The Republic of Mali, North Africa
The Republic of Mali is a country in west
Africa, formerly a French colony.
Malians express great pride in their ancestry.
Mali is the cultural heir to the succession of ancient
African empires -- Ghana, Malinke, and Songhai -- that
occupied the West African savannah.
These empires controlled Saharan trade and were in touch
with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern centres of civilisation.
The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke people and
centred in the area along the border of the modern states
of Mali and Mauritanian, was a powerful trading state
from about AD 700 to 1075.
The Malice Kingdom of Mali had its origins on the upper
Niger River in the 11th century.
Expanding rapidly in the 13th century under
the leadership of Sundiata Keita, it reached
its height about 1325, when it conquered
Timbuktu and Gao.
Thereafter, the kingdom began to decline, and
by the 15th century, it controlled only
a small fraction of its former domain.
The Songhai Empire expanded its power from
its center in Gao during the period 1465-1530.
At its peak under Askia Mohammad I, it
encompassed the Hausa states as far as Kano
(in present-day Nigeria) and much of the
territory that had belonged to the
Mali Empire in the west.
It was destroyed by a Moroccan invasion in 1591.
French military penetration of the Sudan
(the French name for the area) began around 1880.
Ten years later, the French made a
concerted effort to occupy the interior.
The timing and method of their advances were
determined by resident military governors.
A French civilian governor of Sudan was
appointed in 1893, but resistance to French
control did not end until 1898, when the
Malinké warrior Samory Touré was
defeated after 7 years of war.
The French attempted to rule indirectly,
but in many areas they disregarded traditional
authorities and governed through appointed chiefs.
As the colony of French Sudan, Mali was
administered with other French colonial
territories as the Federation
of French West Africa.
In 1956, with the passing of France's
Fundamental Law (Loi Cadre), the Territorial
Assembly obtained extensive powers over
internal affairs and was permitted to form
a cabinet with executive authority over
matters within the Assembly's competence.
After the October 4, 1958 French
constitutional referendum, the "Republique
Soudanaise" became a member of the
French Community and enjoyed
complete internal autonomy.
In January 1959, French Sudan joined 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,
Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic
of Mali and withdrew from the French Community.
President Modibo Keita, whose party (Union Soudanaise
du Rassemblement Democratique Africain --US/RDA) had
dominated preindependence politics, moved quickly to
declare a single-party state and to pursue a socialist
policy based on extensive nationalisation.
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 Traoré
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 stabilised during 1981 and 1982,
and remained generally calm throughout the 1980s.
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 liberalisation,
reform in the state enterprise system, new incentives
to private enterprise, and worked out a new structural
adjustment agreement with the International Monetary
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.
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 arrested President
Traore and suspended the constitution.
Within days, these officers joined with the Co-ordinating
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 were elected. On June 8,
1992, Alpha Oumar Konare, 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 Konare's
ADEMA party, causing some other historic
parties to boycott subsequent elections.
President Konare 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.
Under Mali's 1992 constitution, the president is
chief of state and commander in
chief of the armed forces.
The president is elected to 5-year terms,
with a limit of two terms.
The president appoints the prime minister
as head of government.
The president chairs the Council of Ministers
(the prime minister and currently 22 other ministers,
including 6 women), which adopts proposals
for laws submitted to the National
Assembly for approval.
The National Assembly is the sole
legislative arm of the government.
It currently consists of 147 members.
Representation is apportioned according
to the population of administrative districts.
Election is direct and by party list.
The term of office is 5 years.
The Assembly meets for two regular
sessions each year.
It debates and votes on legislation proposed
either by one of its members or by the
government and has the right to question
government ministers about
government actions and policies.
Eight political parties, aggregated into
four parliamentary groups, are
represented in the Assembly.
ADEMA currently holds the majority; minority
parties are represented in all committees
and in the Assembly directorate.
Mali's constitution provides for a
multi-party democracy, with the only
restriction being a prohibition against
parties based on ethnic, religious,
regional, or gender lines.
In addition to those political parties
represented in the National Assembly,
others are active in municipal councils.
Administratively, Mali is divided into eight
regions and the capital district of Bamako,
each under the authority
of an appointed governor.
Each region consists of five to nine districts
(or Cercles), administered by commandants.
Cercles are divided into communes, which,
in turn, are divided into villages or quarters.
Plans for decentralisation have begun with the establishment
of 702 elected municipal councils, headed by elected
Further plans envision election of local
officials, greater local control over finances,
and the reduction of administrative
control by the central government.
Mali's legal system is based on codes
inherited at independence from France.
New laws have been enacted to make the system
conform to Malian life, but French colonial
laws not abrogated still have the force of law.
The constitution provides for the
independence of the judiciary.
However, the Ministry of Justice appoints
judges and supervises both law enforcement
and judicial functions.
The Supreme Court has both judicial
and administrative powers.
Under the constitution, there is a
separate constitutional court and a high
court of justice with the power to try
senior government officials in cases of treason.
conventional long form: Republic of Mali
conventional short form: Mali
local long form: Republique de Mali
local short form: Mali
former: French Sudan and Sudanese Republic
Data code: ML
Government type: republic
Administrative divisions: 8 regions;
Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro, Mopti,
Segou, Sikasso, Tombouctou.
Independence: 22 September 1960 (from France)
National holiday: Anniversary of the
Proclamation of the Republic, 22 September (1960)
Constitution: adopted 12 January 1992
Legal system: based on French civil
law system and customary law; judicial
review of legislative acts in Constitutional
Court (which was formally established on 9 March 1994);
has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal
chief of state: President Amadou Toumani Touré(since
8 June 2002)
head of government: Prime Minister Ousmane
Issoufi Maiga(since April 2004)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed
by the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote
for a five-year term;
prime minister appointed by the president
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly
or Assemblee Nationale (147 seats; members are
elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Cour Supreme)
Bamako Capital District, Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro,
Mopti, Ségou, Sikasso, Tombouctou.
Map of Mali
(Click to enlarge)
Location: Western Africa, southwest of Algeria
Copyrights for details).
Geographic co-ordinates: 17 00 N, 4 00 W
Area: total: 1.24 million km², land: 1.22
million km², water: 20,000 km²
Land boundaries (landlocked): total: 7,243 km, bordered
by: Algeria 1,376 km, Burkina Faso 1,000 km, Guinea
858 km, Côte d'Ivoire 532 km, Mauritania 2,237
km, Niger 821 km, Senegal 419 km
Climate: subtropical to arid; hot
and dry February to June; rainy, humid,
and mild June to November; cool
and dry November to February
Terrain: mostly flat to rolling northern plains
covered by sand; savannah in south, rugged hills in
Natural resources: gold, phosphates, kaolin,
salt, limestone, uranium, hydropower
note: bauxite, iron ore, manganese, tin,
and copper deposits are known but not exploited.
Land use: arable land: 2%, permanent crops: 0%,
permanent pastures: 25%, forests and woodland: 6%,
other: 67% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 780 km² (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: hot, dust-laden
harmattan haze common during dry
seasons; recurring droughts.
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion;
supplies of potable water; poaching.
Mali is among the poorest countries in the world,
with 65% of its land area desert or semidesert.
Economic activity is largely confined to the
riverine area irrigated by the Niger River.
About 10% of the population is nomadic and some 80%
of the labour force is engaged in farming and fishing.
Industrial activity is concentrated on
processing farm commodities.
Mali is heavily dependent on foreign aid
and vulnerable to fluctuations in
world prices for cotton, its main export.
Since 1997, the government continued its
successful implementation of an IMF-recommended
structural adjustment program that is
helping the economy grow, diversify,
and attract foreign investment.
Mali's adherence to economic reform, and the
50% devaluation of the African franc in
January 1994, has pushed up economic growth.
Several multinational corporations increased
gold mining operations in 1996-1998, and the
government anticipates that Mali will become
a major Sub-Saharan gold
exporter in the next few years.
Mali's population consists of diverse
Sub-Saharan ethnic groups, sharing similar
historic, cultural, and religious traditions.
Exceptions are the Tuaregs and Maurs,
desert nomads, related to the
North African Berbers.
The Tuaregs traditionally have opposed
the central government.
Starting in June 1990, armed attacks in
the North by Tuaregs seeking greater
autonomy led to clashes with the military.
In April 1992, the government and most
opposing factions signed a pact to end
the fighting and restore
stability in the north.
Its major aims are to allow greater autonomy
to the north and increase government
resource allocation to what has been a
traditionally impoverished region.
The peace agreement was celebrated in 1996 in Timbuktu
during an official and highly publicised ceremony called
"Flamme de la Paix"--(peace flame).
Historically, good interethnic relations
throughout the rest of the country were
facilitated by easy mobility on the Niger
River and across the country's vast savannahs.
Each ethnic group was traditionally tied
to a specific occupation, all working
within close proximity.
The Bambara, Malinke, Sarakole, and Dogon
and Songhay are farmers; the Fulani, Maur,
and Tuareg are herders;
while the Bozo are fishers.
In recent years, this linkage has shifted as ethnic
groups seek diverse, non-traditional sources of income.
Although each ethnic group speaks a
separate language, nearly 80% of Malians
communicate in Bambara, the
common language of the marketplace.
Malians enjoy a relative
harmony rare in African states.
Population: 11,340,480 (July 2002 est.)
Nationality: noun: Malian(s), adjective: Malian
Ethnic groups: Mande 50% (Bambara, Malinke, Soninke),
Peul 17%, Voltaic 12%, Songhai 6%,
Tuareg and Moor 10%, other 5%
Religions: Muslim 90%, indigenous
beliefs 9%, Christian 1%
Languages: French (official), Bambara 80%,
and numerous other African languages.
This information was updated 3 Dec 2004.
All text is available under the terms of the
GNU Free Documentation License
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