The Banda people are an ethnic group of the Central African Republic. They are also found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and South Sudan. They were severely affected by slave raids of the 19th century and slave trading out of Africa.
Under French colonial rule, most converted to Christianity but retained elements of their traditional religious systems and values.
Estimated to be around 1.3 million people at the turn of the 21st century, they constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in the Central African Republic, traditionally found in the northeastern part of the country.
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. They are domicile in and around Raga and extend into the eastern part of Central African Republic. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Like other tribes in the area the long running civil war has affected the Banda causing large scale migration to the towns and across the north-south borders.
Little information exists about Banda Diaspora in any part of the world except those in Central African Republic.