Mali, officially the Republic of Mali (French: République du Mali), is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Upper Volta and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 430,000 km² with a population more than 11 million. Its capital is Bamako. Mali consists of five regions and the country's main region, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Sénégal 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. A year later, the Mali Federation became the independent nation of Mali.
In the colonial era, Mali fell under the control of the French beginning in the late 19th century. 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, which killed thousands of people from famine. 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 Traoré government's badly-managed handling of the chaos following Doomsday started to infuriate the general citizenry. So was the governments equally heavy handed suppression of the dissent. In 1987 the first cohesive opposition movements were founded in Mali. In 1988 anti-government protests led to a coup, a transitional government, and a new constitution. In 1989, Alpha Oumar Konaré won Mali's first democratic, multi-party presidential election.
Government and Politics
Mali is a constitutional democracy governed by the constitution of January 12, 1992, which was amended in 1999. The constitution provides for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The system of government can be described as "semi-presidential."
The Malians have strong relations with the nations of the West African Union. So far, they are unwilling to join the Union due to the strains that the educational requirements would have on the nation's budget. However, they have good enough relations for the WAU to facilitate a series of aid deals to the poverty-stricken country. This has improved relations steadily. An application to join the union is likely once the nation's economy reaches a point in which they can sustain the union's educational requirements.
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. Mali's resource in livestock consists of millions of cattle, sheep, and goats. Approximately 40% of Mali's herds were lost during the Sahel drought in 1972-74.
Since contact has been made with the West African Union in 2001, financial and material aid has poured into the country. The Malian economy is the strongest it has been since it gained its independence.