PHOTOS: Meet The Dozos, A Brotherhood Of Initiated Traditional Hunters With Mystical Powers

What Does Dozo Mean?

The Dozos according to are traditional hunters in northern Côte d’Ivoire, southeast Mali, and Burkina Faso. They are members of a Donzo Ton, a co-fraternity of initiated hunters and sons of Dozo.

The Dozos are a non-ethnic group who are primarily derived from Mandé-speaking villages, but they can also be found in Dyula-speaking communities and most other ethnic groups in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Dozo hunters
The Dozo hunters.

Dozo societies grew in popularity in the latter half of the twentieth century, and during the Ivorian Civil War, Dozo groups gained political prominence.


How Did The Dozo Movement Begin?

In the 1990s, the movement in Côte d’Ivoire began to play the role of unofficial neighborhood police, being called in by some towns and authorities to manage growing crime in the face of inadequate state police protection.

The Dozo hunters

The dozos became security agents in order to reclaim the status they had lost as a result of over-hunting the large animals that provided them with their livelihood and pride. Dozos guarded markets, homes, and businesses, maintained armed night-time security patrols and roadblocks, and tried and punished criminal suspects.

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The Dozo hunters

In his 2011 book Hunting the Ethical State: The Benkadi Movement of Côte d’Ivoire, author and university professor Joseph Hellweg explains how Dozos, who practice intricate rites in their work as hunters and guards, “treated Côte d’Ivoire’s crime wave as a symptom of a larger moral disorder that threatened community well-being, requiring a comprehensive, ethical cure that they articulated through ritual.”

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The Dozos’ Modus Operandi And Appearance.

The Dozo hunters

It has long been usual to see dozos standing guard at homes or businesses, or riding around on motorbikes, weapons in hand, long knives in tunic pockets, across Côte d’Ivoire’s northern region.

The Dozo

The amulets (gris-gris) worn by Dozos are said to have magical abilities that protect them from danger and improve their vision and hearing. Bulletproof amulets, inherited brown hunting clothes, and unique hats are claimed to protect them.

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How Many Fighters/Hunters Does The Dozo Group Have?

According to Balla Dembélé, one of the leaders based in Duékoué, there are currently 20,000 members in Côte d’Ivoire alone.

The Dozo

Human Rights Violation Accusations Against Dozo In Côte d’Ivoire.

Dozos “probably participated” in massacres in late March of the year 2011, when the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) went into Duékoué, according to the UNOCI’s human rights section.

UNOCI groups dozos with pro-Gbagbo military and militia, pro-Ouattara military, and civilians who committed acts of violence or looting in the west, concluding that there are “two sorts of dozos: traditional hunters and warriors.”

The Dozo

In a study released on July 28 2011, Amnesty International (AI) claims that dozos were terrorizing the local Guéré people, accusing “government security personnel and the dozos” of ” committing human rights violations.”

At that point in time, Amnesty International wanted the Ivorian government to abolish the dozos, which it refers to as “state-backed militia.”

Human Rights Violation Accusations Against Dozo In Mali.

Local villagers accused the Malian government of arming Dozo militias responsible for a wave of killings of nomadic Fula tribes in 2017.

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The Dozo

Dozo allegedly gathered a community in the Mopti Region in June 2018, separated Fula ethnic group members from the rest of the residents, and killed at least 32 of them. The Fula allege that they are routinely attacked by the traditional hunters in the pretext of fighting Islamist terrorists. They claim that the Malian military is complicit in such acts.

All photos in this article were gotten from Pieter Van Ostaeyen on Twitter. @p_vanostaeyen

Some parts of this article was curled and modified from an article written by The New Humanitarian.

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