Mossi States

Mossi States were a cluster of twenty states that occupied the Niger bend south of Jenne and Timbuktu in the savannah region and north of Asante and Togo forest zone. The Mossi were never integrated in the Mali Empire.  They speak Moore of the Gur sub-group of the Niger-Congo Family.
Mossi States


Oral tradition has it the Mossi came from the east, but their presence in the region could have been since ancient times. All Mossi dynasty claim descent from Naaba Wedraogo, who came from Gambaga, Mamprusi region. His father was a hunter of Mande origins.


The five largest states to emerge out of the region: Ouagadougou, Yatenga, Tenkodogo, Boussouma, and Gurma. These states were powerful before the 1500s. The Mossi Kingdom comprised of twenty states.
Mossi Cavalry

Mossi society was divided into castes. The slave caste called yemse. The commoners called talse, and the noble caste called nakombe. The king or naaba was assisted by a rigid administration. Initially, the king was mobile moving from province to province.

The Mossi states were very stable. They never converted to Islam and fiercely guarded their traditional religion.


Their economic livelihood depended on raiding their neighbors. With mounted cavalry, they raided farming and prosperous communities, demanding tribute, even from territories under the Mali EmpireThey took over Timbuktu(1312-1337) under Mansa Musa. In 1338, they looted Timbuktu. Suni Ali was able to bring them under the Songhay Empire.

The kingdom was also involved with the salt, kola nuts, and slave trade of the Sahel and Asante forest zone. They exchanged local donkey, cotton, sorghum, and millet for aforementioned goods. The growing of millet and sorghum was a major activity. A special caste existed called the tengabiise assured good harvest via rituals.

Mossi sword

Works Cited 

Davidson, Basil, Buah, F. K. ,and Ajayi, J.F. Ade(1966). A History of West Africa. Doubleday:New York, pp. 73-74. Library of Congress Card #66-24317.