In the south, traversed by the Niger and Senegal rivers, are fertile areas where cotton, rice, and peanuts are grown. Elsewhere the country is arid desert or semidesert and barely supports grazing (mainly cattle, sheep, and goats). The Niger serves as an important transportation artery and a source of fish. The main ethnic groups are the Mande (Bambara, Malinke, and Soninke), who are chiefly farmers and fishermen, and the Fulani and Tuareg, who are pastoralists. About 90% of the population is Muslim; most of the remainder follow traditional religions. While French is the official language, Bambara is spoken by 80% of the population and there are many other African tongues.
The vast majority of Malians are employed in farming, herding, or fishing. Cotton and peanuts are the country's only significant cash crops, with millet, rice, corn, sorghum, and vegetables being the major food crops. Agriculture and herding have been increasingly hurt by the encroaching desert. Mali's industries are mainly limited to the processing of farm commodities, construction, and the manufacture of basic consumer goods. Gold, phosphate, kaolin, salt, limestone, and uranium are mined, and the country has extensive unexploited mineral resources, including bauxite, iron ore, manganese, tin, and copper. Remittances from Malians working abroad are also an important source of income. The Manantali Dam on the Bafing River (a Senegal tributary) produces hydroelectric power.
Gold and cotton account for the bulk of Mali's export revenues; livestock and fish are also exported. The main imports are petroleum, machinery and equipment, construction materials, food, and textiles. Mali's chief trading partners are China, France, Senegal, and Thailand.
Mali is governed under the constitution of 1992. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is the head of state and is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president. The unicameral National Assembly has 147 members who are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into eight regions.
The Mali region has been the seat of extensive empires and kingdoms, notably those of Ghana (4th-11th cent.), Mali, and Gao. The medieval empire of Mali was a powerful state and one of the world's chief gold suppliers; it attained its peak in the early 14th cent. under Mansa (Emperor) Musa (reigned c.1312-1337), who made a famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 laden with gold and slaves to proclaim Mali's prosperity and power. During his rule Muslim scholarship reached new heights in Mali, and such cities as Timbuktu and Djenné (Jenne) became important centers of trade, learning, and culture.
The Mali empire was followed by the Songhai empire of Gao, which rose to great power in the late 15th cent. In 1590 the empire, already weakened by internal divisions, was shattered by a Moroccan army. The Moroccans, however, could not effectively dominate the vast region, which broke up into petty states. By the late 18th cent., the area was in a semianarchic condition and was subject to incursions by the Tuareg and Fulani.
The 19th cent. witnessed a great resurgence of Islam. The Tukolor empire of al-Hajj Umar (1794-1864) and the empire of Samori Touré (1870-98) emerged as Muslim states opposing French invasion of the region. By 1898 the French conquest was virtually complete; Mali, called French Sudan, became part of the Federation of French West Africa. A nationalist movement, spearheaded by trade unions and student groups, blossomed during the period between the two world wars. The Sudanese Union, a militantly anticolonial party, became the leading political force. Its leader, Modibo Keita, was a descendant of the Mali emperors.Independence and Beyond
In the French constitutional referendum of 1958, French Sudan voted to join the French Community as the autonomous Sudanese Republic. In 1959 the republic joined Senegal to form the Mali Federation, but political differences shattered the union in 1960. That same year, the Sudanese Republic, renamed the Republic of Mali, obtained full independence from France and severed ties with the French Community. Seeking to promote African unity, Mali joined in a largely symbolic union with Guinea and Ghana, and in 1963 it joined the newborn Organization of African Unity.
Under Keita's presidency Mali became a one-party state committed to socialist policies. In 1962 the country withdrew from the Franc Zone and adopted a nonconvertible national currency. The resulting economic and financial difficulties forced an accommodation with France in 1967; Mali devalued its currency, returned to the Franc Zone, and permitted French administrators to assume a supervisory role in the economy. Militant elements in the Sudanese Union opposed this rapprochement, however, and Keita formed a people's militia to destroy opposition. The arrest of several dissenting army officers by the militia in 1968 provoked a bloodless military coup that overthrew the Keita regime and installed Lt. Moussa Traoré as president. The country continued to pursue a course of nonalignment in international affairs.
In the early 1970s, a prolonged drought desiccated the Sahel region of Africa, further reducing Mali's already meager water supplies. The drought shattered the country's agriculture economy by killing thousands of head of livestock and hindering crop production. The resulting famine, disease, and poverty contributed to the deaths of untold thousands and forced the southward migration of many peoples.
Keita died in prison in 1977, touching off a series of protests. A new constitution (1979) contained provisions for elections to be held, and democratic measures were implemented in spite of an unstable political climate. Traoré was reelected president in 1979; he effectively repressed coup attempts in the late 1970s and early 1980s and was again elected in 1985. Also in 1985, a border dispute with Burkina Faso erupted into armed conflict. Neighboring nations sent troops to end the fighting, but relations between the two countries remain strained.
In 1991, Traoré was overthrown in a coup and replaced with a transitional committee headed by Amadou Toumani Touré. Mali had been a one-party state controlled by the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDMP) from 1974 until 1992. In that year a new constitution was approved providing for a multiparty democracy, and Alpha Oumar Konaré of the Alliance for Democracy (ADEMA) became Mali's first democratically elected president. In the early 1990s the Malian army was engaged in conflicts with the Tuareg ethnic group in the north, who rebelled against alleged government usurpation of its land and the suppression of its culture and language; following an upsurge in violence in 1994, a peace settlement was implemented in 1995 and thousands of refugees returned to Mali.
In 1997, Konaré was reelected virtually unopposed and ADEMA won decisively in the legislative elections, which were boycotted by much of the opposition. In 1999 the ousted dictator Traoré, his wife, and an associate were sentenced to death for embezzlement; their sentences were commuted to life in prison by President Konaré. Presidential elections in April and May, 2002, resulted in a victory for Amadou Touré, the former interim military ruler. Touré ran as an independent candidate, and after the subsequent National Assembly elections (July), he formed a broad-based government that included the two largest groupings in the National Assembly.
In May, 2006, there were attacks in N Mali by Tuaregs the government said were army deserters, but in July a peace agreement was signed with the rebels. Additional fighting, however, occurred in 2007. Touré, running as the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP) coalition (which included ADEMA), was reelected in Apr., 2007, and in July National Assembly elections the ADP won a sizable majority of the seats. A new truce was signed with the Tuareg rebels in Sept., 2007, but they attacked government forces in 2008 (despite signing a cease-fire in Apr., 2008). A new cease-fire agreed to in July did not hold, but government forces won significant victories against the rebels in early 2009. Militant Islamists based in N Mali and originally opposed to the Algeria government have also mounted attacks and abductions in Mali, and in mid-2009 government forces conducted operations against their bases.
See A. Bebler, ed., Military Rule in Africa: Dahomey, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Mali (1973); N. Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali (1973); P. J. Imperato, Historical Dictionary of Mali (2d ed. 1986) and Mali (1989).
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali (République du Mali), is a landlocked nation in Western Africa. Mali is the seventh largest country in Africa, bordering Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west.
Consisting of eight regions, Mali's borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country's southern region, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country's economic structure centers around agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali's natural resources include gold, uranium, and salt. Mali is considered to be one of the poorest nations in the world.
Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (from which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. In the late 1800s, Mali fell under French control, becoming part of French Sudan. Mali gained independence in 1959 with Senegal, as the Mali Federation in 1959. A year later, the Mali Federation became the independent nation of Mali in 1960. After a long period of one-party rule, a 1991 coup led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state.
The Mali Empire later formed on the upper Niger River, and reached the height of power in the fourteenth century. Under the Mali Empire, the ancient cities of Djenné and Timbuktu were centers of both trade and Islamic learning. The empire later declined as a result of internal intrigue, ultimately being supplanted by the Songhai Empire. The Songhai people originated in current northwestern Nigeria. The Songhai had long been a major power in West Africa subject to the Mali Empire's rule. In the late 14th century, the Songhai gradually gained independence from the Mali Empire and expanded, ultimately subsuming the entire eastern portion of the Mali Empire. The Songhai Empire's eventual collapse was largely the result of a Berber invasion in 1591. The fall of the Songhai Empire marked the end of the region's role as a trading crossroads. Following the establishment of sea routes by the European powers, the trans-Saharan trade routes lost significance.
In the colonial era, Mali fell under the control of the French beginning in the late 1800s. By 1905, most of the area was under firm French control as a part of French Sudan. In early 1959, Mali (then the Sudanese Republic) and Senegal united to become the Mali Federation. The Mali Federation gained independence from France on June 20, 1960. Senegal withdrew from the federation in August 1960, which allowed the Sudanese Republic to form the independent nation of Mali on September 22, 1960. Modibo Keïta was elected the first president. Keïta quickly established a one-party state, adopted an independent African and socialist orientation with close ties to the East, and implemented extensive nationalization of economic resources.
In November 1968, following progressive economic decline, the Keïta regime was overthrown in a bloodless military coup led by Moussa Traoré. The subsequent military-led regime, with Traoré as president, attempted to reform the economy. However, his efforts were frustrated by political turmoil and a devastating drought between 1968 to 1974. The Traoré regime faced student unrest beginning in the late 1970s and three coup attempts. However, the Traoré regime repressed all dissenters until the late 1980s. The government continued to attempt economic reforms, and the populace became increasingly dissatisfied. In response to growing demands for multi-party democracy, the Traoré regime allowed some limited political liberalization, but refused to usher in a full-fledged democratic system. In 1990, cohesive opposition movements began to emerge, and was complicated by the turbulent rise of ethnic violence in the north following the return of many Tuaregs to Mali.
Anti-government protests in 1991 led to a coup, a transitional government, and a new constitution. In 1992, Alpha Oumar Konaré won Mali's first democratic, multi-party presidential election. Upon his reelection in 1997, President Konaré pushed through political and economic reforms and fought corruption. In 2002, he was succeeded in democratic elections by Amadou Toumani Touré, a retired general, who had been the leader of the military aspect of the 1991 democratic uprising. Today, Mali is one of the most politically and socially stable countries in Africa.
Mali is a landlocked nation in West Africa, located southwest of Algeria. At , Mali is the world's 24th-largest country and is comparable in size to South Africa or Peru. Most of the country lies in the southern Sahara, which produces a hot, dust-laden harmattan haze common during dry seasons. The country extends southwest through the subtropical Sahel to the Sudanian savanna zone. Mali is mostly flat, rising to rolling northern plains covered by sand. The Adrar des Ifoghas lies in the northeast.
The country's climate ranges from subtropical in the south to arid in the north. Most of the country receives negligible rainfall; droughts are frequent. Late June to early December is the rainy season. During this time, flooding of the Niger River is common. The nation has considerable natural resources, with gold, uranium, phosphates, kaolinite, salt and limestone being most widely exploited. Mali faces numerous environmental challenges, including desertification, deforestation, soil erosion, and inadequate supplies of potable water.
Mali is divided into eight regions (régions) and one district. Each region has a governor. Since Mali's regions are huge, the country is subdivided into 49 cercles, totaling 288 arrondissements. Mayors and elected members of the city councils officiate the arrondissements.
The regions and district are:
Executive power is vested in a president, who is elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage and is limited to two terms. The president serves as chief of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. A prime minister appointed by the president serves as head of government and in turn appoints the Council of Ministers. The unicameral National Assembly is Mali’s sole legislative body, consisting of deputies elected to five-year terms. Following the 2007 elections, the Alliance for Democracy and Progress held 113 of 160 seats in the assembly. The assembly holds two regular sessions each year, during which it debates and votes on legislation that has been submitted by a member or by the government.
Mali’s constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the executive continues to exercise influence over the judiciary by virtue of power to appoint judges and oversee both judicial functions and law enforcement. Mali's highest courts are the Supreme Court, which has both judicial and administrative powers, and a separate Constitutional Court that provides judicial review of legislative acts and serves as an election arbiter. Various lower courts exist, though village chiefs and elders resolve most local disputes in rural areas.
Mali's foreign policy orientation has become increasingly pragmatic and pro-Western over time. Since the institution of a democratic form of government in 2002, Mali’s relations with the West in general and with the United States in particular have improved significantly. Mali has a longstanding yet ambivalent relationship with France, a former colonial ruler. Mali is active in regional organizations such as the African Union. Working to control and resolve regional conflicts, such as in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, is one of Mali’s major foreign policy goals. Mali feels threatened by the potential for the spillover of conflicts in neighboring states, and relations with those neighbors are often uneasy. General insecurity along borders in the north, including cross-border banditry and terrorism, remain troubling issues in regional relations.
Mali’s military forces consist of an army, which includes land forces and a small navy and air force, as well as the paramilitary Gendarmerie and Republican Guard, all of which are under the control of Mali's Ministry of Defense and Veterans, headed by a civilian. The military is underpaid, poorly equipped, and in need of rationalization. Organization has suffered from the incorporation of Tuareg irregular forces into the regular military following a 1992 agreement between the government and Tuareg rebel forces. The military has generally kept a low profile since the democratic transition of 1992. The incumbent president, Amadou Toumani Touré, is a former army general and as such reportedly enjoys widespread military support. In the annual human rights report for 2003, the U.S. Department of State rated civilian control of security forces as generally effective but noted a few "instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of government authority."
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. The average worker's annual salary is approximately US$1,500. Between 1992 to 1995, Mali implemented an economic adjustment program that resulted in economic growth and a reduction in financial imbalances. The program increased social and economic conditions, and led to Mali joining the World Trade Organization on May 31, 1995. The gross domestic product (GDP) has risen as a result. In 2002, the GDP amounted to US$3.4 billion, and increased to US$5.8 billion in 2005, which amounts to approximately 17.6% annual growth rate.
Mali's key industry is agriculture. Cotton is the country's largest crop export and is exported west throughout Senegal and the Ivory Coast. During 2002, 620,000 tons of cotton were produced in Mali but cotton prices declined significantly in 2003. In addition to cotton, Mali produces rice, millet, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and tree crops. Gold, livestock and agriculture amount to eighty percent of Mali's exports. Eighty percent of Malian workers are employed in agriculture while fifteen percent work in the service sector. However, seasonal variations lead to regular temporary unemployment of agricultural workers.
In 1991, with the assistance of the International Development Association, Mali relaxed the enforcement of mining codes which led to renewed foreign interest and investment in the mining industry. Gold is mined in the southern region and Mali has the third highest gold production in Africa (after South Africa and Ghana). The emergence of gold as Mali’s leading export product since 1999 has helped mitigate some of the negative impact of the cotton and Côte d’Ivoire crises. Other natural resources include kaolin, salt, phosphate, and limestone.
Electricity and water are maintained by the Energie du Mali, or EDM, and textiles are generated by Industry Textile du Mali, or ITEMA. Mali has made efficient use hydroelectricity, consisting of over half of Mali's electrical power. In 2002, 700kWh of hydroelectric power were produced in Mali.
The Malian government participates in foreign involvement, concerning commerce and privatization. Mali underwent economic reform, beginning in 1988 by signing agreements with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. During 1988 to 1996, Mali's government largely reformed public enterprises. Since the agreement, sixteen enterprises were privatized, twelve partially privatized, and twenty liquidated. In 2005, the Malian government conceded a railroad company to the Savage Corporation, which is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Two major companies, Societé de Telecommunications du Mali (SOTELMA) and the Cotton Ginning Company (CMDT), are expected to be privatized in 2008.
In July 2007, Mali's population was an estimated 12 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.7%. The population is predominantly rural (68% in 2002), and 5–10% of Malians are nomadic. More than 90% of the population lives in the southern part of the country, especially in Bamako, which has over 1 million residents.
In 2007, about 48% of Malians were less than fifteen years old, 49% were 15–64 years old, and 3% were 65 and older. The median age was 15.9 years. The birth rate in 2007 was 49.6 births per 1,000, and the total fertility rate was 7.4 children per woman. The death rate in 2007 was 16.5 deaths per 1,000. Life expectancy at birth was 49.5 years total (47.6 for males and 51.5 for females). Mali has one of the world's highest rates of infant mortality, with 106 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007.
Mali’s population encompasses a number of sub-Saharan ethnic groups, most of which have historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious commonalities. The Bambara are by far the largest single ethnic group, making up 36.5% of the population. Collectively, the Bambara, Soninké, Khassonké, and Malinké, all part of the broader Mandé group, constitute 50% of Mali's population. Other significant groups are the Peul (17%), Voltaic (12%), Songhai (6%), and Tuareg and Moor (10%). Mali historically has enjoyed reasonably good inter-ethnic relations; however, some hereditary servitude relationships exist, as do ethnic tensions between the Songhai and the Tuareg.
Mali’s official language is French, but numerous (40 or more) African languages also are widely used by the various ethnic groups. About 80% of Mali’s population can communicate in Bambara, which is the country’s principal lingua franca and marketplace language. An estimated 90% of Malians are Muslim (mostly Sunni), 9% adhere to indigenous or traditional animist beliefs, and 1% are Christian (about two-thirds Roman Catholic and one-third Protestant). Atheism and agnosticism are believed to be rare among Malians, most of whom practice their religion on a daily basis. Islam as practiced in Mali is moderate, tolerant, and adapted to local conditions; relations between Muslims and practitioners of minority religious faiths are generally amicable. The constitution establishes a secular state and provides for freedom of religion, and the government largely respects this right.
Public education in Mali is in principle provided free of charge and is compulsory for nine years between the ages of seven and 16. The system encompasses six years of primary education beginning at age seven, followed by six years of secondary education. However, Mali’s actual primary school enrollment rate is low, in large part because families are unable to cover the cost of uniforms, books, supplies, and other fees required to attend. In the 2000–01 school year, the primary school enrollment rate was 61% (71% of males and 51% of females); in the late 1990s, the secondary school enrollment rate was 15% percent (20% of males and 10% of females). The education system is plagued by a lack of schools in rural areas, as well as shortages of teachers and materials. Estimates of literacy rates in Mali range from 27–30% to 46.4%, with literacy rates significantly lower among women than men.
Malian musical traditions are derived from the griots, who are known as "Keeper of Memories". Malian music is diverse and has several different genres. Some famous Malian influences in music are kora virtouso musician Toumani Diabaté, the late roots and blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré, the Tuareg band Tinariwen, and several Afro-pop artists such as Salif Keita, the duo Amadou et Mariam, Oumou Sangare, and Habib Koité.
Though Mali's literature is less famous than music, Mali has always been one of Africa's liveliest intellectual centers. Mali's literary tradition is passed mainly by word of mouth, with jalis reciting or singing histories and stories known by heart. Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Mali's best-known historian, spent much of his life writing these oral traditions down for the world to remember. The best-known novel by a Malian writer is Yambo Ouologuem's Le devoir de violence, which won the 1968 Prix Renaudot but whose legacy was marred by accusations of plagiarism. Other well-known Malian writers include Baba Traoré, Modibo Sounkalo Keita, Massa Makan Diabaté, Moussa Konaté, and Fily Dabo Sissoko.
The varied everyday culture of Malians reflects the country's ethnic and geographic diversity. Most Malians wear flowing, colorful robes called boubous that are typical of West Africa. Malians frequently participate in traditional festivals, dances, and ceremonies. Rice and millet are the staples of Malian cuisine, which is heavily based on cereal grains. Grains are generally prepared with sauces made from leaves such spinach or baobab leaves, with tomato, or with peanut sauce, and may be accompanied by pieces of grilled meat (typically chicken, mutton, beef, or goat). Malian cuisine varies regionally.
The most popular sport in Mali is football (soccer), which became more prominent after Mali hosted the 2002 African Cup of Nations. Most towns have regular games; the most popular teams nationally are Djoliba AC, Stade Malien, and Real Bamako, all based in the capitol. Informal games are often played by youths using a bundle of rags as a ball. The country has produced several notable players for French teams, including Salif Keita and Jean Tigana. Frédéric "Fredi" Kanouté, named 2007 African Footballer of the Year, currently plays for Sevilla FC in Spain's La Liga. Also playing for major clubs in Spain are Mahamadou Diarra, captain of the Mali national squad, for Real Madrid and Seydou Keita for FC Barcelona. Other notable players currently on European squads include, Mohammed Sissoko (Juventus), Sammy Traore (Paris Saint-Germain), Adama Coulibaly (AJ Auxerre), Kalif Cisse (Reading), and Dramane Traoré (Lokomotiv Moscow). Basketball is another major sport; the Mali women's national basketball team competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Traditional wrestling (la lutte) is also somewhat common, though popularity has declined in recent years. The game wari, a mancala variant, is a common pastime.