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Bobo-Dioulasso is located in Burkina Faso
Location within Burkina Faso, French West Africa
Coordinates: 11°11′N 4°17′W
Country  Burkina Faso
Region Hauts-Bassins Region
Province Houet Province
Elevation 445 m (1,460 ft)
Population (2006)
 • Total 435,543
Time zone GMT ( UTC+0)

Coordinates: 11°11′N 4°17′W Bobo-Dioulasso is a city with a population of about 435,543 (as of 2006), the second biggest city in Burkina Faso, Africa, after Ouagadougou, the nation's capital. The name means literally, "home of the Jula who speak Bobo," and is possibly a creation of the French who misunderstood the identity complexities of the location. The local Bobo-speaking population of the city refers to it as Sia. The city is situated in the southwest of the country, in the Houet Province, some 350 km (220 mi) from Ouagadougou. It is significant both economically (agricultural trade, textile industry) and culturally (Bobo is the centre of culture and music of Burkina Faso).


At the end of the nineteenth century Sia consisted of two large villages, Tunuma and Sia proper, located at a few hundred meters from each other on a narrow spit of land bounded by 8 to 10 feet deep ravines on either side, carved by the We (Houët) river to the east and by its tributary Sanyo to the west, and three small satellite villages lying beyond this natural border. There were a number of other independent villages in the surroundings (Bindogoso, Dogona, Kwirima, Kpa) which all now lie within the municipal boudaries and are incorporated into the city. The two main villages were occupied by the French on September 25, 1897 after a brief but bloody confrontation. Soon afterwards the French created an administrative settlement near them, on the east side of the We river, which became the headquarters of a district ("cercle") carrying the same name, Bobo-Dioulasso.

During the 1915-16 anti-colonial war the population in the north and east of the district of Bobo-Dioulasso took the arms against the French colonial government while the city itself became a centre for the organization of the suppression. A military base established in the southern sector of the city added to its growing importance.

In 1927 the old village of Tunuma and the other settlements were razed and their population relocated either to neighboring villages or to a previously farmed empty zone 3 kilometers away that was made available to build a new neighborhood (the current neighborhood of Tounouma). Sia proper, which survives today as the Dioulasoba neighborhood, was partly spared this total destruction but nonetheless modified by a large artery pierced through it in 1939 and the widening of the streets in successive urban renewal projects. Between 1926 and 1929 a grid pattern of new avenues and streets intersected by diagonals radiating from a center, and square urban lots between them, established the framework for the modern city centre. The Abidjan railway reached Bobo-Diouolasso in 1934, but the growth of the city as a colonial industrial centre halted because of the world economic crisis and the suppression of the colony of Upper Volta in 1933.

Town hall

The city started expanding again after World War II and especially the reconstitution of the colony of Upper Volta in 1947, despite the fact that Ouagadougou had been selected as its capital. Besides being an early industrial centre in the country, Bobo-Dioulasso is also the hub of a rich agricultural zone producing food grains, fruits and seedlings (mangos, citrus), export crops (cotton, cashews, and the gathered oil seed karite/shea). Due to its prominent economic position, following independence in 1960 the city was called "the economic capital of the country" (as opposed to the administrative capital, Ouagadougou). Bobo-Dioulasso's economic advantage vis-à-vis the capital declined, however, because of decades of government policy favoring Ouagadougou. Little new industry arrived in the city during the 1980s and 1990s and some of the preexisting enterprises either closed down or relocated to the capital. Economic life was primarily reduced to commerce grounded in the agriculture of the region and services.

Bobo Dioulasso Market

Since 2000 the city of Bobo-Dioulasso engaged in a new growth spurt, gaining once again in population and economic vitality, benefitting from the internal crisis in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire, which propelled many of its residents hailing from Burkina Faso to a return migration. The central government is also investing in it (for example the new West African Centre for Economic and Social Studies, a college which is the kernel of what will be the second university of the country).


Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque

The city features the Bobo-Dioulasso Old Mosque (built in 1880 according to some, 1893 according to others), the Konsa house which is the ritual cente of a senior house of the Zara (or Bobo-Jula) group, and a sacred natural pond called Dafra at its southern fringes, which is the source of the We river. The pond is a site of pilgrimage and the giant catfish living in it are given offerings. Bobo-Dioulasso is also a city where one can see several nicely preserved examples of the colonial era architecture called "neo-Sudanic" (examples: the museum building, the train station). In addition to the regional museum there is also a zoo, and a pottery market.


Bobo locals

The original population of Bobo-Dioulasso consisted of a majority of farmers speaking the Bobo language and a set of groups associated with them, specializing in trade and warfare, who also speak Bobo, but consider themselves of a distinct historical origin and go by the name Zara.

Today Bobo-Dioulasso is ethnically and linguistically very diverse, due to its position as an old trade town, and especially to its growth during the twentieth century as a colonial administrative and military centre. Jula is the lingua franca of Bobo and surrounding region of western Burkina Faso, but because of this ethnic diversity two different dialects of Jula live side by side in the city and region. The common (and now dominant) Jula spoken in the streets of Bobo-Dioulasso is a close variation of Bamana, the majority language of neighboring Mali. It was brought to the area during the French colonial administration (1898-1960) by the government interpreters and by the soldiers of the colonial army where this language prevailed. Most people speak this Jula as a second language. The people who are of Jula ethnic origin, whether of trader, Muslim-clerical, or warrior origin, speak a different dialect of Jula that is similar to the variety spoken in Côte d'Ivoire. In the city this dialect is called Kon-Jula and survives as an ethnic marker of a particular community.

Notable people

  • Moumouni Fabre (1953-) politician and diplomat
  • Gaston Kaboré (1951-) filmwriter
  • Dani Kouyaté (1961-) filmwriter
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