The Susu people (Susu: Soso; French: Soussou) are a major Mande ethnic group living residing in Guinea, Sierra Leone and with a. smaller communities also located in the Senegal. The Susu are believed to be descendants of the 12th- and 13th-century Takur kingdom called Sosso (Susu), which was ruled by Soumaore Kante (also known as Sumanguru). Sumanguru was defeated by Sundiata Keita in 1235 at the battle of Kirina, leading to the collapse of the Sosso kingdom and the formation of the Mali Empire.

A Virgin Susu dancer at Port Loko, Sierra Leone, entertains the Queen and prince Philip during their tour of the country.Circa 1961(Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

It is said that the name Guinea came from Susu word "guinè" means "woman." According to Guinean historians "When a group of Europeans arrived on the coast they met some women washing clothes in an estuary. The women indicated to the men that they were women. The Europeans misunderstood and thought the women were referring to a geographic area; the subsequently used the word "Guinea" to describe coastal West Africa."

                     Susu musicians from Guinea playing balanger

Soso people who largely Muslims are the third largest ethnic group in Guinea with an estimated population of over 2.3 million people constituting over 24% of the the Guinean population. Aside from Guinea, the next largest concentration of Susus are in Sierra Leone and sizable number in Senegal which the recent estimates indicate that they they number upwards of 1 million. The Susu predominate in the central region of Guinea and theirs is the most widely spoken language in the capital Conakry and other cities in central Guinea, including Kindia, Forekaria and Koya. The Sierra Leonean Susu live primarily in Kambia District where they form the second largest ethnic group after the Temne at about 28% of the population.

 Guinea's President  from 1984 to 2008, Lansana Conté, was an ethnic Soso.
The ancient warrior Susu people are farmers, traders and fishermen who now live mainly in the coastal areas of Guinea and Sierra Leone. Their houses are made with mud or cement blocks, and thatched or tin roofs depending on their means.
Prince Modupe, the famous Guinean ethnic Susu actor, Hollywood technical advisor on Africa and author of the autobiography, A Royal African (Praeger: New York, 1969) (published in 1957 by Harcourt, Brace & World as I Was a Savage) with Buster Crabbe in the movie "NABONGA" (1944)

The Susu are known to be open minded, non-ethnocentric, offering their services to their nation and people as well as treating everyone with respect as if they are their own kinsmen when compared to their neighboring counterparts.

                                Soso children from Guinea
The Soso were known for defeating the mysterious Manis` slave-raiding warriors who terrorize West Africans. Some of the prominent Soso people are Lansana Conté, former president of Guinea from 1984 to 2008, Dala Modu Dumbuya, an important Sierra Leonean Susu trader during colonial era, Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, former Finance minister of Guinea, Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya, Sierra Leonean politician, Eugène Camara, former prime minister of Guinea, Henri Camara, Senegalese football star who playing as a striker and is currently plays for Panetolikos, Prince Modupe, Guinean actor, Hollywood technical advisor on Africa and author of the autobiography, A Royal African (Praeger: New York, 1969) (published in 1957 by Harcourt, Brace & World as I Was a Savage) and many others.

Henri Camara, Senegalese football star who plays as a striker and currently plays for Panetolikos,

They speak a dialect of Susu-Yalunka known to Susu people as Sosoxui, a language belonging to the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo languages. Sosoxui serves as a major trade language along the Guinean coast, including the capital city of Conakry. Other large cities where Susu is spoken include Dubreka, Kindia, Forécariah, Boffa, Kamsar, and Boke. The Susu language is almost similar to the language of the Yalunka people who live near Faranah. The Susu and Yalunka believe they were originally one people group living in the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea.
A Virgin Susu dancer at Port Loko, Sierra Leone, entertains the Queen and prince Philip during their tour of the country.Circa 1961. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Susu Xutuba
Value: God is our providing Lord.
Wo bara Ala tantu,                                   You thank God,
manɛ naxan nɛmɛxi won ma.                      who is the one who nourishes us.
A mu won kixi sese ra,                              He has not given us anything
naxan xungbo l'Isilamu dinɛ bɛ.                  greater than the Islamic religion.
Wo bara seedeɲa na Ala ma.                    You testify that to God.
A mu won kixi sese ra,                             He has not given us anything
naxan xungbo l'Isilamu dinɛ bɛ.                greater than the Islamic religion.
Won bara seedeɲa na Ala ma.                 We testify that to God.
Won Marigi na a tan nan na.                    He is our Lord.
Susu kid with medicinal amulet necklace to protect him against spiritual harm

The Susu are known through Arab chroniclers, from about the thirteenth century, when they were defeated
by the Maninke hero Sundiata in 1233 in the area of southern Mali. From that time, they began a slow migration to the southeast, towards the sea and away from the hegemony o f the empire of Mali. From the fifteenth to  the eighteenth century they managed to settle the area which they currently inhabit.
The Susu are said to have moved to their present location in Guinea and Sierra Leone to escape Fulani domination and conversion to Islam. Precolonial Guinea was homeland to several ethnic groups, prominent among them being the Mandinka (Malinke), Fulani, and Susu.
From Guinea, the Susus who were mainly nomads and hunters moved slowly towards West with their women and children without stopping, like ants. In their journey, they normally stayed at a place, a month or weeks and then they set out again. They lived by hunting and by gathering corn, roots and wild berries. They were armed with arrows and accompanied by many dogs as fierce as leopards. When they halted they built shelters in the forest near running water and hunted until there was no more game, then they set out once more with their young men and dogs in front. They also fished in rivers, drying it and eating it on the spot.
When they rested the Kanfori set up his family round him in huts and nearby the other heads of his families grouped themselves in the same way. These huts.. were made of wood and fibres.. The men hunted and fished, the women cooked, gathered wild fruits, prepared skins of wild animals for clothing and protection, made mats and water pots and fetched wood and water.
At one time the Bankole branch of their family had wanted to move to the East but were driven back by another war-like tribe.  And so one of their leaders Domin Konteh went and settled at Domin-ya which became the first Capital of the Susu people in Sierra Leone. As time went by, the Susu people abandoned this capital and replaced it with Thie, the town that the Portuguese, English and Americans came to start their trading in slaves.

Trouble started up in the the north West of Thie. The Susus met certain black "black strangers from the North.. who were entirely naked, being strong and tall, with teeth filled into a point: their women have a shaven heads. They lived especially by fishing in the sea of which they had no fear. These people were the Bagas. After a period of fighting boundaries were settled between them by treaty and there was peace. The Bagas formed four nations round the large one of the Susus."
Domin Konteh.. who was very old when they arrived in Thie from Futa Jallon district people whom the Peuls (Fulani) called the Yalunkas. They told the Baga people that "the yellow Peuls of Futa Jallon had made war on them and that they had wanted to convert them to their fetish called Allah..."
Susu Girl 1903 Femme Sierra Leone

When Domin Konteh died his son Manga Kombeh Balla succeeded him... the first Portuguese traders arrived. In fact, the first Portuguese did not lived with the Susus, they preferred to stayed in their ships to transact business with the locals and later left. Manga Kombeh Balla later persuaded the Portuguese not to fear them and reached an agreement with the Portuguese to stay to transact business in Sierra Leone. The first Portuguese to settle was Sittel Fernando who domiciled at Bramaya.
"Sousous (Susu) mestizo women of European ancestry - 1902" 

The Susus were invaded by the powerful slave trading Manis, however in 1570, they were able to defeat the Manis in a fierce battle at Scarcies. The Susus were the only people who were able to defeat the powerful Manis and moved to settled at Fort Loko which was the land belonging to the coastal Loko ethnic group. Legend has it that the Susus were led in war by a powerful warrior called Brimah Konkorie who captured Fort Loko for the Susus.
Soso women from Guinea

The Susu are primarily farmers, with rice and millet being their two principal crops. Mangoes, pineapples, and coconuts are also grown. The women make various kinds of palm oil from palm nuts. They also make peanut oil and soap. All of the family members, including the children, are expected to do their share of the manual labor necessary for sustaining an adequate lifestyle.
In addition to farming, fishing and salt production are important enterprises to the Susu economy. Salt is produced during the dry season, and it can take up to three months of intense work to produce anything substantial. The Susu are also well known as merchants and craftsmen of leather and metal.
Guinea's President  from 1984 to 2008, Lansana Conté, was an ethnic Soso.

Settlement and culture
Houses are made of either mud or cement blocks, depending on the resources available. They are generally quite large in order to accommodate extended families. In the cities, roofs are most often made of corrugated iron, while in the rural areas, they are usually still made of thatch. Most cooking is done over open fires. Electricity is available in most places, but clean water is generally lacking. Humanitarian aid organizations are trying to help the Susu by digging wells throughout the area.

Although Western clothes can be obtained in the markets, most Susu women seem to prefer African dress. They usually wear African-style skirts that reach to their ankles. Older men wear loose-fitting cotton robes, but the younger men prefer Western-style clothing.
Soso woman from Guinea

The extended family is important to the Susu. Polygamy (having more than one spouse) is allowed under Islamic law, but it is only practiced by those who can afford it. Although good relationships are valued, there are many conflicts with neighbors, especially when dealing with money or property. Thus, each village usually has its own "wise man," as well as an elected or appointed leader to help resolve conflicts.

As mentioned earlier, the majority of the Susu practice Islam. They believe in Allah. Their formal worship revolves around five liturgical prayers recited daily at 5:00, 14:00, 17:00, 19:00, and 20:00. These sali (“liturgical prayer”) can be performed anywhere either individually or in group. People can enter a mosque for their prayers, but it is not obligatory. However, most Muslims will typically perform their 14:00 prayer on Fridays in the mosque.
The Susu word xutuba refers to the sermon preached by the imam in the mosque before the 14:00 prayers on Fridays. The imam typically delivers or reads his sermon from a pulpit at the front of the mosque, or from the niche in the eastern wall of the mosque which is reserved for the imam. Frequently he divides the sermon in two parts, and delivers the second part which is usually quite short, after a brief interval. The xutuba plays an important role in religious formation among the Susu, since it constitutes one of the main sources of teaching for the average Muslim.

Simo and Bondo initiation
The Susu people's political organization "assigned an important role to the Simo initiation society of mask cult", and it "dominated" the organization of the Baga and the Landuma people. Initiation and other rites included masks, and of particular importance were fertility rites.[4] The Simo were also one of many secret "cultic groups" (whose priests "possessed immense knowledge of herbs and roots") that practiced medicine to cure specific ailments.

The Susu people also utilizes Bondo society to initiates girls into adulthood, confers fertility, instills notions of morality and proper sexual comportment, and maintains an interest in the well-being of its members throughout their lives.


Henri Camara, is a from Soso tribe in Senegal

Guinea's President  from 1984 to 2008, Lansana Conté, was an ethnic Soso.

Prince Modupe, Guinean actor, Hollywood technical advisor on Africa and author of the autobiography, A Royal African (Praeger: New York, 1969) (published in 1957 by Harcourt, Brace & World as I Was a Savage)


  1. This report is wrong on Several levels. First of all you have a Famous Peul Cellou Diallo in the photo as president Lasana Conte. Secondly a lot of your photos of "Susu" in particular the children, some are of Peul origin, some are Susu and some are mixed. The Peul (Fulbhe/Fulani) and the Susu have been intermixing with each other for centuries. There are those with pure Peul features and Susu features in Futa Jallon. You should have consulted native immigrants in your country before posting. Also, conversion to Islam was not primarily in the form of war. The Fulbhe migrated there for grazing purposes. Some of the first Fulbhe that arrived were non-muslim. Those that were Muslim spread their Islam through social interaction. They lived peaceably together with the Susu and intermixed. Then another group of Islamic Fulbhe from Mali came centuries later and commenced "Jihad" on both the nomadic Fulbhe and the Susu. They then established the Islamic theocratic democracy of Futa Jallon. One of the First democratic systems on the atlantic seaboard before America.

    There is no denial that there were Islamic Jihads for the purpose of conversion. However, the bulk of those practicing Islam today in Africa and the world was not the result of forced conversions. Please, stop back projecting modern Islamophobia into history.


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