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A Kpelle girl from Liberia, May 1968.
Total population
c. 2 million
Regions with significant populations
 Liberia1,058,448 (20.3%) [1]
 Guinea1,004,475 (7.8%) [2]
 Ivory Coast30,000[citation needed]
Kpelle, French, English
Christianity, Traditional, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Mende people, Kissi people, Loma people, Mano people, Vai people, Kono people, Gbandi people

The Kpelle people (also known as the Guerze, Kpwesi, Kpessi, Sprd, Mpessi, Berlu, Gbelle, Bere, Gizima, or Buni)[3] are the largest ethnic group in Liberia. They are located primarily in an area of central Liberia extending into Guinea. They speak the Kpelle language,[4] which belongs to the Mande language family.

Despite their yearly heavy rainfalls and rough land, Kpelle survive mostly on their staple crop of rice. Traditionally organized under several paramount chiefs who serve as mediators for the public, preserve order and settle disputes, the Kpelle are arguably the most rural and conservative of the major ethnic groups in Liberia.[5]

The Kpelle people are also referred to as Gberese, Gbese, Gbeze, Gerse, Gerze, Kpelli, Kpese, Kpwele, Ngere, and Nguere.[6]


The Kpelle or Guerze lived in North Sudan during the sixteenth-century, before fleeing to other parts of Northwest Africa into what is now Mali. Their flight was due to internal conflicts between the tribes from the crumbling Sudanic empire. Some migrated to Liberia, Mauritania, and Chad. They still maintained their traditional and cultural heritage despite their migration. A handful are still of Kpelle origin in North Sudan. [7]

Kpelle are also located in Mali and maintain their heritage. Some Arabs in Mali enslaved the Africans and took women as their concubines, with those descendants being of Kpelle admixture.[5]

The Kpelle also used to trade with the Muslim Vai and Mandingo who live in small numbers in the country and reside nearby. The Kpelle trade with Lebanese merchants, U.S. missionaries and Peace Corps volunteers.[5]

There were 3 days of ethno-religious fighting in Nzerekore in July 2013.[8][9] Fighting between ethnic Kpelle, who are Christian or animist, and ethnic Konianke, who are Muslims and close to the larger Mandinka ethnic group, left at least 54 dead.[9] The dead included people who were killed with machetes and others who were burned alive.[9] The violence ended after the Guinea military imposed a curfew, and President Conde made a televised appeal for calm.[9]


The Kpelle are the largest ethnic group of the West African nation of Liberia and are also an important ethnic group also in southern Guinea (where they are also known as Guerze) and north western Ivory Coast. Most Kpelle inhabit Bong County, Bomi County, Gbarpolu County, and Lofa County.[5] They are major food suppliers of the capital cities.

The terrain in the area includes swamps, hills and, in lowland areas, rivers. May through October brings their rainy season with an annual rainfall from 180 to 300 centimeters. The Kpelle territory sees the lowest temperatures dropping to 19 °C with the average temp around 36-degree C.[4]

It is supplemented by cassava, vegetables, and fruits; cash crops include rice, peanuts, sugarcane, and nuts they also enjoy fufu and soup, sometimes the soup is spicy but it depends on the way they want it. Soup may be eaten as an appetizer or in conjunction to the main dish.[10]


Traditionally, the Kpelle have been farmers with rice as the main crop.[11] The word Kpelle is often used as an adjective to refer to someone as hard working and very humble people in Liberia and Guinea.

Traditionally, a Kpelle family consists of a man, his wives and his children. The household has been the usual farming unit, and all the family members participate in daily farming work. Young children learn how to farm and help the older family members with farm activities.[citation needed]

In their social structure, leadership was very crucial. Every Kpelle tribe used to have a chief who oversaw their own interests as well as the interests of the society. These chiefs were recognized by the national government. They used to act as mediators between the government and their own tribes. Each town also had its own chief. The chiefs act as liaisons for different groups in the society. Anthropologists such as Caroline Bledsoe have characterized Kpelle social organization as one premised on wealth in people.

Their flight was due to internal conflicts between the tribes from the crumbling Sudanic empire.

Kpelle wood made structure
Kpelle wood made structure

Kpelle Surnames

  1. Balamou
  2. Balomou
  3. Bamamou
  4. Bénémou
  5. Bimou
  6. Blélamou
  7. Blémou
  8. Boamou
  9. Bohamou
  10. Bolamou
  11. Boolamou
  12. Bolomou
  13. Bonamou
  14. Bréhémou
  15. Decamou
  16. Delamou
  17. Diémou
  18. Doualamou
  19. Dounamou
  20. Douolamou
  21. Douonamou
  22. Dramou
  23. Faghamou
  24. Fanghamou
  25. Fanhamou
  26. Félémou
  27. Gamamou
  28. Gbalémou
  29. Gbamou
  30. Gbanamou
  31. Gbanmou
  32. Gbémou
  33. Gbilémou
  34. Gbilimou
  35. Gegbelémou
  36. Gnabalamou
  37. Gnanawéamou
  38. Gnékoyamou
  39. Gamou
  40. Gomou
  41. Gonomou
  42. Goromou
  43. Gouamou
  44. Goumou
  45. Gromou
  46. Guémou
  47. Habalamou
  48. Hagbalamou
  49. Hamoutéamou
  50. Haomou
  51. Haoulomou
  52. Hébélamou
  53. Hébélemou
  54. Hélémou
  55. Honomou
  56. Iromou
  57. Kanimou
  58. Kanmou
  59. Kolamou 
  60. Kolomou
  61. Konomou
  62. Korémou
  63. Koulémou
  64. Kpamou
  65. Kpanamou
  66. Kpoghomou
  67. Kpoghonamou
  68. Kpogmou
  69. Kpohomou
  70. Kpokomou
  71. Kponhonamou
  72. Kpoulomou
  73. Kpowolamou
  74. Kpowolomou
  75. Kpowomou
  76. Lamou
  77. Loholamou
  78. Lolamou
  79. Loramou
  80. Louamou
  81. Loulémou
  82. Lowolamou
  83. Mahomou
  84. Malamou
  85. Malémou
  86. Malomou
  87. Manamou
  88. Manémou
  89. Manimou 
  90. Maomou
  91. Maouomou
  92. Minamou
  93. Malmou
  94. Molmou
  95. Molomou
  96. Moloumou
  97. Monémou
  98. Nanamou
  99. Ninamou
  100. Nonamou
  101. Nonémou
  102. Noramou
  103. Nyambalamou (Niambalamou)
  104. Ognémou
  105. Olamou
  106. Olémou
  107. Onikoyamou
  108. Oualamou
  109. Ouamounou
  110. Ouélamou
  111. Ouémou
  112. Ouiémou
  113. Pilicemou
  114. Pkogomou
  115. Plégnémou
  116. Pricémou
  117. Sangbalamou
  118. Sangbaramou
  119. Saoromou
  120. Saoulomou
  121. Saouromou
  122. Saromou
  123. Sonomou
  124. Soomou
  125. Soromou
  126. Souomou
  127. Tohonamou
  128. Tonamou
  129. Wolamou
  130. Yarawéyamou
  131. Yeamou
  132. Zagaimou
  133. Zébélamou
  134. Zégbélemou
  135. Zogbélémou
  136. Zomou
  137. Zotamou
  138. Zouémou
  139. Zoutomou
  140. Zowotamou

Notable Kpelle people

See also


  1. ^ "Africa: Liberia The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Africa: Guinea The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  3. ^ Fulton, Richard M. (1972). "The Political Structures and Functions of Poro in Kpelle Society". American Anthropologist. n.s. 74 (5): 1218–1233. doi:10.1525/aa.1972.74.5.02a00140.
  4. ^ a b "Off Campus Access". Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d "Kpelle". Archived from the original on 19 October 2002. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  6. ^ RAMEAU, BnF [1]
  7. ^ Fiske, Alan. "Kpelle". Archived from the original on 19 October 2002. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Guinea's Conde appeals for calm after 11 killed in ethnic clashes". Reuters. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2020 – via
  9. ^ a b c d "Guinea troops deployed after clashes". BBC News. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition". Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  11. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1982 edition, p. 907
This page was last edited on 16 February 2023, at 14:27
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