The Aku, Krio or Creole, are a minority ethnic group of Gambia with connections to and some roots from the Sierra Leone Creole people. In Gambia the Aku account for about 2% of the population. Some estimates put the figure higher.
The Aku of Gambia are numbering 16,500. They are part of the Other Sub-Saharan African people cluster within the Sub-Saharan African affinity bloc. Globally, this group totals 24,700 in 2 countries. Their primary language is Krio. The primary religion practiced by the Aku is marginal Christianity, a form of religion with roots in Christianity but not theologically Christian.
Gambian Creoles are the descendants of Sierra Leone Liberated Africans, Sierra Leoneans of Nova Scotian and Maroon descent, transatlantic immigrants to the Gambia, and liberated Africans released in the Gambia directly.
Gambian Creoles are partly an extension of the Sierra Leone Creole community, and some Gambian Creoles have roots in the West Indies, North America, England, and the various African communities. Some Gambian Creoles also have some European heritage through intermarriage and through their connections to Sierra Leone Creoles who settled in the Gambia between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Their primary language is Krio
Many Gambian Creoles speak the Aku, an English-based creole language similar to the Krio language of Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone, the terms 'Oku' or 'Aku Marabouts' or the 'Aku Mohammedans' refers to the Oku people, while in the Gambia, the term Aku refers to the Creole population not the Oku people. In the Gambia, "Aku Marabout" or Oku Marabout is the term used for the Oku people while Gambian Creoles or Akus in and around Banjul are Christian.[
The Aku's origins are from the descendants of former recaptured freed slaves, (these were people who were rescued from intercepted ships attempting to take them from West Africa to the Americas after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807), who were repatriated back to the West coast of Africa in the 19th century. Their origins date back to the late eighteenth century when 400 impoverished Africans were sent to Sierra Leone from London. They were followed by ex-soldiers who had fought for the British in the American War of Independence and were promised freedom if they fought on the side of the British. By 1850 the Akus were spread across West Africa in small communities from Gambia to Bioko Island off the West African coast.
In the 1830s the British began a large scale transfer of some recaptured former slaves from Sierra Leone to Bathurst (now Banjul) and up-river to Georgetown (Janjangbureh) in the Central River Division of The Gambia. The community excelled compared to the indigenous communities as they had the advantage of being better English speakers and the British saw them as a way to spread Christianity and European values.
Many were engaged in the fields of teaching, the clergy, clerical work, skilled building workers and labourers. Some distinguished Akus emerged such as Thomas Rafell and Thomas Joiner who were both wealthy businessmen. However, the most prominent of them all was Edward Francis Small who was at the leading edge of politics from the 1920s when he called for independence and self-rule and is regarded as the father of modern Gambian politics. The Aku community themselves were active proponents of nationalism throughout the sub-region.