Kota people (Gabon)

For the historic town in Ukraine, see Bakota (Ukraine).

The Bakota (or Kota) are a Bantu ethnic group from the northeastern region of Gabon. The language they speak is called iKota, but is sometimes referred to as Bakota, ikuta, Kota, and among the Fang, they are known as Mekora. The language has several dialects, which include: Ndambomo, Mahongwe, Ikota-la-hua, Sake, Menzambi, Bougom. Some of these dialects themselves include regional variations of some kind.

The Kota are traditionally a patriarchal society, however some of the sub-groups such as the Mahongwe have over time adopted a matrilineal system of lineage (Mahongwe means, "from your father").

The true meaning of Bakota is unclear, however it may be derived from the word kota, which means to bind/to attach/to link, hereby suggesting they view themselves as a united people bound by a common fate.

Estimates indicate that there are at least 43,500 Kota speakers in the world, of whom 34,442 people (79%) live in the Ogouee-Ivindo province of northeastern Gabon, and 9055 people (21%) in neighboring Congo-Brazzaville.

They are noted for their copper and brass reliquary guardian figures, which are part of a powerful religious and mystical order known as Bwete. Another key feature of the Kota people is the originality of its circumcision and widow-purification rituals, which are generally kept secret.

Politically, the Kota have been classified under the disputed "stateless societies" category. They have a strong egalitarian background, which in some instances cuts across age and gender lines. Kota children are taught to value tradition, respect for the elderly, and the concept of "Ewele" (loosely translated as 'pride').

The Kota are not considered big players in Gabonese politics, however some Kota have been appointed to key positions in the Government. Alexandre Sambat, a long-time ambassador to the United States who later ran for president in 1993, was of Kota origin. Pascal Desire Misongo, another Kota, has served as minister of Justice in Gabon.

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