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History of Mali

By Iman Kagimu

Edited by Ella Fasciano

There are many people who have never heard of the country Mali. I’m here to give you a brief history of it. Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa, bordering countries such as Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire. It is one of the largest countries in Africa, with a population of around 20 million. Sundiata Keita founded the Mali Empire which lasted from 1240-1645 CE, it became the largest empire in Africa. Mali was one of the greatest civilizations in the history of the world, at one point it spanned from the Atlantic Coast to the central region of the Sahara Desert. When Mansa Musa gained control, a lot of wealth was brought through trade routes through the Niger River. A few commodities that passed through the routes were, gold, ivory, copper and salt. Muslim merchants also passed through these trade routes and spread Islam to the people of Mali, hence why the main religion in Mali today is Islam. Both the African and Islam traditions intertwined together. Around 1898, France colonized the area and called it “French Soudan” and along with other French colonies it formed the “Federation of French West Africa”. Then in 1958, the country was allowed internal autonomy as it joined the French Community. In the start of 1959, it joined Senegal to form the “Mali Federation”, however, it fell apart a year later when Sudan seceded and a month later, French Soudan left and gained independence from the French Community and became known as the “Republic of Mali”.

Mobido Keita who previously served as a deputy in the French National Assembly became the first president of Mali in 1960. During his reign he was a proud Marxist and implemented socialist views on society. In 1967, Mali had severe economic problems and when Keita wanted to use French support, everyone believed that he was betraying them. Europe gave loans to other countries, but they were actually putting African countries into deep and terrible debt that was hard to repay. In 1968 he was overthrown in a coup and was sent to prison. In 1974, their new constitution was created and so was their one party state, however, Mali was ruled by high ranking military officers.

Currently, Mali is facing a large power crisis. In 2013, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the former Prime Minister, won the Presidential election in a landslide. He explained his main focusing by saying, “ I want to reconcile hearts and minds, restore true brotherhood between us so that all the different people can play their part harmoniously in the national symphony”. A week ago, Keita was forced to resign during a coup led by military troops. While some people liked him, the country faced a lot of violence which led to thousands being killed and fleeing the country. There were also issues of “slow reform, a crumbling economy and decrepit public services and schools…. Government corruption.” All of this led to large protests in Bamako, the capital as the country was finally fed up with no beneficial changes to society.

The military troops that have now taken over have many demands including the installation of a military led government of all soldiers to rule the country for three years. If their demands are met, they will release Keita. However, Keita is not the only one being held captive— Prime Minister Boubou Cisse is also a prisoner. The military government and mediators from the “Economic Community of West African States” (ECOWAS) have been meeting to discuss the situation and have agreed to an extent on some points but not all. The borders have been put on lockdown and so have any financial flow/sources. The story continues to evolve.

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