|THE MALI COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Mali within the continent of Africa
Map of Mali
Flag Description of Mali:The Mali flag was officially adopted on March 1, 1961.
The style of the flag is modeled after the French Tricolore, and the green, yellow and red are Pan-African colors.
Official name République du Mali (Republic of Mali)
Form of government multiparty republic1 with one legislative house (National Assembly )
Head of state President1: Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta
Head of government Prime Minister1: Modibo Keita
Official language French
Official religion none
Monetary unit CFA franc (CFAF)
Population (2013 est.) 15,969,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 482,077
Total area (sq km) 1,248,574
- Urban: (2011) 36.6%
- Rural: (2011) 63.4%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 52.4 years
- Female: (2012) 56 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2007) 31.4%
- Female: (2007) 16%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2014 est.) 16,456,000
Mali, landlocked country of western Africa, mostly in the Saharan and Sahelian regions. Mali is largely flat and arid. The Niger River flows through its interior, functioning as the main trading and transport artery in the country. Sections of the river flood periodically, providing much-needed fertile agricultural soil along its banks as well as creating pasture for livestock.
Although Mali is one of the largest countries in Africa, it has a relatively small population, which is largely centred along the Niger River. The Bambara (Bamana) ethnic group and language predominate, with several other groups—including the Fulani (Fulbe), Dogon, and Tuareg—also present in the population. Agriculture is the dominant economic sector in the country, with cotton production, cattle and camel herding, and fishing among the major activities.
The area that is now Mali was once part of the three great precolonial Sudanic empires: Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. The fabled but now faded trading and learning centre of Timbuktu is situated in Mali on the upper Niger River. For centuries, caravans crossed the Sahara desert from North Africa while others came from the forest regions to the south, meeting at the crossroads of Timbuktu. Other notable towns include Djenné, noted for its famous mosque and other examples of Sudanese architecture, and Mopti, a bustling market centre. The Dogon region, centred on the Bandiagara escarpment in the country’s central area, is an important tourist destination because of its unique cliffside villages and diverse artistic life. The national capital, Bamako, is located on the Niger River and is a rapidly growing city because of increased migration from the depressed rural areas.
Geography of Mali
Mali is bounded on the north by Algeria, on the east by Niger and Burkina Faso, on the south by Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, and on the west by Senegal and Mauritania.
Mali’s landscape is largely flat and monotonous. Two basic relief features can be distinguished: plateaus and plains, which are crossed by two of Africa’s major river systems, the Niger and the Sénégal. The highland regions are localized and discontinuous.
The plateaus of the south and southwest (extensions of the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea and the Guinea Highlands of Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire) lie between about 1,000 and 1,600 feet (300 and 500 metres) above sea level but attain heights approaching 2,000 feet (600 metres) in the Mandingue Plateau near Bamako and more than 2,100 feet (640 metres) near Satadougou.
The plateaus of the southeast and east, also extensions of the Guinea Highlands, are a series of small, broken hills. Elevations in the southeast range between almost 1,000 feet (300 metres) around Sikasso and 1,740 feet (530 metres) at Mount Mina. East of the Niger River the Dogon Plateau descends gently westward to the river valley but ends in abrupt cliffs on the southeast. These cliffs reach an elevation approaching 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) at Bandiagara. Northwest of the region is the country’s highest point, Mount Hombori Tondo, which rises to a height of 3,789 feet (1,155 metres).
Northern and central Mali are made up of the plains of the Niger River basin and of the Sahara. The only marked relief feature in the north is the Iforas Massif. An extension of the mountainous Hoggar region of the Sahara, this heavily eroded sandstone plateau rises to elevations of more than 2,000 feet.
Drainage and soils
With the exception of some intermittent streams in the northeast, Mali’s drainage system consists entirely of the Sénégal and Niger rivers and their tributaries. The Sénégal system flows in a northwesterly direction across western Mali for about 420 miles (670 km) on its course to the Atlantic Ocean. One of its main headstreams, the Bakoye River, rises in the Fouta Djallon, while another, the Bafing River, rises farther to the east; they join at Bafoulabé to form the Sénégal. The river continues flowing northwest and then west around the Mandingue Plateau, broken along the way by falls at Gouina and Félou, before exiting Mali.
The Niger River flows through Mali for slightly more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km), about two-fifths of the river’s total length. It rises in the Fouta Djallon and is of significant size by the time it enters the country near Kangaba. It flows to the northeast across the Mandingue Plateau, its course interrupted by falls and a dam at Sotuba. Reaching Koulikoro, it spreads out in a wide valley and flows majestically to its confluence with the Bani River at Mopti. The Niger then forms an interior delta, because the land is flat and the river’s gradient almost nonexistent. The river breaks down into a network of branches and lakes as it continues northward and, at Kabara, eastward. At Bourem the Niger makes a great turn to the southeast, known as the Niger Bend, and flows past Gao and Ansongo to the Niger border at Labbezanga.
The flow of the Niger varies seasonally. High waters occur on the upper Niger from July to October, at the delta from September to November, and at the bend from December to January. Periodic floods and the rich alluvial soils in the central delta make the Niger valley an important agricultural region.
The soils outside the Niger valley in Mali are poor. In the south, ferruginous (iron-bearing) soils are shallow and form a hard, red crust because of intense evaporation. The desert region is composed of sand, rock, and gravel.
Mali lies within the intertropical zone and has a hot, dry climate, with the sun near its zenith throughout most of the year. In general, there are two distinct seasons, dry and wet. The dry season, which lasts from November to June, is marked by low humidity and high temperatures and is influenced by the alize and harmattan winds. The alize blows from the northeast from November to January and causes a relatively cool spell, with temperatures averaging 77 °F (25 °C). From March to June the harmattan, a dry, hot wind that blows from the east out of the Sahara, sweeps the soil into dusty whirlwinds and is accompanied by daytime temperatures of about 104 to 113 °F (40 to 45 °C).
During the rainy season, from June to October, the monsoon wind blows from the southwest. Preceded by large black clouds, the heavy rainstorms often include gusty winds and much lightning and thunder. Temperatures are somewhat lower in August, when most of the rainfall occurs.
The country can be divided into three climatic zones—the Sudanic, the Sahelian, and the desert zones. Sudanic climate occurs in about one-third of the country, from the southern border to latitude 15° N. It is characterized by an annual rainfall of 20 to 55 inches (510 to 1,400 mm) and average temperatures of 75 to 86 °F (24 to 30 °C). The Sahel, or the area bordering the Sahara, receives between 8 and 20 inches (200 and 510 mm) of rain per year and has average temperatures between 73 and 97 °F (23 and 36 °C). In the desert (Sahara), temperatures during the day range from 117 to nearly 140 °F (47 to 60 °C), while at night the temperature drops to 39 to 41 °F (4 to 5 °C).
Plant and animal life
There are two main vegetation zones that correspond to the climatic regions of the Sudan and the Sahel. In the Sudanic zone, localized forest corridors are found along the Guinean border and in the river valleys; the rest of the area is covered with savanna. The trees include the néré, or twoball nitta tree (Parkia biglobosa), the karite (Butyrospermum parkii), the cailcedra (Senegal khaya; Khaya senegalensis), and the kapioka. The incidence of trees decreases to the north as the Sudanic zone merges with the Sahel. The Sahel is characterized by steppe vegetation, notably such drought-resistant trees as the baobab, doum palm, and palmyra. These trees also disappear to the north, where short, thorny plants such as the mimosa, acacia, and cram-cram (Cenchrus biflorus, a member of the grass family) grow; all vegetation is absent in the far-north region of the Sahara. Beginning in the latter half of the 20th century, deforestation, overgrazing, and repeated episodes of drought served to greatly speed the rate of naturally occurring desertification, resulting in the encroachment of the desert on the Sahel.
The animal life of the Sudan and of the Sahel is rich and varied. Large herbivorous mammals include gazelles, antelopes, giraffes, and elephants. The main carnivores are lions, panthers, and hyenas. Crocodiles and hippopotamuses inhabit the rivers, and there are a wide variety of monkeys, snakes, and birds (including the ostrich). Boucle du Baoulé National Park along the Baoulé River in the west and the Ansongo-Ménaka Animal Reserve and Douentza (Gourma) Elephant Reserve in the east are major wildlife sanctuaries.
Demography of Mali
- Ethnic groups
The notion of ethnicity is fluid in Mali. In some cases, people marry outside their ethnic group and speak languages that differ from those of their ancestors without changing their cultural affiliation. In other cases, however, identity does change, especially as people move internally and adopt Bambara, the most widely spoken African language in Mali. Nevertheless, several broad categories can be noted. Living in the Sahelian zone and north of the Niger Bend are Imazighen (Berbers, including the Tuareg, a significant subgroup) and the Arab-Spanish-Amazigh (Berber) group known as the Moors, who speak and write Arabic.
The rest of the population is composed of numerous agricultural groups, some of whom are descended from the peoples of the ancient empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. The Bambara (Bamana), who live along the upper Niger River, make up the largest group. The Soninke are descended from the founders of the Ghana empire and live in the western Sahelian zone. The Malinke, bearers of the heritage of the Mali empire, live in the southwest, while the Songhai are settled in the Niger valley from Djenné to Ansongo. The Dogon live in the plateau region around Bandiagara, and the Bwa, Bobo, Senufo, and Minianka occupy the east and southeast.
The Fulani (Fulbe) were traditionally nomadic pastoralists of the Sahel and the Macina region southwest of Timbuktu. Other ethnic groups of note include the Tukulor, the Khasonke, the Bozo, and the Somono. Although some Tuareg and Fulani are nomadic, the vast majority now live in permanent settlements.
French is the official language of Mali, but languages of the Niger-Congo family dominate. One of them, Bambara, is used as a lingua franca by some four-fifths of the population. Mande languages—including Bambara, Malinke, Khasonke, Wasulunka, and Soninke—have the largest number of speakers, but the Gur branch (which includes Bwa, Moore, Senufo, and Minianka languages) and the Atlantic branch (which includes Fula and Tukulor and may include Dogon) are also represented.
Among the other languages of Mali are varieties of Semitic languages (Afro-Asiatic) and Songhai (Nilo-Saharan). The Moors and the Tuareg speak and write Arabic, although the Tuareg have also retained their traditional Amazigh language and their distinctive writing system, tifinagh, which is derived from ancient Libyan. Songhai is used along the Niger River.
There are three main religions. Sunni Islam is practiced by about nine-tenths of the population, traditional religions by most of the rest, and Christianity (primarily Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) by a small number. Islamization dates to the 11th century and has eclipsed traditional religions among the Soninke, Songhai, Moors, Tuareg, and most Fulani. Many of the Gur-speaking peoples, especially the Dogon, as well as some Malinke and Bambara, practice traditional African religions. Even among Muslim and Christian converts, many traditional beliefs persist.
- Settlement patterns
Mali is traditionally divided into the nomadic region of the Sahel and the Sahara and the agricultural region of the Sudanic zone. Nearly three-fourths of the population is rural, typically living in thatched dwellings grouped together in villages of between 150 and 600 inhabitants and surrounded by cultivated fields and grazing lands. The older towns, such as Djenné, Timbuktu, Gao, and Ségou, are built in the Sudanese style of architecture, characterized by tall mud walls with wooden limbs and planks that stick out from the surface, providing a frame for the mud walls but also creating a type of ladder permitting yearly replastering; inside, a series of wooden columns holds up the roof, which has small openings to allow in some sunlight. The Djenné mosque, the epitome of Sudanese architecture, is the largest mud building in the world. Timbuktu (founded about ad 1100) was a centre of commerce and learning during the time of the Mali (13th–16th century) and Songhai (15th–16th century) empires; later, trans-Saharan trade declined in favour of trade along the Atlantic coast as desertification spread southward, and the town retained only a shadow of its former glory by the early 20th century. The newer towns, such as Bamako, Kayes, San, and Kati, consist of a central business district, around which residential districts are grouped.
- Demographic trends
The population of Mali has been growing at a rate that is higher than the world average but is comparable to the regional average. Life expectancy at birth, still comparatively low, has risen gradually since 1990 for both males and females, and there has been a slight decline in both birth and death rates, though they remain high by both world and African standards. The population is heavily weighted toward the young, as are most African populations. Population densities throughout Mali are low; in the more remote eastern and northeastern areas, densities are only about three persons per square mile (one per square kilometre). These have long been regions of sparse population, but the droughts of the 1970s and ’80s led many of Mali’s Tuareg and other groups either to migrate to the towns or, if their herds managed to survive, to find new grazing lands farther south in Mali or in neighbouring Burkina Faso. Predictably, there has been a major increase in the permanent urban population, which now exceeds one-fourth of the total population. Urban unemployment and underemployment are high, however. Where opportunities exist, Malians migrate to France and other European countries for education and employment.
Economy of Mali
Mali’s economy is overwhelmingly agricultural. With the northern half of the country occupied by the Sahara, most human activity is concentrated in the more southerly regions, in particular in the valleys of the Niger and Sénégal rivers and their tributaries. Subsistence agriculture and livestock raising characterize domestic activities, although many people supplement their income by growing cash crops such as cotton and by seasonal migration to Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. Change in the rural sector has been limited by an unfavourable climate, periodic droughts since the late 1960s, and low levels of technology.
The industrial and natural resource sectors have not been developed fully. Industry concentrates largely on food processing for domestic use, while advancement in the exploitation of extensive mineral resources is slow. Foreign exchange is obtained chiefly from the export of primary commodities that are vulnerable to volatile world markets and foreign-currency fluctuations. Revenue is insufficient to cover the cost of Mali’s imports, notably the high-value goods from France and other Western nations. In addition to its other problems, Mali has suffered severely from resource mismanagement, and the national debt has grown rapidly because of Mali’s dependency on foreign aid.
At the time of independence in 1960, the government adopted a socialist economic policy. State companies and rural cooperative societies were organized to regulate both the production and the distribution of goods. Since the first coup d’état in 1968, socialist policy has been mitigated by the encouragement of privatization, a process that has accelerated since the institution of democracy in 1992.
Bilateral external aid to Mali is provided largely by France, the United States, other European Union countries, and the countries of OPEC. International aid is granted by such organizations as the United Nations, the European Development Fund, and the United Nations Development Programme. Since 1981 the Malian government has responded to pressures from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and aid donors to encourage private investment and enterprise, liberalize domestic markets, and generally reduce state control. The country benefited from several debt-relief plans in the 1990s and 2000s, including the 2005 IMF plan that canceled 100 percent of Mali’s debt to that organization.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Subsistence and commercial agriculture are the bases of the Malian economy. Some four-fifths of the working population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, but the government supports the development of commercial products. An agricultural area of major importance is the inland Niger delta. Millet, rice, wheat, and corn (maize), as well as yams and cassava (manioc), are the main subsistence crops, while cotton is an important commercial crop; peanuts (groundnuts), sugarcane, tobacco, and tea are also grown for market. Market gardens produce a variety of vegetables and fruits, including cabbages, turnips, carrots, beans, tomatoes, bananas, mangoes, and oranges. Irrigation projects have been developed on the Niger near the towns of Ségou and Mopti. Livestock is commercially important; the major areas for livestock raising (cattle, sheep, and goats) are the Sahel and the region around Macina. Fishing is also of economic significance, although this sector has declined since the 1980s. Still, Mali is one of the largest producers of fish in western Africa. The inland delta is a particularly important fishing ground, though periods of drought have hindered development of these fisheries. Large-scale dam construction and environmental pollution have also hindered this sector.
- Resources and power
Mali’s mineral resources are extensive but remain relatively undeveloped. Exploited deposits include salt (at Taoudenni), marble and kaolin (at Bafoulabé), and limestone (at Diamou). The most important exploited mineral is gold, a significant source of foreign exchange. Gold is mined primarily in the southwestern areas of the country, on the Mandingue Plateau. The ancient Malian empire was based on the exploitation of gold, but those deposits were depleted before the advent of colonial rule in the 19th century.
Mali has many mineral deposits that are not commercially exploited, owing to the country’s limited infrastructure. Iron is the most widespread, with deposits found in the west near the Senegal and Guinea borders. Bauxite deposits are located near Kayes and on the Mandingue Plateau. Manganese is also found, and there are phosphate deposits in the area around Ansongo. Lithium has been discovered near Kayes and Bougouni, and there are uranium deposits in the Iforas. There are also small quantities of tungsten, tin, lead, copper, and zinc.
Electricity is largely produced in thermal power stations, but the role of hydroelectric power is growing. Thermal stations are located in Bamako and other large towns. Hydroelectric power is produced at the Sotuba and Markala dams on the Niger River, at the Sélingué dam on the Sankarani River (a tributary of the Niger), and at the Manantali Dam on the Sénégal. Oversight of the Manantali Dam, as well as other dams along the Sénégal, is the responsibility of the Organization for the Development of the Sénégal River, which comprises Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, and Guinea; the group is also tasked with management of the river’s resources. Solar-powered pumps provide electricity to some villages, and the world’s first commercial solar-power station was established at Diré.
Less than one-fifth of the labour force is employed in industry, and many people are involved in small-scale commerce. Most manufacturing enterprises process food and other agricultural products or make construction materials or consumer goods, the bulk of production being for the domestic market. Products include cotton fibre, printed cloth, and blankets. There are also shops for the construction of motorcycles, the repair of machinery, and the assembly of radios. Handicrafts are important, and the Malians are noted for their clothing, pottery, shoes, baskets, and wood carvings.
- Finance and trade
Mali, along with seven other French-speaking countries in western Africa, is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine). These countries share a common bank, the Central Bank of West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest), which is headquartered in Dakar, Seneg. The bank issues the currency used by the member countries, the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) franc, officially pegged to the euro since 2002. Mali has several commercial banks, development banks, and other financial institutions. Several French insurance companies maintain offices in Bamako. A regional stock exchange based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and serving Mali has a branch in Bamako.
The most important export items are gold, cotton, and live animals, while imports consist largely of machinery, appliances, and transport equipment and food products. Mali’s major trading partners are China and other Asian countries, neighbouring countries, and France. Mali is a member of the Economic Community of West African States, a body encompassing most states in western Africa that attempts to integrate and harmonize the economic interests of the region. Despite strict customs controls, smuggling—especially of cattle and fish—is considerable, especially to such neighbouring countries as Mauritania and Côte d’Ivoire.
- Services, labour, and taxation
Mali contains many historic places of interest, such as Timbuktu and Djenné. Although the transport infrastructure needs further development, hotel expansion and infrastructure improvements did take place before Mali hosted the 2002 African Cup of Nations football (soccer) tournament.
The majority of the workforce in Mali is centred on agriculture, with women performing a significant amount of the work. Workers in Mali are guaranteed the right to form or join trade unions, and there are several in the country, including the National Union of Malian Workers (Union Nationale des Travailleurs du Mali). Government revenue is derived from taxes on net income and profits, payroll, property, goods and services, and international trade.
- Transportation and telecommunications
Mali’s transportation systems are concentrated in the Sudanic and Sahelian regions. Because Mali is landlocked, its major transport routes connect with those of neighbouring countries and their ports to provide it with outlets to the sea.
Several main paved roads radiate from Bamako. It is linked with Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, Kankan in Guinea, Monrovia in Liberia, and Ayorou in Niger. An all-weather road connects Gao and Sévaré (Mali) and is part of the Trans-Sahara Highway that links Algeria and Nigeria. Railroad track runs from Koulikoro, a short distance northeast of Bamako, northwestward to Kayes and to Kidira, on the Senegal border, where it connects with the Senegalese railway to Dakar. These railways are being restored and modernized through donor-funded programs.
Given the inadequacies of land transport, the country’s two major rivers—the Niger and the Sénégal—are important transportation links. Koulikoro, along the Niger just northeast of Bamako, is the country’s primary riverine port. The Niger is navigable throughout its length in Mali year-round for small boats and from July to January for larger vessels. The Sénégal is navigable year-round only from Ambidédi, just west of Kayes, to the river’s mouth in Senegal.
A national airline, Compagnie Aérienne du Mali, operates both domestic and international flights. Mali’s main airport is at Bamako, and there are several smaller ones.
Mali’s telephone service is limited. Landline coverage is not widely available and is somewhat unreliable, although the government worked to improve and expand the infrastructure in the early 21st century. Mobile telephone service is far more popular than landline telephone service and is expanding more rapidly. Access to Internet services is limited but continues to gradually increase—particularly in urban areas, owing to the growing popularity of Internet cafés.
Government and Society of Mali
- Constitutional framework
The constitution promulgated at independence in 1960 guaranteed parliamentary democracy, although the provisions of it were not fully implemented. It was suspended after a military government took power in 1968, and a new constitution, approved in a national referendum in 1974 and enacted in 1979, made the Malian People’s Democratic Union (Union Démocratique du Peuple Malien; UDPM) the country’s sole legal party until 1991. In 1992 a third constitution was approved, providing for the separation of powers into three government branches, including a unicameral National Assembly as the legislative body. It also guaranteed the right to multiparty politics. The members of the Assembly are popularly elected to five-year terms, as is the president. The president, who can serve no more than two terms, is the head of state and appoints the prime minister (the head of government) and the cabinet.
The 1992 constitution was suspended after a military coup that began on March 21–22, 2012. Coup leaders quickly established the National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and Restoration of the State to govern the country and a week later introduced a new constitution. They faced mounting international condemnation for their actions, however, and, a few days after unveiling their new constitution, they announced that they would reinstate the 1992 version and work toward the establishment of a transitional government. The Economic Community of West African States mediated an agreement with the military leaders that provided for a return to civilian rule. Mali’s deposed president officially resigned so the presidential succession plan detailed in Article 36 of the 1992 constitution could be enacted, with the president of the National Assembly being sworn in as interim president on April 12, 2012. A democratically elected president was installed on September 4, 2013, marking an end to the interim administration.
- Local government
The country is divided into the eight régions of Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro, Mopti, Ségou, Sikasso, and Tombouctou and the district of Bamako. Each of the régions is further divided into administrative units called cercles, which are in turn subdivided into arrondissements. Each région is administered by a governor, who coordinates the activities of the cercles and implements economic policy. The cercles provide nuclei for the major government services; their various headquarters provide focal points for health services, the army, the police, local courts, and other government agencies. The arrondissement is the basic administrative unit, and its centre usually houses a school and a dispensary. It is composed of several villages, which are headed by chiefs and elected village councils.
As the head of the judicial system, the Supreme Court exercises both judicial and administrative powers; it is the court of first and last resort in matters concerning the government. Courts of appeal try all cases on appeal, and there are also magistrates’ courts. The High Court of Justice tries cases relating to malfeasance of senior government officials. Justices of the peace have full powers to judge ordinary civil, commercial, and financial cases; they sit in the headquarters of the cercles and also travel to the major towns of the arrondissements.
- Political process
Since 1960, new law codes have liberated women from traditional restraints, defined the rights and duties of citizens, and modified the penal procedure. The 1992 constitution furthered women’s rights considerably, although constitutionally guaranteed rights for women have not always been carried out in practice.
Mali has universal adult suffrage. Women and minorities have served in government positions, but in limited numbers: in the early 21st century, ethnic minorities and marginalized populations together held about one-tenth of the National Assembly seats, as did women. Women have also held cabinet posts and served on the Supreme Court, and the country’s first female prime minister was appointed in 2011.
The country has had political parties at various times since it gained independence in 1960. Under the first president, Modibo Keita, the Soudanese Union Party eventually became the only party until the military took over in 1968. Civilian government returned in 1979, when the country was led again by a one-party system, this time the Malian People’s Democratic Union, headed by Moussa Traoré, who was ultimately deposed in 1991 in favour of another military government, led by Amadou Toumani Touré. Political parties were once again allowed in 1992, and Alpha Konaré, of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali, was elected president that year. Since then, many political parties have been active in Mali.
Mali has a conscripted army, which requires two years of service, including the possibility of nonmilitary service. Mali’s military forces include army and air force contingents and a limited navy contingent as well. Paramilitary forces include the national police force, the republican guard, the militia, and gendarmerie units. Foreign troops—including French troops and those under the banner of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and a UN peacekeeping operation, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)—were present in Mali since 2013 to thwart the actions of Islamist fighters and maintain security while the country recovered from the 2012 coup and prepared for fresh elections.
- Health and welfare
Mali has few resources for health care, and child and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. State hospitals at Bamako and Kati are supplemented by a network of medical centres, maternity centres, dispensaries, and a mobile service that visits patients in rural areas. Research centres in tropical ophthalmology and leprosy treat patients at Bamako. Health care services are also provided by international relief organizations. Despite improvements in medical care, Mali is still challenged by a lack of personnel, facilities, resources, and supplies and by difficulties involving poor access to much of the country. Malnutrition and inadequate sanitation are also problems in many areas. Some progress has been made against polio, onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis, and leprosy, but yellow fever and cholera are common, and malaria remains a leading cause of death. While Mali has not been hit as hard by HIV as some African countries, AIDS is becoming more prevalent in urban areas.
- Victor Englebert
Houses in Mali are typically built of a mixture of earth and cement. Malian towns exhibit an eclectic mix of styles, including traditional mud huts, concrete houses, European-style villas, and mosques and government buildings in the Sudanese style. The Dogon built their houses into the Bandiagara Escarpment, which was designated a World Heritage site in 1989. These houses, built out of mud, have flat roofs where the inhabitants can sleep in warm weather, and their granaries have thatched conical roofs; both structures have decorative doors. Other houses, such as historic dwellings found in Djenné, were built on small hills to protect from seasonal flooding.
French, spoken by only a very small segment of the population, was the only language of instruction until 1994, when national languages such as Bambara and Fula were introduced into primary schools. Mali utilizes an educational track resembling the school system in France, Mali’s former colonial authority. In this system, primary and secondary education are compulsory and free from 7 to 16 years of age and are combined in the nine-year curriculum of the cycle fondemental (fundamental educational level). The general secondary school, or lycée, provides the last three years of traditional secondary education. Higher education—geared directly to the needs of the government—is offered by the University of Bamako (1993) and state colleges, which include teacher-training colleges, a college of administration, an engineering institute, an agricultural and veterinary science institute, and a medical school. Many of Mali’s university students study abroad, especially in France and Senegal. Other school reform has focused on such programs as “ruralization,” in which rural schools teach students about trades such as sewing, building, and farming in addition to such subjects as French, history, mathematics, and geography.
In the early 21st century, Mali remained a vast, poor country where opportunities for even primary education were extremely limited, especially in rural areas or among the nomadic peoples of the north. The World Bank began to assist Mali in 2000 by providing credit so that the country could expand its educational system. At that time only slightly more than half the population entered primary school. Expanding educational opportunities for the female population was also of interest to the Malian government. The country’s literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world, with estimates varying between two-fifths and one-third of the population being able to read. The literacy rate of women is significantly lower than that of men.
Culture Life of Mali
Approximately 90 percent of Malians follow Sunni Islam, but not always to the exclusion of traditional religious beliefs and practices. Muslims have their own educational systems, leading in some cases to the equivalent of baccalaureate and doctoral studies. An increasingly large number of Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca and study in Arab countries. Christians comprise about 5 percent of the population. Under French colonial rule, the introduction of missionaries into predominantly Islamic areas was discouraged.
Literacy in French, the official language, is low and is concentrated in the urban areas. The government has expanded literacy considerably since 1960 by stressing education at the primary and lower secondary levels, but the lack of resources to build and staff enough schools remains an obstacle. Girls' enrollment is lower than boys' at all levels, partly due to early marriage. Literacy rates among girls are much lower than for boys. A national university was established in Bamako in the 1990s.
Human trafficking remains a problem. Children are sold to work in rice fields, and boys to work in the mines. Girls are sold into domestic servitude. Though the government is trying to curb it, Mali remains a source, transit area, and destination for trafficking.
Mali's constitution protects freedom of the press, and its broadcast and print media are considered among the most free on the continent. In addition to the state-run print and broadcast media, Mali has over 40 private newspapers and 50 private radio and television stations.
About 70 percent of Malians, especially women, produce arts and crafts, including leather work, gold jewelry, wood carvings, pottery, basketry, and hand-woven blankets and cloth.
Mali is the home of some of the stars of African music, and the stardom of the late Ali Farka Toure in particular drew tourists and record producers to Bamako. Toure and others have linked the birth of American blues to the music played along the Niger River
History of Mali
Early History to the End of Colonialism
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 and W Mali and originally opposed to the Algeria government have also mounted attacks and abductions in Mali. In mid-2009 government forces conducted operations against the Islamist's bases; other operations against their Mali bases were later mounted by Mauritania, at times in conjunction with France or Mali.
The fall of Qaddafi in Libya (2011) reinvigorated the Tuareg rebellion when Tuaregs who had served in his army returned to Mali. In 2012 Tuareg and Islamist forces made significant advances in N Mali, and government losses sparked an army coup led by Capt. Amadou Sanogo in March. Territorial losses accelerated after the coup. By April the rebels controlled N Mali (roughly two thirds of the country but with a tenth of the population) and Tuareg forces declared the region independent. West African nations meanwhile pressured Sanogo to restore civilian government, and in April President Touré officially resigned as part of a deal to establish an interim government and hold new elections. The speaker of the parliament, Dioncounda Traoré, became interim president.
There was an alleged, unsuccessful countercoup in May, and Sanogo supporters subsequently called for him to serve as president and attacked the interim president; the situation in S Mali continued to be politically muddled, with no clear central authority and a lack of civilian control of the security forces. In December the military arrested the prime minister and forced him to resign.
Meanwhile, Islamist forces gained ascendancy in the north by June, and destroyed the shrines of Sufi saints there and imposed harsh Islamic law; several hundred thousand people fled the region. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sought an agreement on providing more than 3,000 troops in support of the government's retaking the north. The details of plan to do so and agreement with the Malians and the African Union and United Nations on the force were finalized gradually, and the Dec., 2012, ouster of the prime minister endangered the plan. The UN Security Council approved the deployment of foreign troops in Mali later in December, and after Islamists began advancing further toward the capital in Jan., 2013, France launched air strikes against the rebels, and France, ECOWAS nations, and Chad moved quickly to send troops to Mali.
French-led forces rapidly ousted the Islamists from the main population centers, but Gao, in E Mali, suffered a series of Islamist attacks after it was retaken. The Islamists largely retreated to nearby mountains and deserts, and mounted sporadic attacks in the main urban centers of N Mali from there. Tuareg rebels remained in control of Kidal, in NE Mali, and in June the rebels and the government signed a cease-fire accord. In April the United Nations approved a 12,600-member peacekeeping force for Mali (Minusma) that would incorporate some of the West African troops already in the country. Subsequently, combined French, UN, and Malian forces mounted occasional offenses against the Islamists. Slowly progressing negotiations with the Tuareg rebels led to clashes in late 2013.
In July–Aug., 2013, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who had served as prime minister in the mid and late 1990s, was elected president with more than three quarters of the vote in the August runoff. Keita subsequently moved to reduce the influence that the participants in the coup had over the army. In legislative elections held in November and December, Keita's Rally for Mali won a plurality of the seats, and with its allied parties it secured a majority.
Mali Area: 1,248,574 sq km (482,077 sq mi) Population (2008 est.): 12,324,000 Capital: Bamako Chief of state: President Amadou Toumani Touré Head of government: Prime Minister Modibo Sidibé Efforts ...>>>Read On<<<
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