Monday, January 22, 2007

Old Segou

Segou is a bustling city on the banks of the Niger River. Old Segou, a few kilometers away, is a struggling village on the site occupied by the city when it was the capital of the Bambara kingdom founded by Biton Mamary Coulibaly in the mid 18th century.



The current chief of the village of Old Segou is a direct descendant of this illustrious line. We had a chance to met Chief Coulibaly when we visited the village, and hear about the efforts at economic development the village council is undertaking.
You can't guess from this very kingly photo, but during the entire meeting, the chief's two year old daughter traipsed back and forth among us in sneakers that lit up and squeaked with every step.

During the chief's tenure the village has installed a solar electrical generating station that is finally bringing some electricity into Old Segou, and with it the chance to use televisions, computers, and other media that can tie the villagers to the rest of the country. Unfortunately I was not able to learn much more about the details of this project.

Uppermost on Chief Coulibaly's mind today is mortality during childbirth - both the mother's and the infant's. The village is only 15 kilometers from a hospital, but for people without access to cars, in an area where roads may wash out during the rainy season, these 15 kilometers can spell the difference between life and death. So the chief is currently seeking funds to enable the village to establish a childbirth center.

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