The Gosha of East Africa
A Cluster of 2 Gosha groups from 2 East African countries
The Gosha live in East Africa, mostly in the Jubba Valley of southern Somalia and the Mandera district of northeastern Kenya. The word gosha literally means "people of the forest." It is a collective term used to describe those ethnic groups—mostly of Bantu backgrounds—who live in the fertile farmlands of the lower Jubba Valley.
Most of the Gosha are descendants of freed or escaped slaves who migrated south from the Shabeelle Valley during the 1800's to establish farming colonies. Free Bantu people were already settled in this area, along with some Oromo slaves, when they arrived. The people of Somalia grouped the three groups as one: the Gosha. The Somali looked down upon them, mostly because they were foreigners, but also because they were farmers and former slaves. Although the two Bantu groups (former slaves and free Bantu) intermarried, the Oromo slaves did not. They have remained a distinct and separate group. Today, most of the Gosha speak Mushungulu, which comes from the Zigula Bantu language. Many also speak Swahili and Oromo.
What are their lives like?
The men's responsibilities include tending to the herds, which mostly include camels, cattle, and sometimes goats. The women's duties include preparing the meals, milking the animals, nurturing the family, maintaining the household, and building the tents. Although the man remains the legal owner of his family's herd, his wife or wives usually control some part of it. In the past, the Gosha diet consisted almost entirely of milk, cheese, and other dairy products; however, today, corn meal and rice are included as staple parts of their diet.
The moving patterns of the Gosha are dependent on the unpredictable grazing region and climate of the area in which they live. To ensure that each extended family household has enough pasture and water for its herd, the Gosha spread out from one another. When lack of water or pasture causes the Gosha to leave an area, the backs of their camels are loaded with their portable huts and other supplies and they move across the desert in single, extended family units.
Although many Gosha now consider themselves members of different Somali clans, their marriage patterns still tend to follow the traditional ethnic lines of the original Bantu groups. For this reason, the Gosha still retain their non-Somali physical characteristics typical of the Jubba Valley farmers—both of today and of many years past.
Polygyny (having multiple wives) exists among the Gosha, with the Islamic limit of four wives. Each wife lives in a separate hut and the first wife is usually the head over the others. Unfortunately, the divorce rate is very high. The children of divorced parents are usually split by gender; the wife takes the girls and the husband takes the boys.
Many Bantu customs have survived among the Gosha. One such custom is the Gulu Nkulu ("Great Dance") of the Yao, celebrated in other countries such as Mozambique and Malawi.
What are their beliefs?
As Muslims, the Gosha consider Jesus to be a prophet, a teacher, and a good man, but not God's son. They also believe that all men will give account for their actions after they die. They believe that they will be judged by their good works and by their knowledge of the Koran. They adhere to the five "pillars" of Islam, which include affirming that Allah is the only god and Mohammed is his prophet, praying five times a day, giving alms generously, fasting, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Although the Gosha are devout in their religious practices, few of them have a deep understanding of their faith. Even among the Muslims, many aspects of the animistic Bantu religion are still evident (belief that non-living objects have spirits).
What are their needs?
Though the physical needs of the Gosha are great, their spiritual needs are even greater. Only those living in Kenya have access to some Christian resources in their language. Currently, there are no missions agencies targeting either of these groups. Bibles, evangelistic literature, Christian broadcasts, and missionaries are needed to effectively reach the Gosha with the Gospel. Most importantly, intercession is needed to tear down the strongholds that are keeping them in spiritual bondage. Only then will their hearts be open to the message of salvation as it is presented to them.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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