The Bamana Empire
or Ségou Empire
) was a large
pre-colonial [[West Africa|West African]] state based at Ségou, now in Mali.
was ruled by the Kulubali or Coulibaly dynasty established circa
1640 by Kaladian Coulibaly
known as Fa Sine or Biton-si-u. The empire existed as a centralized
state from 1712 to the 1861 invasion of Toucouleur
conqueror El Hadj Umar Tall
The Kulubali Dynasty
In around 1640, Fa Sine became the third Faama
word for King) of a small
kingdom of Bambara people in the city of Ségou in Mali. Though he
made many successful conquests of neighboring tribes and kingdoms,
he failed to set up a significant administrative framework, and the
new kingdom disintegrated following his death (c. 1660).
In the early 18th century, Mamari
(sometimes cited as Mamari Bitòn) settled in Ségou and
joined an egalitarian youth organization known as a tòn
Mamari soon reorganized the tòn as a personal army, assumed the
title of bitòn
, and set about subduing rival chiefs. He
established control over Ségou, making it the capital of a new
Fortifying the capital with Songhai
techniques, Bitòn Kulubali built an army of several thousand men
and a navy of war canoes to patrol the Niger
. He then proceeded to launch successful
assaults against his neighbors, the Fulani
, the Soninke
, and the Mossi
attacked Tomboctou, though he held the city only briefly.
this time he founded the city of Bla as an
outpost and armory.
Mamari Kulubali was the last ruler to be called Bitòn. All future
rulers were simply titled Faama. Bakari, the first Faama after
Mamari reigned from (1710-1711). Faama De-Koro ascended in 1712
reigning until 1736. The kingdom had three more faamas with
unstable 4-year reigns until falling into anarchy in 1748.
In 1750, a freed slave
named Ngolo Diarra
seized the throne and
re-established stability, reigning for nearly forty years of
relative prosperity. The Ngolosi, his descendants, would continue
to rule the Empire until its fall. Ngolo's son Mansong Diarra took the throne following his
father's 1795 death and began a series of successful conquests,
including that of Tomboctou (c.
1800) and the Massina
Economy and structure
The Bambara Empire was structured around traditional Bambara
institutions, including the kòmò
, a body to resolve
concerns. The kòmò
often consulted religious sculptures in their decisions,
particularly the four state boliw
, large altars designed
to aid the acquisition of political power.
The economy of the Bambara Empire flourished through trade,
especially that of the slaves
captured in their many wars. The demand for slaves then led to
further fighting, leaving the Bambara in a perpetual state of war
with their neighbors.
Mungo Park, passing through the
Bambara capital of Ségou two years
after Diarra's 1795 death, recorded a testament to the Empire's
Jihad and fall
At the Battle of Noukouma
1818, Bambara forces met and were defeated by Fula Muslim fighters
rallied by the jihad of Cheikou Amadu
(or Seku Amadu) of Massina. The Bambara Empire survived but was
irreversibly weakened. Seku Amadu's forces decisively defeated the
Bambara, taking Djenné and much of
the territory around Mopti and forming
into a Massina Empire.
Timbuktu would fall as well in 1845.
end of the empire, however, came at the hands of El Hadj Umar Tall, a Toucouleur
conqueror who swept across West Africa from Dinguiraye.
Umar Tall's mujahideen
readily defeated the Bambara, seizing
Ségou itself on March 10
, forcing the population to convert to Islam
, and declaring an end to the Bambara Empire
(which effectively became part of the Toucouleur Empire
- Djata, Sundiata A. K. The Bamana Empire by the Niger:
Kingdom, Jihad and Colonization 1712-1920. Princeton, NJ:
Markus Wiener Publishers, 1997. ISBN 1-55876-131-4.
- Condé, Maryse. Segu. Penguin Books, 1996. ISBN