The Kotoko people , also called Mser, Moria, Bara and Makari, are a Chadic ethnic group located in northern Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria.
The Kotoko population is composed of approximately 90,000 people in 2 countries of which the majority live in Cameroon, numbering 22,500.
The Kotoko are part of the Chadic people cluster within the Sub-Saharan African affinity bloc.
Their primary language is Lagwan.
They are subdivided into a number of clans, all of whom look to the legendary Sao as their common ancestor. They are closely related to the Budumas of Lake Chad. In the fifteenth century, the Kotoko state reached across northern Nigeria and Cameroon.
Ethnologists classify the Kotokos as a riverine townspeople because they are concentrated along the Logone River between Bongor and Kusseri, the Chari River south of Lake Chad, and the Makari, Mani, Kusseri, Logone-Birni, and Logone-Gana rivers. They live in fortified towns surrounded by high walls along those rivers.
Their language is part of the Chadic group of the Nilo-Saharan family. For centuries, they were vassals to the Kanuris* of the Bornu Empire, who began converting them to Islam in the eighteenth century.
The primary religion practiced by the Kotoko is Folk Islam, a syncretistic belief system that blends traditional elements of Islam with superstitious practices such as warding off spirits with incantations and magic amulets, and reciting verses of the Qur'an to bring about miraculous healings. Pre-Islamic beliefs in water and riverine spirits still survive.
They founded the Kotoko kingdom in the 1500 CE, and are considered to be descendants of the Sao civilization.
Traditionally, the Kotokos were fishermen, hunters, hor- ticulturalists, and craftsmen, but, in recent years, they have begun working as merchants and commercial livestock raisers.
The Kotoko engage in fishing (with the aid of their long canoes) and in agriculture. The fish they catch is subsequently smoked or dried then sold in local markets. Wealthier families also raise cattle.
Throughout the región, they have been known for their skill as fishermen who use large butterfly nets. Some of the wealthier Kotoko families also own cattle. The growing commercial econ- omy is undermining traditional Kotoko kinship groups.
The Kotoko kingdom was an monarchy in what is today northern Cameroon and Nigeria, and southwestern Chad. Its inhabitants and their modern descendants are known as the Kotoko people.
The rise of Kotoko coincided with the decline of the Sao civilisation in northern Cameroon. A king headed the nascent state, which came to assimilate several smaller kingdoms. Among these were Kousséri, Logone-Birni, Makari, and Mara. Kotoko spread to parts of what is today northern Cameroon and Nigeria, and southwestern Chad by the mid-15th century. Logone-Birni emerged as the most influential of Kotoko's client kingdoms.
The Kanem Empire brought northern Kotoko into its sphere of influence early on. Through the actions of missionaries and conquerors, most of northern Kotoko had converted to Islam by the 19th century. That same century, Kotoko itself was completely subsumed into the Bornu Empire, and Islam continued to spread. The Bornu rulers divided the territory into northern and southern halves, which allowed Logone-Birni in the south to maintain some degree of autonomy under its paramount chief. Logone-Birni was divided into provinces headed by sub-chiefs.
Kotoko, along with the rest of Bornu, was split among European powers during Africa's colonial period. In modern times, there has been some conflict between the Kotoko and the Shuwa Arabs.