The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke people and centered in the area along the border of the modern states of Mali and Mauritania. The Ghana Empire began possibly as early as the fifth century AD, and was a powerful trading state between c. 700 and 1075. From its capital in Kumbi Saleh on the edge of the desert, the empire expanded throughout southeastern Mauritania, southwestern Mali, and northern Senegal.
Although originally a diverse settlement of agro-pastoralists, the empire was soon dominated by the Soninké, a Mandé speaking people. The Soninké kings never fully adopted Islam, but the empire had good relations with Muslim traders. Nevertheless, the Ghana Empire fell in 1078 as a result of invasions by the Almoravids, nomadic Muslim Berbers who expanded and spread Islam throughout northwest Africa in the late eleventh century. Kumbi Saleh was destroyed in 1203 by a former vassal state, the anti-Muslim Sosso Kingdom, which ultimately controlled the southern portions of the former Ghana Empire.
The Bambara Empire existed as a centralized state from 1712 to 1861, was based at Ségou (also seen as Segu), and ruled parts of central and southern Mali. It existed until El Hadj Umar Tall, a Toucouleur conqueror swept across West Africa from Futa Tooro. Umar Tall's mujahideen readily defeated the Bambara, seizing Ségou itself on March 10, 1861 and declaring an end to the empire.
On April 4 1959, French Sudan was joined with Senegal to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent within the French Community on June 20, 1960. The federation collapsed on August 20, 1960, when Senegal seceded. On September 22, Sudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew from the French Community.
President Modibo Keita, whose Union Soudanaise du Rassemblement Democratique Africain (US/RDA) party had dominated preindependence politics (as a member of the African Democratic Rally), moved quickly to declare a single-party state and to pursue a socialist policy based on extensive nationalization. Keita also had close ties to the Eastern bloc. A continuously deteriorating economy led to a decision to rejoin the Franc Zone in 1967 and modify some of the economic excesses.
On November 19, 1968, a group of young officers staged a bloodless coup and set up a 14-member Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN), with Lt. Moussa Traore as president. The military leaders attempted to pursue economic reforms, but for several years faced debilitating internal political struggles and the disastrous Sahelian drought.
A new constitution, approved in 1974, created a one-party state and was designed to move Mali toward civilian rule. However, the military leaders remained in power. In September 1976, a new political party was established, the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM), based on the concept of democratic centralism. Single-party presidential and legislative elections were held in June 1979, and Gen. Moussa Traore received 99% of the votes. His efforts at consolidating the single-party government were challenged in 1980 by student-led anti-government demonstrations, which were brutally put down, and by three coup attempts.
The political situation stabilized during 1981 and 1982, and remained generally calm throughout the 1980s. In late December 1985, however, a border dispute between Mali and Burkina Faso over the mineral rich Agacher strip erupted into a brief war. The UDPM spread its structure to Cercles and Arrondissements across the land.
Shifting its attention to Mali's economic difficulties, the government approved plans for cereal marketing liberalization, reform in the state enterprise system, new incentives to private enterprise, and worked out a new structural adjustment agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Attempting to address Mali’s economic problems, the government implemented some reforms in the state enterprise system, created new incentives for private enterprise, and attempted to control public corruption. It also signed a new structural adjustment agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But the populace became increasingly dissatisfied with the austerity measures imposed by the IMF plan as well as their perception that the ruling elite was not subject to the same strictures. In response to the growing demands for multiparty democracy then sweeping the continent, the Traoré regime did allow some limited political liberalization. In National Assembly elections in June 1988, multiple UDPM candidates were permitted to contest each seat, and the regime organized nationwide conferences to consider how to implement democracy within the one-party framework. Nevertheless, the regime refused to usher in a fullfledged democratic system.
However, by 1990, there was growing dissatisfaction with the demands for austerity imposed by the IMF's economic reform programs and the perception that the president and his close associates were not themselves adhering to those demands. Cohesive opposition movements began to emerge, including the National Democratic Initiative Committee and the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Alliance pour la Démocratie au Mali—Adema). The increasingly turbulent political situation was complicated by the rise of ethnic violence in the north in mid-1990. The return to Mali of large numbers of Tuareg who had migrated to Algeria and Libya during a prolonged drought increased tensions in the region between the nomadic Tuareg and the sedentary population. Ostensibly fearing a Tuareg secessionist movement in the north, the Traoré regime imposed a state of emergency and harshly repressed Tuareg unrest. Despite the signing of a peace accord in January 1991, unrest and periodic armed clashes continued.
As in other African countries, demands for multi-party democracy increased. The Traore government allowed some opening of the system, including the establishment of an independent press and independent political associations, but insisted that Mali was not ready for democracy. In early 1991, student-led anti-government rioting broke out again, but this time it was supported also by government workers and others. On March 26, 1991, after 4 days of intense anti-government rioting, a group of 17 military officers, led by current President Amadou Toumani Touré, arrested President Traore and suspended the constitution. Within days, these officers joined with the Coordinating Committee of Democratic Associations to form a predominantly civilian, 25-member ruling body, the Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People (CTSP). The CTSP then appointed a civilian-led government. A national conference held in August 1991 produced a draft constitution (approved in a referendum January 12, 1992), a charter for political parties, and an electoral code. Political parties were allowed to form freely. Between January and April 1992, a president, National Assembly, and municipal councils Jwere elected. On June 8, 1992, Alpha Oumar Konaré, the candidate of the Association for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), was inaugurated as the president of Mali's Third Republic.
In 1997, attempts to renew national institutions through democratic elections ran into administrative difficulties, resulting in a court-ordered annulment of the legislative elections held in April 1997. The exercise, nonetheless, demonstrated the overwhelming strength of President Konaré's ADEMA party, causing some other historic parties to boycott subsequent elections. President Konaré won the presidential election against scant opposition on May 11. In the two-round legislative elections conducted on July 21 and August 3, ADEMA secured over 80% of the National Assembly seats.