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     Independent Mali - from 1960

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Independence: from1960

On becoming independent in 1960, after the dissolution of French West Africa, the previous colony of French Sudan changes its name to the republic of Mali, reflecting a link with one of Africa's greatest historical kingdoms. The Mali of the sultan Mansa Musa, fabled for his wealth, centred on this region - as did also the great kingdom of Ghana in preceding centuries.

The first president of Mali is an extremely experienced left-wing politician, Modibo Keita, who has been the first African vice president of the national assembly in Paris and has served in two French cabinets.

Keita imposes on Mali a rigorously communist and deeply unpopular regime. It lasts only until 1968 when Keita is ousted in a bloodless coup organized by a group of young army officers. At their head is Lieutenant Moussa Traoré, who becomes the dominant figure in the politics of Mali for the next twenty-three years.

From 1969 to 1979 Traoré rules through an appointed Military Committee of National Liberation, but in 1979 elections are organized. They do little to alter the existing state of affairs. The party sponsored by the army, the UDPM (Mali People's Democratic Union) wins all eighty-two seats in the National Assembly in 1979 and again in 1985.

Traoré himself is similarly elected president in 1979 and reelected in 1985. He follows a less doctrinaire policy than Keita, attempting to diversify the economy and maintaining a non-aligned position in international affairs. But he is finally toppled after pro-democracy riots in 1991, during which 106 people are killed. (Traoré and three of his senior aides are sentenced to death in 1993 for their handling of these demonstrations.)

Under a new constitution, approved by referendum in 1992, democracy seems to arrive in profusion in Mali . By 1995 more than fifty political parties are registered. But in practice this makes little difference to the continuation of one-party rule, albeit by a new party.

After the coup of 1991 Troaré's UPDM is dissolved. In 1992 Alpha Konaré is elected president and his party, ADEMA (Alliance for Democracy in Mali), wins control of the national assembly. Elections in 1997 bring the same result, after a boycott of the electoral process by opposition parties.

During the Troaré years the main external problem is a border conflict with Burkina Faso, which flares into war in 1975-6 and again in 1985. However it is peacefully resolved in 1986, when both sides accept the arbitration of the International Court of Justice.

In the 1990s there is a more dramatic internal conflict with the nomadic Tuareg in the north of the country. Warfare between Mali forces and Tuareg rebels, beginning in 1991, results in an exodus of some 120,000 Tuareg refugees to camps in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger (where a similar confrontation with the government is taking place at the same period).

From 1994 peace agreements are signed with some of the Tuareg rebel groups. And by 1996 the dispute seems to be largely resolved, with former fighters of the various Tuareg liberation movements absorbed into Mali's regular army.