sanusi;
c) The ‘Faranza’ who left later owing to dissatisfaction or friction with the new colonial government.
During the nineteenth century, slave raiders from present-day Chad, Sudan, and the south-eastern (Central African Republic began to penetrate Banda territory, killing or carrying away many of its inhabitants. The arrival of European colonists at the turn of the twentieth century initially provided slave-raiding states with more weapons and thus contributed to the depopulation of much of the eastern part of the country. However, the French suppressed slave raiding after establishing the colony of Ubangi-Shari (later renamed the Central African Republic) in 1903.
The Banda people speak languages belonging to the Niger-Congo family, known as Banda or Ubangian languages. The Banda languages have variations; nine distinct geographically distributed vernaculars are known.
The different Banda sub-tribes as mentioned above speak different languages and dialects.
There is very little in print about the social organisation of the Banda apart from mentions that it is made up of several sub-tribes and clans. The most persistent information is that of cannibalism practiced by some of the sub-tribes.
Rites of passage, especially the transition to womanhood for females, were important events in the lives of the Banda.
The segmentation into different sub-tribes reflects lack of a central authority for the tribe. This means that each sub-tribe had its own chiefs and headmen. The Wasa Banda are the most numerous of the Banda tribes in Bahr el Ghazal. The paramount chief of the tribe was drawn from them.
Compared to other ethnic groups such as the Gbaya, Ngbaka, and Ngbandi, the Banda have been underrepresented politically since the Central African Republic became independent in 1960. The nation has had two Ngbaka heads of state (Berthelemy Boganda and Jean-Bedel Bokassa), two Gbaya (Francois Bozize and Ange-Félix Parassé), and one Ngbandi (André Kolingba), but no Banda ruler. For this reason, the Banda have been less embroiled in ethnic and regional conflicts between the "northerners" (mostly Gbaya, Mbum, and Sara) of the savannah zone the "southerners" (mostly Ngbaka and Ngbandi) along the Ubangi River and forest fringes.
The Banda venerate intermediary spirits, magic and charms. There is a general belief that spirits of the departed ancestors concentrate the power of destroying or occasionally saving human beings in their hands. Some Banda have converted to Islam and Christianity and have therefore adopted their ways.
The Banda sub-tribes neighbour the Azande to the south, Kresh and Feroge to the north and Bviri, Sere, Ndogo to the east. In the past the Banda had bad relations with the Feroge and the Azande.