Historically, good interethnic relations throughout the rest of the country were facilitated by easy mobility on the Niger River and across the country's vast savannahs. Each ethnic group was traditionally tied to a specific occupation, all working within close proximity. The Bambara, Malinke, Sarakole, and Dogon are farmers; the Fulani, Maur, and Tuareg are herders; while the Bozo are fishers. In recent years, this linkage has shifted as ethnic groups seek diverse, nontraditional sources of income.
Although each ethnic group speaks a separate language, nearly 80% of Malians communicate in Bambara, the common language of the marketplace. Malians enjoy a relative harmony rare in African states.
The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke people and centered in the area along the Malian-Mauritanian frontier, was a powerful trading state from about A.D. 700 to 1075. The Malinke Kingdom of Mali had its origins on the upper Niger River in the 11th century. Expanding rapidly in the 13th century under the leadership of Soundiata Keita, it reached its height about 1325, when it conquered Timbuktu and Gao. Thereafter, the kingdom began to decline, and by the 15th century, it controlled only a small fraction of its former domain.
The Songhai Empire expanded its power from its center in Gao during the period 1465-1530. At its peak under Askia Mohammad I, it encompassed the Hausa states as far as Kano (in present-day Nigeria) and much of the territory that had belonged to the Mali Empire in the west. It was destroyed by a Moroccan invasion in 1591.
French military penetration of the Soudan (the French name for the area) began around 1880. Ten years later, the French made a concerted effort to occupy the interior. The timing and method of their advances were determined by resident military governors. A French civilian governor of Soudan was appointed in 1893, but resistance to French control did not end until 1898, when the MalinkŽ warrior Samory TourŽ was defeated after 7 years of war. The French attempted to rule indirectly, but in many areas they disregarded traditional authorities and governed through appointed chiefs. As the colony of French Soudan, Mali was administered with other French colonial territories as the Federation of French West Africa.
In 1956, with the passing of France's Fundamental Law (Loi Cadre), the Territorial Assembly obtained extensive powers over internal affairs and was permitted to form a cabinet with executive authority over matters within the Assembly's competence. After the 1958 French constitutional referendum, the "Republique Soudanaise" became a member of the French Community and enjoyed complete internal autonomy.
In January 1959, Soudan joined Senegal to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent within the French Community on June 20, 1960. The federation collapsed on August 20, 1960, when Senegal seceded. On September 22, Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew from the French Community.
President Modibo Keita, whose party (Union Soudanaise du Rassemblement Democratique Africain--US/RDA) had dominated preindependence politics, moved quickly to declare a single-party state and to pursue a socialist policy based on extensive nationalization. A continuously deteriorating economy led to a decision to rejoin the Franc Zone in 1967 and modify some of the economic excesses.
On November 19, 1968, a group of young officers staged a bloodless coup and set up a 14-member Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN), with Lt. Moussa Traore as president. The military leaders attempted to pursue economic reforms, but for several years faced debilitating internal political struggles and the disastrous Sahelian drought.
A new constitution, approved in 1974, created a one-party state and was designed to move Mali toward civilian rule. However, the military leaders remained in power. In September 1976, a new political party was established, the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM), based on the concept of democratic centralism. Single-party presidential and legislative elections were held in June 1979, and Gen. Moussa Traore received 99% of the votes. His efforts at consolidating the single-party government were challenged in 1980 by student-led anti-government demonstrations, which were brutally put down, and by three coup attempts.
The political situation stabilized during 1981 and 1982, and remained generally calm throughout the 1980s. The UDPM spread its structure to Cercles and Arrondissements across the land. Shifting its attention to Mali's economic difficulties, the government approved plans for cereal marketing liberalization, reform in the state enterprise system, new incentives to private enterprise, and worked out a new structural adjustment agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, by 1990, there was growing dissatisfaction with the demands for austerity imposed by the IMF's economic reform programs and the perception that the president and his close associates were not themselves adhering to those demands.
As in other African countries, demands for multi-party democracy increased. The Traore government allowed some opening of the system, including the establishment of an independent press and independent political associations, but insisted that Mali was not ready for democracy. In early 1991, student-led anti-government rioting broke out again, but this time it was supported also by government workers and others. On March 26, 1991, after 4 days of intense anti-government rioting, a group of 17 military officers arrested President Traore and suspended the constitution. Within days, these officers joined with the Coordinating Committee of Democratic Associations to form a predominantly civilian, 25-member ruling body, the Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People (CTSP). The CTSP then appointed a civilian-led government. A national conference held in August 1991 produced a draft constitution (approved in a referendum January 12, 1992), a charter for political parties, and an electoral code. Political parties were allowed to form freely. Between January and April 1992, a president, National Assembly, and municipal councils were elected. On June 8, 1992, Alpha Oumar Konare, the candidate of the Association for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), was inaugurated as the president of Mali's Third Republic.
In 1997, attempts to renew national institutions through democratic elections ran into administrative difficulties, resulting in a court-ordered annulment of the legislative elections held in April 1997. The exercise, nonetheless, demonstrated the overwhelming strength of President Konare's ADEMA party, causing some other historic parties to boycott subsequent elections. President Konare won the presidential election against scant opposition on May 11. In the two-round legislative elections conducted on July 21 and August 3, ADEMA secured over 80% of the National Assembly seats.
The National Assembly is the sole legislative arm of the government. It currently consists of 147 members. Representation is apportioned according to the population of administrative districts. Election is direct and by party list. The term of office is 5 years. The Assembly meets for two regular sessions each year. It debates and votes on legislation proposed either by one of its members or by the government and has the right to question government ministers about government actions and policies. Eight political parties, aggregated into four parliamentary groups, are represented in the Assembly. ADEMA currently holds the majority; minority parties are represented in all committees and in the Assembly directorate.
Mali's constitution provides for a multi-party democracy, with the only restriction being a prohibition against parties based on ethnic, religious, regional, or gender lines. In addition to those political parties represented in the National Assembly, others are active in municipal councils.
Administratively, Mali is divided into eight regions and the capital district of Bamako, each under the authority of an appointed governor. Each region consists of five to nine districts (or Cercles), administered by commandants. Cercles are divided into communes, which, in turn, are divided into villages or quarters. Plans for decentralization have begun with the establishment of 702 elected municipal councils, headed by elected mayors. Further plans envision election of local officials, greater local control over finances, and the reduction of administrative control by the central government.
Mali's legal system is based on codes inherited at independence from France. New laws have been enacted to make the system conform to Malian life, but French colonial laws not abrogated still have the force of law. The constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary. However, the Ministry of Justice appoints judges and supervises both law enforcement and judicial functions. The Supreme Court has both judicial and administrative powers. Under the constitution, there is a separate constitutional court and a high court of justice with the power to try senior government officials in cases of treason.
Mali maintains an embassy in the United States at 2130 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-2249), and a permanent mission to the United Nations at 111 E. 69th Street, New York, NY 10020 (212-734-4150). The Malian Embassy website is http://www.maliembassy-usa.org
The most productive agricultural area lies along the banks of the Niger River between Bamako and Mopti and extends south to the borders of Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso. Average rainfall varies in this region from 50 centimeters per year (20 in.) around Mopti to 140 centimeters (55 in.) in the south near Sikasso. This area is most important for the production of cotton, rice, millet, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and tree crops.
Rice is grown extensively along the banks of the Niger between Segou and Mopti, with the most important rice-producing area at the Office du Niger, located north of Segou toward the Mauritanian border. Using water diverted from the Niger, the Office du Niger irrigates about 60,000 hectares of land for rice and sugarcane production. About one-third of Mali's paddy rice is produced at the Office du Niger.
The Niger River also is an important source of fish, providing food for riverside communities; the surplus--smoked, salted, and dried--is exported. Due to drought and diversion of river water for agriculture, fish production has steadily declined since the early 1980s.
Sorghum is planted extensively in the drier parts of the country and along the banks of the Niger in eastern Mali, as well as in the lake beds in the Niger delta region. During the dry season, farmers near the town of Dire have cultivated wheat on irrigated fields for hundreds of years. Peanuts are grown throughout the country but are concentrated in the area around Kita, west of Bamako.
Mali's resource in livestock consists of millions of cattle, sheep, and goats. Approximately 40% of Mali's herds were lost during the great drought in 1972-74. The level was gradually restored, but the herds were again decimated in the 1983-85 drought. The overall size of Mali's herds is not expected to reach predrought levels in the north of the country, where encroachment of the desert has forced many nomadic herders to abandon pastoral activities and turn instead to farming. The largest concentrations of cattle are in the areas north of Bamako and SŽgou extending into the Niger delta, but herding activity is gradually shifting southward, due to the effects of previous droughts. Sheep, goats, and camels are raised to the exclusion of cattle in the dry areas north and east of Timbuktu.
Until the mid-1960s, Mali was self-sufficient in grains--millet, sorghum, rice, and corn. Diminished harvests during bad years, a growing population, changing dietary habits, and, most importantly, policy constraints on agricultural production resulted in grain deficits almost every year from 1965 to 1986. Production has rebounded since 1987, however, thanks to agricultural policy reforms undertaken by the government and supported by the Western donor nations. Liberalization of producer prices and an open cereals market have created incentives to production. These reforms, combined with adequate rainfall, successful integrated rural agriculture programs in the south, and improved management of the Office du Niger, have led to surplus cereal production over the past 5 years.
Annual rainfall, critical for Mali's agriculture, has been at or above average since 1993. Cereal production, including rice, has grown annually, and the 1997-98 cotton harvest reached a record 500,000 tons.
Mining is a rapidly growing industry in Mali, with gold accounting for some 80% of mining activity. There are considerable proven reserves of other minerals not currently exploited. Gold has become Mali's third-largest export, after cotton and livestock. There are two large private investments in gold mining: Anglo- American ($250 million) and Randgold ($140 million), both multinational South African companies located respectively in the western and southern part of the country.
During the colonial period, private capital investment was virtually nonexistent, and public investment was devoted largely to the Office du Niger irrigation scheme and to administrative expenses. Following independence, Mali built some light industries with the help of various donors. Manufacturing, consisting principally of processed agricultural products, accounted for about 8% of the GDP in 1990.
With the encouragement of the major donors and international financial institutions, the Government of Mali initiated a series of adjustment and stabilization programs beginning in 1982. Measures were introduced to reduce budgetary deficits, public enterprise operating losses, and public sector arrears. Substantial progress was made in the first few years of the adjustment program, but the pace of reform slowed considerably in 1987 and required the intervention of donors to avert a financial crisis.
Under the economic reform program signed with the World Bank and the IMF in 1988, the government has taken a number of steps to liberalize the regulatory environment and thereby attract private investment. For example, applications for the establishment of business enterprises now enjoy "one window" (guichet unique) processing through a single ministry, allowing a business to be established in a matter of days. In addition, price controls on consumer goods have been progressively eliminated; the last price control, on petroleum products, was removed on July 1, 1992. Import quotas were eliminated in 1988, and export taxes were dropped in 1991. The Commerce Code was revised in 1991 to remove impediments to commercial activity. The investment and the mining codes also were revised in the early 1990s in order to present a good investment climate. Also in 1991, a system of commercial and administrative courts was established to handle private trade complaints and claims against the government.
During the period 1988-96, the government implemented a large reform program of the public enterprise sector, including the privatization of 16 enterprises, the partial privatization of 12, and the liquidation of 20; others were restructured. Among the 20 enterprises left, five recently were proposed for privatization, and two large companies--Energie du Mali, electricity and water and Societe de Telecommunications du Mali, telecommunications--plan partial privatization.
Mali is a major recipient of foreign aid from many sources, including multilateral organizations (most significantly the World Bank, African Development Bank, and Arab Funds), and bilateral programs funded by the European Union, France, United States, Canada, Netherlands, and Germany. Before 1991, the former Soviet Union had been a major source of economic and military aid, including construction of a cement plant and the Kalana gold mine. Currently, aid from Russia is restricted mainly to training and provision of spare parts. Chinese aid remains high, and Chinese-Malian joint venture companies have become more numerous in the last 3 years, leading to the opening of a Chinese investment center. The Chinese are major participants in the textile industry and in largescale construction projects, including a bridge across the Niger, a conference center, an expressway in Bamako, and a new national stadium scheduled to be completed for the Africa Cup competition in 2002.
In 1998, U.S. assistance reached over $40 million. This included $39 million in sector support through United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programs, largely channeled to local communities through private voluntary agencies; Peace Corps program budget of $2.2 million for more than 160 Volunteers serving in Mali; Self Help and the Democracy Funds of $170,500; and $650,000 designated for electoral support. Military assistance includes $275,000 for the International Military Education Training (IMET) program, $1.6 million for the African Crisis response Initiative (ACRI), $60,000 for Joint Combined Exercise Training (JCET), and $100,000 for Humanitarian Assistance.
Mali is a member of the UN and many of its specialized agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank; International Labor Organization (ILO); International Telecommunications Union (ITU); Universal Postal Union (UPU). It also belongs to the Organization of African Unity (OAU); Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC); Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); an associate member of the European Community (EC); African Development Bank (ADB); and INTELSAT.
Mali is active in regional organizations. It participates in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic Monetary Union (UEMOA) for regional economic integration; Liptako-Gourma Authority, which seeks to develop the contiguous areas of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso; the Niger River Commission; the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS); and the Senegal River Valley Development Organization (OMVS).
Mali also serves as an important laboratory for testing new anti-malaria medicines for use by American citizen travelers and for research which will have an Africa-wide impact. USAID, Peace Corps, and other U.S. Government programs play a significant role in fostering sustainable economic and social development. USAID programs also strengthen efforts to consolidate the peace process in North Mali and the region's socioeconomic and political integration. Defense Department security assistance programs and training support help permit Mali to achieve its potential in international peacekeeping efforts.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Rue Mohamed V and Rue Rochester NY, Bamako, tel.: (223) 22-54-70 or 22-38-33 (after hours), fax: (223) 22-37-12. The mailing address is BP 34, Bamako, Mali. The Embassy website is www.usa.org.ml. Embassy hours are 7:30 a.m - 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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