Boma (enclosure)

Boma (enclosure)

. [René de Pont-Jest: "L'Expédition du Katanga, d'après les notes de voyage du marquis Christian de BONCHAMPS", in: Edouard Charton (editor): "Le Tour du Monde" magazine, also published bound in two volumes by Hachette, Paris (1893). Also available online at [] ] ] A boma is a livestock enclosure, a stockade or kind of fort, or a district government office. The term is used in many parts of eastern, central and southern Africa and is incorporated into many African languages as well as colonial varieties of English, French and German.

As a livestock enclosure, boma is the equivalent of 'kraal', and the former being used in areas influenced by Swahili and the latter in areas influenced by Afrikaans.

In the form of fortified villages or camps, bomas were commonplace in Central Africa in the 18th and 19th century in areas affected by the slave trade, tribal wars and colonial conquest, and were built by both sides in such conflicts.

In British colonies, especially in remote areas, boma came to be used to mean colonial government offices because in the late 19th century such offices usually included a fortified police station or military barracks, often in the form of a timber stockade, though some had stone walls. Many were called forts, as in 'Fort Jameson' or 'Fort Rosebery'. In the 20th century it came to mean the district or provincial government headquarters, even where fortifications were no longer required. [ [ "The Northern Rhodesia Journal" online] , Vol III No 3 (1957) pp 200-205. “Memories of Abandoned Bomas - No. 11: Old Ndola”] "Boma" is still commonly used in eastern and southern Africa with this meaning. An example appeared in [ "The Nation"] , an English-language newspaper published in Blantyre, Malawi, on May 26, 2006: "In Chitipa, 24 Somalis were arrested at the Boma."

Acronym debunking

A popular myth told to tourists in East Africa states that BOMA stood for British Overseas Management Administration during the colonial era in Africa. The myth holds that the term has since been adopted into Swahili and several other vernacular languages of former British colonies in East Africa (for example, Chichewa and Chitumbuka in Malawi) to mean government in general, or locations of governmental offices, such as district centers.

In fact, the word "boma" has much deeper roots in languages spoken in eastern Africa, whether as a word of Bantu origin or a loan word from Persian. The "Oxford English Dictionary" ascribes the first use to the adventurer Henry Morton Stanley, in his book "Through the Dark Continent" (1878): 'From the staked bomas..there rise to my hearing the bleating of young calves.' The term is also used throughout Stanley's earlier book "How I found Livingstone"(1871) '...we pitched our camp, built a boma of thorny acacia, and other tree branches, by stacking them round our camp...'. Krapf’s "A Dictionary of the Suahili Language" (1882) defines "boma" as 'a palisade or stockade serving as a kind of fortification to towns and villages...may consist of stones or poles, or of an impenetrable thicket of thorns,' though he does not give an origin for the word. "Boma" also appears in Band's 'Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon' (1920), which indicates the word was in use in Tanganyika long before it fell under the control of the British. Johnson’s "Standard Swahili-English Dictionary" (1939) suggests "boma" comes from a Persian word, "buum", which he says means 'garrison, place where one can dwell in safety.' In "Swahili and Sabaki: A Linguistic History", Nurse and Hinnebusch (1993) give "iboma", 'defended area,' as either an East African Bantu innovation or a borrowing from Persian (p. 295). At any rate, the word was in circulation before any British 'overseas management' of the coast, although the acronym is clever.

Moreover, no such entity as the 'British Overseas Management Administration' ever existed ( [ H-Africa] ). The UK Government’s responsibility for the development of its colonies on a continuing basis was first recognised in 1929 by the Colonial Development Act. In 1961 a Department of Technical Co-operation was established to deal with the technical co-operation side of the aid programme. The Ministry of Overseas Development was first set up as a separate ministry in October 1964, headed by a Minister of Overseas Development. It brought together the functions of the former Department of Technical Co-operation and the overseas aid policy functions of the Foreign, Commonwealth Relations and Colonial Offices and of other government departments. Great Britain's bilateral aid agency was called the 'Overseas Development Administration' (ODA) from 1970 until it was renamed the Department for International Development (DFID) in 1997.

ee also

*Compound (enclosure)

References and external links

:* Swahili definition for [ boma] in the Internet Living Swahili Dictionary:* [ DFID] historical background

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