Segou, Mali. Image by Architecture Richmond
The word “SEGOU” has different meanings; from being interpreted as ‘the foot of a Shea butter tree’ to ‘being named after a marabout who founded the kingdom’ or by 'the bozo fishermen who immigrated from the north and established a community in Mali’. There is no real definition because the Bambaras (the people of Segou) passed their knowledge by folklore or moonlight tales; an oral tradition that is still continued. Though their history might have a lot of missing and their traditional, cultural and religious practices unknown they have wonderful musical instruments, grits, traditional masks or marionettes. What we do know is, Ségou is the fifth-largest town in Mali the capital of Segou Cercle of the Segou region. Their most common language is the Bambara language, the people of Segou worship their ancestors and they are ruled by a Monarchy system of government. Let's look into Biton Coulibaly.
The Creation of Bambara Empire
Mamary Coulibaly founded the Bambara Empire, this was after settling in the Segou land where he quickly rose to become the head of an organization for young men called Tòn, his title has their leader was called BITÒN hence his new name ‘Bitòn Coulibaly’. From there on the Tòn transformed from a political men’s club into a full fledged army of ‘Tondions’ who wanted change in their community, before long they overthrew the king of Segou and Bitòn Coulibaly took over. After overthrowing the king, Coulibaly found a way to limit the votes of the Chiefs and successfully subdued all of them, he wasted no time in making that city as a capital for his futuristic Bambara Empire. Using the Songhai defensive techniques he improved himself with raised an army of a thousand men who would patrol the Niger River, launch assaults on neighboring towns and eventually create the City of Bla which served as an outpost and an armory for his kingdom.
The Fall Of Biton Coulibaly
The Bamabara Empire thrived using its Islamic influence in the north to trade, Ségou was known for pottery, fishing and mostly slave trade. Slaves were used for labour or resold by local traders in different markets, a few years later slaves became high in demand and wars broke out severally. Soon the slaves enlisted into the army, some bought properties others won their way to nobility; an example was Ngolo Diarra who seized the throne when the Coulibalys couldn’t control their mighty empire after the death of their father Bitòn Coulibaly.
Coulibaly was laid to rest in his tomb and its site has become one of the city's attractions, along with an ancient tree, a mosque and a water tower.