Saturday, July 20, 2024

BOMA – Colonial mentality


A concerned Kawambwa resident wants government to scrap the BOMA titles for districts and replace them with Zambian offices for Local Administration.

A Mr Clavel Mapoma has argued that the title of British Overseas for Millitary Administration, BOMA no longer holds meaning because the country is free from British rule.

Mr Mapoma told ZANIS in a statement in Kawambwa that the titles should be adjusted in the same spirit that names of towns such as then Fort Jameson and Fort Resebery were changed to Chipata and Mansa respectively.

He wondered why despite 44 years having passed after the liberation struggle, the Boma titles have been maintained.


  1. After all these years I never knew the meaning of BOMA. how come we never learnt this in civics? Yes please change the name its long over due.

    • The word Boma came into existence before British administration overseas and simply means defended area. The term iboma is either bantu or a persian borrowing

  2. Good morning Riple Van Winkle….dude what have you been smoking? The lower rungs of Zambian local goverment administration are known as Districts. It is just that some people refer colloquially to government or govt institutions as BOMA. It is not illegal hence it will be difficult to burn it. To many old people in Western province 2 Kwacha is called ‘Pondo’ as in Pound. May be they also deserve to be thrown in jail if our wise govt decides to burn any reference to colonial terms.

  3. The petitioner has a point, If you travel in Districts you will notice that the Word BOMA is used at District Government Centres not the Council offices. You will notice that the word BOMA appears on the Bill Boards Eg Republic of ZAMBIA, BOMA Mwinilinga, BOMA in this case will mean Govenment Complex or a Building or area housing a number of Government departments. I used to see the word BOMA a few years ago in Lusaka at the of the DCs Office were the Local courts and Lusaka district government departments are situated behind Zamtel in Lusaka.

  4. First of all if zambia is independent,it should use its local names,learn from new south africa – apartheid names like pretoria has gone back to its original name(tshwane) JHB to Gauteng, Northern province to mpumalang. remember we will be independent when the world starts calling victoria falls by its real name MOSI O TUNYA. until then we will continue to be ruled by the BOMA (whether from outside or from within).

  5. # Vic falls as named by the kolo people is musi o tunya (not mosi) mosi was brought about because David Livingstone could not pronounce the word. BOMA should stay, it’s now part of our history

  6. Yes, good point.. but what is in a name? a rose by any other name? The west still dictate our politics,our economics; we still supply people to go and work in their countries – be it as lowly paid professionals or just kabombe-bombe. We are not free until we control our own destiny. All we have now is a mirage of freedom,power,control and it is all reflected in the calibre of politicians we get. We have a long way to go yet.

  7. Most Zambian have ‘christian’ names. What I have come to find out is that any english name is ‘ christian’ name. If you wanna get rid of BOMA you might as well get drop the Xian name.

  8. #13 I still have problems with names like Mabvuto,Masuzyo,Chakwangasha,Misozi or any negative emotion names.
    Not all English names are Christian e.g Oliver or Brandon though some fav names like Matthew or Joshua are originally from the Bible.
    Good to hear the real meaning of Boma.I always believed it to be the modern side of a rural district as they had running water and electricity.

  9. Musi o tunya is not the original name of vic falls. It was originally called Shungu wa mutitima a name that came from the Ila/ Tonga groups who the kololo found in the area. Mosi o tunya was a name the Kololo gave to the falls and the name mosi name was then made famous due to colonial faccination of the name and the eventual relationship that developed between the kololo (or Lozi as they are known today) and the european colonialists.

  10. Most parents now give Zambian names to their children.I can’t recall anyone being called Ann or Janet under the age of 10.But bakumuzi are still behind.Just check out the names below
    Eastern-Bonwell Banda,Epherson Zimba,Crankshaft Phiri,Roadblock Gondwe
    Southern-Fortune Hachinzobolo,Prosper Mwiinga,Marvellous Moomba
    Luapula-Cletus Mwale,Tresford Chanda,Rodrick Kapata,Bonaventure Chibwe

  11. If BOMA is still used in the context of what it stands for then definately it needs to go together with any other remaining traces of british colonial influence in Zambia. There are a lot of colonial influences still lingering around such as the constitution of Zambia to begin with. The constitution we use today is the same constitution the colonialists were using against Zambians during the colonial era. All that has been done to make the Zambian constitution is to change the logo, title and cover of the colonial constitution otherwise most of the content is the same. We need to change the entire system otherwise we will never go anywhere as a nation.

  12. BOMA does not stand for British Overseas Military Administration but rather is alleged in some quarters to have stood for British Overseas Management Administration. However according to the Foreign Office no such entity has ever existed in the British empire…The word Boma must have had its origins either from African languages or Arabic, strictly speaking , it means some kind of enclosure or fortified village.It came to be applied to British Colonial Gvt offices because they were normally fortified, though later the term was also applied to non-fortified offices.

    On this basis, the use of the term to describe Govt offices in independent Zambia or indeed anywhere in Anglo Africa is very

  13. much valid and should not be seen to have any colonial connotations.Infact BOMA does not appear anywhere in English. It is an African term…..

  14. #18 Regardless of what B.O.M.A. really stands for, it needs to go. Rephrasing Military for Management in what it stands for does not make a difference. Anything with Britishness or British in the title or implying to relate to British culture or colonialism should be replaced with a local alternative in Zambia to promote and protect local cultures, history and identity. British ideas belong in Britain for British people.

  15. Ardonis has very much hit the nail on the head – enclosure. In east Africa, a boma is a cattle enclosure; Villages ravaged by wild animals had bomas built round them.

    Bob Marley has sung & advised us “to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery!” For as long as people feel that by using English names to places is a type of colonialism, they are mentally enslaved, you might as well be asking to rid ourselves of the national official language. It is amazing that the guy asking for this was delivering his message in English – man, get yourself to undergo some catharsis!! Take a hike , make yourself useful in life!!

  16. We derive a lot from Britain even the Zambian english is British.Why don’t you write in your native tongue # 21

  17. #23 If I used my native tongue, only those who can read and understand the language will be able to understand what I’m putting across. What we can do is develop or adopt an alternative national language like Swahili or a variation of Swahili. Swahili does not belong to any one particular tribe or group or region. A language translation of Swahili for computers has already been developed so we can use Swahili for trade, communication and education. We can then treat English, Mandarin, Spanish, French and other languages for what they really are, foreign languages. Of course these can be useful foreign languages in international matters such as trade.

  18. The word BOMA refers to government most Zambians would actually say it means government institution for example (GRZ).

    but what i didn’t know is that it was of British origin which i doubt. I cant see how the word BOMA can mean colonial mentality am sorry.

    this is an irrelevant issue

  19. It is good you brought the issue of BOMA out. I was wondering why we were maintaining it as if we are not yet independent. The use of English can continue as it is international but the truth is that we are not under BRITISH OVERSEES MILITARY ADMINISTRATION (BOMA in short), so the word should be scrapped otherwise people from Planet Mars will think Zambians are mad. As such it will be difficult to have diplomatic relationship with Mars.

  20. This is from Wikipedia:

    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.

  21. 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.[2]

  22. 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.”

  23. 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.

  24. 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…’.

  25. 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, ‘def

  26. 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.

  27. 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 Colonia

  28. #8 Mushe Johannesburg is still Johannesburg and Gauteng is the province name in which Johannesburg is

  29. Unfortunately that is the legacy the U.K. left in our country and many others they ruled. To-date even when we agreed to change Livingstone to Musi-o-Tunya, the name is still stuck with us.

  30. # 34 Max,
    Thank you for the elaboration. That is what makes community blogs a sucsses. Sober Input to help others understand issues and matters.
    Pleas continue contributing, i look forward to reading your contributions. Same as contributions from the likes of Patriot,
    Ardonis , Hola, analyst, Nine Chale, Mwingi. keep it up.

    Others like a KC who seems to follow me around LT, can you see what quality others are contributing ? Just try for once to make sense.

  31. Imwe bantu nizina chabe, what is important is what happens there regardless of the name being whatever it is. If you want to change please go ahead – cant you see even the chembe bridge is getting a new name : Cabbage

  32. # 1 we learnt this in civics maybe you missed class on that day. The names sounds African but it needs to be changed why stick to BOMA when we have other better names to use?

  33. It goes without saying that the African people are still colonised in their minds. The damage done by colonisation has become so entrenched in the African to such an extent that s/he thinks s/he is a second class human being. I live in South Africa currently, and when I remember the reverence that a white person is given in Zambia, my heart bleeds. We ought to change this mentality, we can’t have European standards as our measure, let us uphold our own standards as Africans, as Zambians at that. Now let me go back to the name Boma. It has taken an unbelievable 44 years for someone to come up and say that we ought to change it, let’s change it of course, but which govt is ready to listen?

  34. It is indeed difficult to teach an old dog new tricks, inspite of Max’s plrolonged & elaborate explanation, you still get people like SK wanting to change the name just for change’s sake, NB:it’s been stated, THE WORD IS NOT ENGLISH!!!!

    As for #24 wanting to adopt Swahili, well I thought we were trying to get away for using foreign languages???

  35. No 8. Munshe, there are a number of inaccuracies in your contribution. Johannesburg has not been changed to any other name. Gauteng is the name of the province where Johannesburg and Pretoria are found. Further, the Northern Province in South Africa was not renamed Mpumalanga, but Limpopo. You are right about the change of name of Pretoria to Tshwane, though this particular name change is very much contested.

  36. #8 check your facts, Jhb is in Gauteng, not jhb is Gauteng. Gauteng is the Province and Jhb is a city
    research more

  37. #37 Johannesburg is a town in Gauteng province and has other towns in it. eg soweto south of johannesburg, Randburg north of Jozi, Kempton park east of jozi etc. Johannesburg has its own CBD Randburg has it own CBD so are the other towns in Jozi.


  39. hahahahahaaaaa!! where do we find Bomas in Zambia? I bet apart from Lusaka,Copperbelt, Southern and Central provinces …the rest are called Bomas !! too bad for you guys …you got to wake up!scrap the word pliz!!

  40. You people, Boma ni Boma, leave the name alone. This is a non-issue. Someone mentioned Livingstone. I read somewhere [some tourism magazine, I think; don’t remember for sure] the reason it was never changed is because coincidentally, one of the titles of the local chief, Mukuni, when translated to english is “The Stone that Lives” or something to that effect, so they let it slide.

    I associate the word Boma with the Government, police officers and civic centres. Leave the word alone, Boma ni Boma…

  41. Can’t king paper year high sir par-zoo-he?
    Can’t king comb year high matter-matter, high such move?
    Zoo-her way-nah!!

    Which native Zambian language is the above?

    Come on, why all this fuss about language and who colonised who… whether they are Bomas or districts, who cares? After all, the word ‘Boma’ is less of a tongue-twister compared to ‘district’. My uncle always says ‘discrict’. My first love, many years back, who now happens to be my lovely wife is from Northern province. Whenever I went to collect her when we were dating and asked her where her mother was, she would say ‘she’s in the Chicken!’ meaning she was in the Kitchen!! Most importantly I understood what she meant!!

  42. Just build more and better equipped schools instead of waffling about something that does not increase the competitiveness of the nation. There is too much swimming in sand in Zambia instead of swimming in water.

  43. #9 Developer, David Livingstone had nothing to do with the corrupting of the word Mosi. You should have noticed by now that it is common among Sotho languages (sesotho, setswana, silozi, sepedi) to use ‘O’ in place of ‘U’ in spelling certain words . The odd one is Lozi, I suspect because of the influence of Zambian style spelling, that has a larger share of the use of the letter ‘u’ instead ‘o’ as well as ‘i’ in place ‘e’. For example.
    Lesotho/Mosotho is pronunced Lisuthu/Musuthu
    Mongu is pronuced Mungu
    Botswana/Mostwana is pronunced Butswana/Mutswana
    Senanga is prounced Sinanga
    Sesheke is prounced Sisheke
    Mosi is prounced Musi
    Mosali/Mosadi is prounced Musali

  44. bane umusungu tewa kwangalilako,elyo aishile monu mu chalo chesu alitupilibwile amano kabili twamwene kwati ifya bwina zambia bututu kano ifya busungu,intambi shesu kwali ukuposa ati bututu nagula fyangulu amashina yachina zambia kwali ukyaposa ati yabi kanofye ayachisungu nomba nokuyalumbula yamo chashupa Kabiki-Cabbage,Foloko-Folk.kwena temashinafye yeka lelo nemitontonkanyishe shesu shalipilibuka tumona kwati ukulanda ichingeleshi ekusambilila sana.pali lelo chalitukosela ifwe muzambia pantu tatwakwata intambi shachine tatwaishiba nechitundu twingabika ati echesu bonse fyonse tuchitafye efyo abanesu balechita bambi.kwena natutwale ichalo chesu pantanshi mumatontonkanyo namumichitile.

  45. #59 I’m not sure I got everything you’ve said but your style is original and I like it. Can you write a Science textbook in Bemba? I think those are the basic principles you are advocating and I have always wondered why we can’t educate ourselves in our local languages. I know that Tanzania made quite some start with Swahili. The sad thing though is that they (Tanzanians) are slowly going back to English…even the Chinese think that they will better colonise the world if they learn the global language. I quite like the attitude of #56.

  46. echo tatufwile ukulaba chakweba ati ichingeleshi echilimi babomfya mufyalo ifingi nangula isonde lyonse emukutila tekuti tuchipose panse ndesosa nati tatufwile twasusha ifyesu nokusenda ifya bene.ngamwalolesha ku ghana nangula ku nigeria balya bantu balakonka intambi shabo sana kabili bali sambilila sana.iseni tumone ati zambia chalo chesu kabili nokuchitwala pantanshi.ifyo fikulwa uleti BOMA fintu fyakulile abangeleshi,lekeni tukule ifipya tufinike amashina yachina zambia.ukuchinja ishina tachatwafwe lelo ichikankala iseni tukule ifikulwa nokufipa amashina ayapya lyena ilyo ninshi chawama.kafulumende yesu ibomfya ifikulwa fyamu 1920s na 1960s nokaya pantanshi.ifilandile 56 fishinka,

  47. And what about Mumporokoso instead of Mporokoso,

    People please stop using South Afrika as a case study,doing so makes you guilty of worshipping foreigness again,Zambia has done far much in localising/Zambianising names perhaps the most in the region

    Apart from Livingstone,someone pls name any other towns,cities,districts with muzungu names,the same can’t be said of RSA,even the name South Afrika itself is a muzungu name,what ever happened to the name AZANIA,

    And what about landmarks(eg bus stations,briges),rivers,lakes,mountains,valleys(in short natural physical features/landmarks),game parks,streets,main roads,residential areas etc,

    Instead they shud learn from us,credit to KK

  48. #60,let me respond another issue here in english so that you can understand me.i have aquired some eduacation and i can communicate in english which is better,but i must appreciate to be zambian.alot of educated zambians dont want to stay in the country for various reasons.and alot of them when they go they dont want to invest into their conutry hence our country remains behind.when these whites are working here they will invest and build their country with the resources taken from our country.we have alot of zambians who are outside making alot of money if they can invest in our country that will be great.BOMA is not an issue but lets build zambia with new structures.cont…

  49. let us invest in our own country and develop it.zambia is a great nation in the region.there is no place like zambia,the is only ONE ZAMBIA ONE NATION.its sad that some zambians have forgotten about their country.we have zambians working in SA,UK,BW,etc let them remember the home country.these foreign investors here are building their countries with the money they are making here.why cant we do the same when we go out.when we see those old cracked building called BOMA lets think of putting up new ones with new names.

  50. Traveling around Afrika plus networking and interacting with other Afrikans made me realise how special home is,despite all it’s ills…

    Still on the issue of claiming back names,take Harare for example almost if not all surbubs are in muzungu names eg Borrowdale,Sunningdale,Kensington etc and what about Whindoek almost everthing is boer named,now that can be very boring indeed,as am not in Europe am in Afrika

    And what about the streets,up untill 2000,almost all if not all streets in Harare had Anglo saxon names,it was only after Uncle Bobs had beef with the British that names Kaunda st,Nyerere st,Sam Nujoma st sprung up LOL,

    you can see KK was so far ahead in the game

  51. #50 thanks for the free “tution”, i’m learning lessons from all. but it seems even you could use some free tuition concerning how to spell. glad we can help one another, no? 🙂

    #57 you are right on concerning the conflation of “u” & “o” in sotho languages…. and the linguistic leap between “mosi” to “musi” is a whole lot shorter than the one from “mosi” to “victoria”.

  52. #57 I get your point. Always wondered why LEALUI in western province is written differently from the way it is pronounced. I want to believe that these sotho words were ‘Anglo-saxonised’. The spellings look very European. By the way even the term ‘Lozi’ is not indigenous. It is a German mispronouciation of ‘Rotse’ in what was then German Barotseland i.e the Caprivi in today’s Namibia.

  53. Hypocrites! Why condemn Colonial Mentality but support MDC’s agenda to recolonize Zim? Why is it that the MMD have become the van guard for imperialsm in Zambia against Mugabe?

  54. while everyone is going on about the meaning of BOMA and where is came from…and how it should be scrapped. In some male circles….BOMA is the another title for the main “woman” in a man’s life. So there you have it!

  55. Boma means the basic administrative unit of the county which shall exercise the concentration of powers within a county. Therefore, boma assembly means the assembly of the entire people resident in a boma who are eligible to vote. Boma shall be main domain of the traditional authority where traditional leaders perform their administrative and customary function.

  56. Don’t know how I stumbled across these pages. In 1969 I worked in the govt offices in Mansa, Luapula Province, and was secretary to the Cabinet Minister, Fwanyanga Mulikita, and the Permanent Secretary, Evans Willima. There was also a man called, I think, Edwin or Edward Lubinda. I was just wondering if anyone knew of them. I know that Fwanyanga Mulikita has died. He wrote a book of short stories, and when I bought a copy, he signed it for me, but the book has gone astray. There were two typists there – Edna Mubonda and Maggie Bwalya. I’m amazed I have remembered these names all these years! (I am a white English lady).

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