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Bambara Kingdoms - Segu Kingdom /

The Bambara are a large Mande ethnic group located mostly in the country of Mali. Today they are the largest and dominant people group in that country. The Bambara have long influenced the areas in which they live. Because Fulani, Soninke, and Malinke cities and lands were absorbed into the Bambara kingdoms, their cultural influences remained part of the Bambara lifestyle. They speak Bamana, a Niger-Congo language. Bamanankan, also known as Bambara and Bamanakan, is a member of the Mande group of the Niger-Congo language family. It is spoken by 4 million people as a first language and by another 10 million people in Mali and in the neighboring, Côte-d’Ivoire

Much of Bamanankan’s history is unwritten and is preserved mainly through oral tradition. During the eighteenth century, two Bambara kingdoms existed in West Africa: the kingdom of Segu and the kingdom of Kaarta. However, in the mid-1800's, Muslim rivals overthrew their rule. For many years, the warlords resisted Muslim occupation. Then, early in the twentieth century, the French gained control

Segu / Ségou Kingdom was a Bambara / Bamana kingdom founded along the Niger River from Bamako to Timbuktu. The kingdom was the most prominent and powerful of the two Bambara kingdom, the other being Kaarta. The Bambara states were two separate West African states, one of which was based on the town of Ségou, between the Sénégal and Niger rivers, and the other on Kaarta, along the middle Niger (both in present-day Mali). The Bambara empire extended to include Timbuktu during the reign of Kaladian Kulibali (c. 1652–82), but it disintegrated after his death.

Segu was a merchant town, attracting commerce throughout the Niger River. The kingdom dominated the Niger River basin, during the 1800s, occupied by Soyinke, Fulani, Malinke, Mossi, and others. The kingdom rose after the decline of the Songhai Empire. Segu began mainly as a band of raiding cavalry, extorting and demanding tributes from neighboring people. In 1600, the brother Barama Ngolo and Nia Ngolo founded the kingdom. By 1650, the kingdom was firmly established in the region. It was ruled by Kalidian, around this time. Kalidian expanded Segu territory in the western Sahel. The empire did not survive the death of Kalidian.

The empire was revived by Mamari Kulibali, after 1712, by overcoming all Bambara rivals with just a few followers. The defeated Bambara rivals fled northwest to Kaarta and founded the Kaarta Kingdom in 1753. Mamari defeated the Kingdom of Kong in 1730. He was able to strengthen the empire by building a slave army of captured victims. He also built a navy along the the Niger River. Segu's might was un-matched by her enemies.

In 1755, Mamari died and his son, Dekoro took over the throne. Two years into his reign, Dekoro was killed by the slave army on the command of the Ton-Mansa, head general. The Ton-Mansa took power but was executed by the army three years later and replaced by Kaniuba Niuma(kaniuba the handsome). Kaniuba also fell victim to the army and replaced with Kiafa Diugu. The pattern of army execution continued until the reign of Ngolo Diara, who was able to end army plots. His reign lasted for 30 years. He was able to restore Segu to its previous glory.

The small town of Bambara was the southernmost of the fixed settlements of the Songhay along the creeks and backwaters of the river in this part of the country. The town or village consists partly of low clay buildings, partly of huts, but the inhabitants dwelled almost exclusively in the latter, using the clay dwellings, which generally consisted of low, oblong, and flat-roofed buildings, as store-rooms or magazines for depositing their treasures; that is to say, their long rolls of cotton-strips, "leppi," or "tari.

Bambara was important in an economical respect, for the inhabitants, besides possessing numerous cattle, cultivate a large extent of ground; even many of the people of Timbuktu have fields here, the transport of the grain being easy and cheap by means of the immense inland navigation which is formed bv the many backwaters and branches of the Niger. But the neighborhood of the place is very barren, and at that time especially, when no rain had fallen for some time, looked extremely dry, so that the camels had to be driven to a great distance to find pasturage. Some Tuarek half-castes were also settled in the place, and they kept up dancing every evening till a very late hour.

Bambara is called Hudari by the Tuarek, and Sukurara by the people of the kingdom of Bambara, the Bamanan, or as they are called by the inhabitants of Timbuktu, Benaber. Why the name Bambara has attached to this place in particular was unclear but probably the reason was, that the people of Bambara, who conquered all this country to the south of the river, retained dominion of this town for a longer time than of any other place in the neighborhood. There is no doubt that the Fulbe, or Fullan, as well as the Songhay and Arabs, call the place only by the latter name.

Bambara, like Egypt, was divided into three parts : lower Bambara, or Ujennc; middle Bambara, or Massina; and upper Bambara, or Sego. Ujenne, or Jenne, is the capital of lower Bambara; and here, as at Tombuctoo, the traveller is gratified by seeing the aspect of increased civilization. M. Caillic [1845] estimated the population of Djenne at 8,000 or 10,000 souls, "comprising a mixture of Foulahs, Bamharas, and Mamliiigoes, and also Moors, all rivalling each other in industry. There were tailors, shoemakers, smiths, masons, packers, and street porters, and many other trades people, evincivo of a great state of improvement above the barbarians who inhabited the more central regions of Africa."

The Kingdom fell between 1861-1862 to the Muslim religious leader, Al-Hajj Umar Tall, in the formation of the Tukulor Empire. In less than 10 years al-Hajj Umar’s armies had conquered an empire almost as large as that of the Sokoto Fulani. It does not, however, appear to have been as well founded. Outside of the Niger valley and the major trading settlements, the majority of its inhabitants were basically pagans who had only accepted Islam because they had been subjected to the shock of conquest by comparatively small bodies of well-armed and well-led adventurers.

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Page last modified: 02-03-2017 19:53:13 ZULU