Location: West Africa.
Climate: Tropical to arid.
Independence: June 20, 1960.
Capital City: Bamako.
Head of State: Alpha Omar Konare.
Area: 1,240,142 sq.km.
Type of Government: Republic.
Religion: Muslim 90%, African religion 9%, Christian 1%.
Official Language: French.
Principal Languages: Bamana, Senufo, Songhai, Fulfulde, Tamacheg.
Major Exports: Cotton, Livestock.
History: Beginning in the 5th century the region now comprising Mali was part of several empires whose great cities near the Niger River, including TIMBUKTU, prospered because of their location on the trans-Saharan trade routes. Under the first of these states, the Ghana empire, Islam was first introduced; following an ALMORAVID invasion during the 10th century, Ghana declined.
The empire for which the modern nation is named soon arose and reached its peak during the 14th century under MANSA MUSA, who became famous after making a lavish pilgrimage to Mecca (1324-25). By the 17th century the Mali empire had disintegrated but was followed by the SONGHAI empire. The non-Muslim BAMBARA KINGDOMS arose during the late 17th century. During the 19th century the region was swept by Islamic holy wars, and the Bambara rulers were deposed by Muslim Fulani of MACINA. These rulers were, in turn, defeated by the army of the Islamic reformer al-Hajj UMAR during the 1850s.
The French arrived at Segou in 1866, and by 1898 they had conquered all of Mali, overcoming opposition led by Samori Toure. After two decades of French military rule, the area became the colony of French Soudan, a part of the Federation of French West Africa (established 1904).
In 1959 the colonies of Soudan and Senegal joined to form the Mali Federation, which became independent in 1960. The federation collapsed shortly thereafter, and Soudan became the Republic of Mali, led by President Modibo Keita.
Discontent with Keita's socialist policies led to his overthrow in a 1968 coup led by Col. Moussa Traore. A military council then ruled the country until 1979, when a constitution adopted in 1974 came into effect. It made Mali a one-party state with an elected president and legislature. Traore was elected president in 1979 and re-elected in 1985.
Years of economic decline and demands for political reform led to the rise of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Adema). Following a popular rebellion, a military coup led by Lt. Col. Amadou Tumani Toure overthrew Traore in March 1991.
Toure submitted to popular pressure by appointing a civilian, Soumanna Sacko, as interim prime minister of a transitional government. A national conference drew up a constitution for the third republic, guaranteeing multiparty government. Adema won a majority of seats in the unicameral National Assembly of February 1992, and in April, Adema leader Alpha Oumar Konare won a landslide victory in presidential elections.