Coordinates: 13°27′N 6°16′W / 13.450°N 6.267°W / 13.450; -6.267
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(Redirected from Segou)
Commune and town
View of Ségou
View of Ségou
Ségou is located in Mali
Location within Mali
Coordinates: 13°27′N 6°16′W / 13.450°N 6.267°W / 13.450; -6.267
Country Mali
CercleSégou Cercle
 • Total37 km2 (14 sq mi)
294 m (965 ft)
 (2009 census)[2]
 • Total130,690
 • Density3,500/km2 (9,100/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+0 (GMT)
Tomb of Biton Mamary Coulibaly at Ségou-Koro
Entrance to the palace of Ahmadu Tall at Ségou-Sikoro in around 1866

Ségou (French pronunciation: [seɡu]; Bambara: ߛߋߜ߭ߎ߫, Segu) is a town and an urban commune in south-central Mali that lies 235 kilometres (146 mi) northeast of Bamako on the right bank of the River Niger. The town is the capital of the Ségou Cercle and the Ségou Region. With 130,690 inhabitants in 2009, it is the fifth-largest town in Mali.

The village of Ségou-Koro, 10 km (6.2 mi) upstream of the present town, was established in the 17th century and became the capital of the Bambara Empire.


In the middle of the 19th century there were four villages with the name of Ségou spread out over a distance of around 12 km (7.5 mi) along the right bank of the river. They were, starting from the most upstream, Ségou-Koro (Old Ségou), Ségou-Bougou, Ségou-Koura (New Ségou) and Ségou-Sikoro. The present town is on the site of Ségou-Sikoro.[3][4]

The village of Ségou-Koro prospered after Biton Mamary Coulibaly became king in 1712 and founded the Ségou Empire (also known as the Bambara or Bamana Empire). Mungo Park became the first European known to have visited the village in 1796.[5] The empire gradually declined and was conquered by El Hadj Umar Tall's Toucouleur Empire in 1861,[6] then by the French Army Colonel Louis Archinard in 1890.[7]


Ségou has contested origins. Some claim that the word Ségou come from "Sikoro", meaning to the foot of a shea butter tree. Others argue that it was named after Cheikou, a marabout who founded the city, while still other theories support the claim that Ségou was founded by the Bozo fishermen coming from the north in the 4th century, who established their villages along the Niger River.

The 11th century CE saw an influx of the Soninke people, who were trying to escape from the collapse of the Ghana Empire, with Mandinka populations following.

Bambara Empire[edit]

Around 1650 Kaladian Coulibaly overthrew the ruling Koita dynasty and established a powerful if short-lived kingdom with Ségou-Koro as capital.[8][9]

One of Koulibaly's great-grandsons, Mamary Coulibaly, also known as Bitòn, became the chief of his tòn, an association of men, sometime after 1700. By 1712, Bitòn had used his military strength to displace local elders and expand the Bambara Empire. In the subsequent decades, he expanded its territory to encompass regional commerce centers such as Macina and Djenné. The city of Timbuktu would become a tributary state to Bitòn's Bambara Empire.[10] At this time Segou was capital of the Bambara Empire,[11][12] and a distinct urban architecture began to emerge at Ségou Koro, including mosques.[10]

After Bitòn's death in 1755 a period of instability followed, during which the capital of the Empire moved to Gassin.[9] In 1766 Ngolo Diarra, a former slave and warrior, took control the Bambara Empire and inaugurated a period of prosperity. Ngolo Diarra established the Diarra dynasty, which ruled Ségou until the mid-19th century.[8][10] He moved the kingdom's capital from Segou-Koro to Ségou-Sikoro, close to the site of the current city.[9]

Mungo Park, passing through Segou in 1797 recorded a testament to the Empire's prosperity:

The view of this extensive city, the numerous canoes on the river, the crowded population, and the cultivated state of the surrounding countryside, formed altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence that I little expected to find in the bosom of Africa.[13]

Toucouleur Empire[edit]

On March 10, 1861, the Muslim Toucouleur leader, El Hadj Oumar Tall, conquered the town.[11][14][6] On his death in 1864, he was succeeded by his son Ahmadu Tall.[citation needed] Ahmadu had to deal with Bambara rebellions and challenges from his brothers.[citation needed] Ahmadu continued to rule until the town's conquest by the French,[citation needed] when forces led by Colonel Louis Archinard entered the town on April 6, 1890.[14][15]

French colonial rule[edit]

France attempted indirectly ruling Ségou until March 13, 1893, when they incorporated the town as the capital of a local cercle.[14] Ségou continued to serve as a regional commercial center throughout French rule.[14]



Ségou is situated 235 kilometres (146 mi) from Bamako, on the right bank of the Niger River.[14] The urban commune is bordered to the east by the commune of Pelengana, to the west by the commune of Sébougou and to the south by the commune of Sakoïba.[14]

The commune is subdivided into 15 quartiers: Alamissani, Angoulême, Bagadadji, Bougoufié, Comatex, Dar Salam, Hamdallaye, Médine, Mission Catholique, Missira, Ségou Coura, Sido Soninkoura, Somono, Sokalakono, Bananissabakoro.[16]


Ségou has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen BSh). The city is irrigated by two important waterways: the Niger and the Bani River. Ségou has two seasons: a rainy season and a dry season. The rainy season starts in June and lasts about four months until September. Ségou's dry season includes a relatively mild period followed by a period of sweltering heat. The average yearly rainfall is about 640 millimetres or 25 inches. The harmattan is the dominant wind in the dry season and it blows from north to south. The monsoon blowing from south to north-west is frequent during rainy season (hivernage).

Climate data for Segou, Mali (1961–1990)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 31.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 24.2
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 16.4
Average rainfall mm (inches) 0.3
Average rainy days 0.2 0.1 0.4 2.0 4.9 8.6 14.1 17.1 11.2 3.3 0.2 0.1 62.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 281.2 256.1 275.1 253.1 264.4 253.9 248.7 231.0 241.5 272.4 264.8 271.7 3,113.9
Source: NOAA[17]


As of the 2009 Mali Census, Ségou has a population of 130,690, up from 105,305 in 1998.[11] A 2007 estimate put the city's population at 118,814.[16]

The population of the Ségou Region is largely rural, and nomadic semi-sedentary or sedentary. The population consists of many ethnic groups, such as Bambara, Bozo, Fulani, Soninke, Malinke and Toucouleur.

The town of Ségou itself is home to a variety of ethnic groups, including the Malinke, the Soninke, the Fulani, and the Toucouleur, due to its complex history and status as a regional commercial center.[18]

Bambaras are mostly farmers and are the most numerous ethnic group.[citation needed] Their language is Bambara or Djoula.[citation needed] The Bozos are the second most populous ethnic group.[citation needed] They typically live near the shore of the Niger river, in small towns of small houses.[citation needed] The Bozo economy is based on fishing.[citation needed] Bozo people have a monopoly on the transport system because of their knowledge of the Niger, its shallows and seasonal lakes, and are regarded as the masters of water.[citation needed] The Somono [fr], a group known to specialize in fishing and boating, are largely concentrated in Ségou and its surroundings.[19] The Malinké/Mandinka/Maninka are closely related to Bambaras: They share costumes, religious beliefs, and practices with the Bambaras.[citation needed] The Marka, Saracollé or Soninke are merchants and warriors.[citation needed] The Soninke people are great travelers and Muslims, and have largely conserved their traditions.[citation needed]

Art and culture[edit]

The Bambaras used to transmit their knowledge by oral tradition, hence much of their art and culture is unknown. Ségou's cultural heritage includes traditional musical instruments, wonderful griots, folkloric groups and the traditional masks and marionettes. The history of the Bambara state's traditional religious practices are ambiguous. They practice animism and fetishism as cultural practices, and also totemic and monism (cult of ancestors). The most famous Ségou handcrafts are based on pottery, weaving (blankets, wrappers and carpets), manufacturing of Bogolan (a distinctive variation of Mud cloth), painting and sculpture. Ségou is also regarded as the capital of Malian pottery with a large pottery district in Kalabougou situated on the left bank. Women make the pottery by hand with the clay coming from the Niger River and bring the finished works to the local Monday market.[citation needed]


The most well-known festival in Ségou is the annual Festival sur le Niger (Festival on the Niger).[20] This festival celebrates music and the arts and culture of the Bambara people, and includes the Caravane culturelle de la paix since 2013.[21] The 16th edition of the festival took place in 2019, when for the first time it combined with Ségou' Art, a contemporary art fair.[22] The two festivals continue to be combined for the 2023 event, which takes place over six days in early February.[23][21]


The University of Ségou [fr] was founded in 2009. As of 2008, Ségou has 13 kindergartens, 33 primary schools, 17 secondary schools, and 40 madrasas.[14]

Places of worship[edit]

Among the places of worship, they are predominantly Muslim mosques.[24] There are also Christian churches and temples : Roman Catholic Diocese of Ségou (Catholic Church), Église Chrétienne Évangélique du Mali (Alliance World Fellowship), Assemblies of God.


Ségou has two architectural styles: French Colonial and traditional Sudanese and neo-Sudanese. The Sudanese style influenced public building and important residences. Monuments and great mosques are also built according to this style. Many of Sudano-Sahelian's kings built imposing palaces in the cities over which they ruled and most of these buildings are in red clay. The materials used for building are generally quite poor and many of the buildings need to be restored to maintain their state.

The CMDT cotton processing plant near Ségou.


Today, Ségou is known for its pottery, its market and its fishing industry. Attractions in the old town of Ségou-Koro included a mosque, Coulibaly's tomb and an ancient tree. In the city center, the main landmark is the water tower.

The most important economic activities are fishing, cattle herding and small scale farming. Millet is the main crop in Ségou, with other major cereals including sorghum, and cowpea.[25] The main type of millet crop is rice pearl millet.[citation needed] Black-eyed peas are also grown.[citation needed] Crop yields in Ségou are generally low.[25] Common types of livestock in Ségou includes sheep, poultry, cattle, goats, and donkeys.[25] Both artisanal and commercial fishing are practiced in Ségou.[25] Men often do the fishing, while women usually market the fish.[25]

While most consumer goods are imported into Ségou, the city produces, and exports, handicraft and agricultural products.[26]

As of 2008, the town is served by two telecom operators: Ikatel and Sotelma.[27]

There are two factories processing cotton: Compagnie Malienne des Textiles (COMATEX) and Compagnie malienne pour le développement du textile (CMDT). Commerce consists mostly of the small scale exchange and sale of products from the primary sector, sold weekly at the large Sudano-Sahelian market, drawing customers from far outside of the city. The main products sold are vegetables, pottery, cotton, leather, fruit, ovens, cattle and cereals.

The headquarters of the Office du Niger is based in the town.[11] The Office du Niger is a semi-autonomous government agency that administers a large irrigation scheme in the Ségou Region to the north of the Niger River.[28]

Ségou used to be served by Ségou Airport (IATA: SZU, ICAO: GASG). The airport lay south-west of the city center and is visible on old maps as well as satellite imagery.[29]

Notable residents[edit]

Notable people from Ségou include Adame Ba Konare, Fanta Damba, Garan Fabou Kouyate, Mountaga Tall,[30] and Bassekou Kouyate.

Maryse Condé's historical novel Segu tells the city's history from 1797 to its 1860 defeat by El Hajj Oumar Tall's army.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – sister cities[edit]

Ségou is twinned with:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Common and Fundamental Operational Datasets Registry: Mali, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, archived from the original on 2012-01-06. commune_mali.zip (Originally from the Direction Nationale des Collectivités Territoriales, République du Mali)
  2. ^ Resultats Provisoires RGPH 2009 (Région de Ségou) (PDF) (in French), République de Mali: Institut National de la Statistique.
  3. ^ Triaud 1997, p. 121.
  4. ^ Mage 1868, pp. 207-208.
  5. ^ Park 1799, p. 195.
  6. ^ a b Triaud 1997, p. 122.
  7. ^ Kanya-Forstner 2009, p. 181.
  8. ^ a b Page, Willie F. (2005). Davis, R. Hunt (ed.). Encyclopedia of African History and Culture. Vol. III (Illustrated, revised ed.). Facts On File. p. 239.
  9. ^ a b c Tauxier, Louis (1930). "Chronologie des rois bambaras". Outre-Mer: 9.
  10. ^ a b c Bortolot, Alexander Ives (October 2003). "The Bamana Ségou State". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2023-02-05.
  11. ^ a b c d "Ségou | Mali | Britannica". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2023-02-06.
  12. ^ Tamari 1991, p. 233.
  13. ^ Park 1799, p. 196, quoted in Davidson, Basil (1995). Africa in History. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 245. ISBN 0-684-82667-4.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g USAID 2008, p. 2.
  15. ^ Kanya-Forstner 2009, pp. 47–49, 181.
  16. ^ a b USAID 2008, p. 3.
  17. ^ "Segou Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  18. ^ Tamari 1991, p. 225.
  19. ^ Tamari 1991, p. 231.
  20. ^ Ouwerkerk, Lies (May 2009). "The Annual Festival On The Niger : Africa's Most Exciting Festival". Transitions Abroad. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  21. ^ a b "Programme Ségou' Art - Promotion des arts et culture". Fondation Festival Sur le Niger (in French). 4 December 2022. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  22. ^ "Ségou 'Art – Festival sur le Niger". Art Africa. 23 January 2020. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  23. ^ "Thème : « Arts & Maaya : Quelle citoyenneté pour l'Afrique ? »". Ségou'Art (in French). Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  24. ^ J. Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann, ‘‘Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices’’, ABC-CLIO, USA, 2010, p. 1793
  25. ^ a b c d e USAID 2008, p. 4.
  26. ^ USAID 2008, p. 5.
  27. ^ USAID 2008, p. 6.
  28. ^ Schreyger 2002, pp. 68–73.
  29. ^ U.S. Army Map Service (1961). "Joint Operations Graphic (Air) ND 29-12" (PDF).
  30. ^ "Présidentielles: 24 SUR LA LIGNE DE DÉPART"[permanent dead link], L'Essor, April 8, 2002 (in French).
  31. ^ "National Commission for Decentralised cooperation". Délégation pour l’Action Extérieure des Collectivités Territoriales (Ministère des Affaires étrangères) (in French). Archived from the original on 2013-08-05. Retrieved 2013-12-26.
  32. ^ "Segou, Mali". Sister Cities International. Archived from the original on 2014-03-19. Retrieved 19 March 2014.


Further reading[edit]

  • Monteil, Charles (1976) [1924], Les Bambara du Segou et du Kaarta (in French), Paris: G.-P. Maisonneuve et Larose.

External links[edit]