The History of Mali covers the course of events in the area now constituting the nation of Mali.
Mali's early history was dominated by three famed West African empires-- Ghana, Mali or "Manden Kurufa", and Songhai. These empires controlled trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, and other precious commodities and were in touch with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern centers of civilization. All of the empires arose in the area then known as the western Sudan, a vast region of savanna between the Sahara Desert to the north and the tropical rain forests along the Guinean coast to the south. All were characterized by strong leadership (matrilineal) and kin-based societies. None had rigid geopolitical boundaries.
The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke people and centered in the area along the border of the modern states of Mali and Mauritania. The Ghana Empire began possibly as early as the fifth century AD, and was a powerful trading state between c. 700 and 1075. From its capital in Kumbi Saleh on the edge of the desert, the empire expanded throughout southeastern Mauritania, southwestern Mali, and northern Senegal.
Although originally a diverse settlement of agro-pastoralists, the empire was soon dominated by the Soninké, a Mandé speaking people. The Soninké kings never fully adopted Islam, but the empire had good relations with Muslim traders. Nevertheless, the Ghana Empire fell in 1078 as a result of inter-dynastic turmoil and a sweeping change in political structure, likely attributable to Almoravid intervention. Ghana survived in a diminished form until Kumbi Saleh was destroyed in 1203 by a former vassal state, the anti-Muslim Sosso Kingdom, which ultimately controlled the southern portions of the former Ghana Empire.
After the collapse of the Songhai empire, no single state controlled the region. The Moroccan invaders only succeeded in occupying a few portions of the country, and even in those locations where they did attempt to rule, their hold was weak and challenged by rivals. Several small successor kingdoms arose. Among the most notable in what is now Mali were:
The Bambara Empire existed as a centralized state from 1712 to 1861, was based at Ségou (also seen as Segu), and ruled parts of central and southern Mali. It existed until El Hadj Umar Tall, a Toucouleur conqueror swept across West Africa from Futa Tooro. Umar Tall's mujahideen readily defeated the Bambara, seizing Ségou itself on March 10, 1861 and declaring an end to the empire.
A split in the Kulibali dynasty in Ségou led to the establishment of a second Bambara state, the kingdom of Kaarta, in what is now western Mali, in 1753. It was defeated in 1854 by Umar Tall, leader of Toucouleur Empire, before his war with Ségou.
The Senufo Kenedugu Kingdom originated in the 17th century in the area around what is now the border of Mali and Burkina Faso. In 1877 the capital was moved to Sikasso. It resisted the effort of Samori Ture, leader of Wassoulou Empire, in 1887, to conquer it, and was one of the last kingdoms in the area to fall to the French in 1898.
An Islamic-inspired uprising in the largely Fula Inner Niger Delta region against rule by Ségou in 1818 led to establishment of a separate state. It later allied with Bambara Empire against Umar Tall's Toucouleur Empire and was also defeated by it in 1862.
This Empire, founded by El Hadj Umar Tall of the Toucouleur people, beginning in 1836, ruled eventually most of what is now Mali until the French conquest of the region in 1890. This was in some ways a turbulent period, with ongoing resistance in Massina and increasing pressure from the French.
The Wassoulou or Wassulu empire was a short-lived (1878–1898) empire, led by Samori Ture in the predominately Malinké area of what is now upper Guinea and southwestern Mali (Wassoulou). It later moved to Côte d'Ivoire before being conquered by the French.
Mali fell under French colonial rule in 1892. In 1893, the French appointed a civilian governor of the territory they called Soudan Français (French Sudan), but active resistance to French rule continued. By 1905, most of the area was under firm French control. French Sudan was administered as part of the Federation of French West Africa and supplied labor to France’s colonies on the coast of West Africa. In 1958 the renamed Sudanese Republic obtained complete internal autonomy and joined the French Community. In early 1959, the Sudanese Republic and Senegal formed the Federation of Mali, which gained full independence from France as part of the French Community on June 20, 1960. Following the withdrawal of Senegal from the federation in August 1960, the Sudanese Republic became the independent nation of Mali on September 22, 1960, with Modibo Keïta as president. Keïta quickly established a one-party state, withdrew from the French Community in 1962, adopted an independent African and socialist orientation with close ties to the Eastern bloc, and implemented extensive nationalization of economic resources. Following a progressive economic decline, however, Mali was forced to rejoin the Franc Zone in 1967. I rule the World!!!
On April 4 1959, French Sudan was joined with 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, Sudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew from the French Community.
President Modibo Keita, whose Union Soudanaise du Rassemblement Democratique Africain (US/RDA) party had dominated preindependence politics (as a member of the African Democratic Rally), moved quickly to declare a single-party state and to pursue a socialist policy based on extensive nationalization. Keita also had close ties to the Eastern bloc. 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. In late December 1985, however, a border dispute between Mali and Burkina Faso over the mineral rich Agacher strip erupted into a brief war. 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). Attempting to address Mali’s economic problems, the government implemented some reforms in the state enterprise system, created new incentives for private enterprise, and attempted to control public corruption. It also signed a new structural adjustment agreement with the IMF. But the populace became increasingly dissatisfied with the austerity measures imposed by the IMF plan as well as their perception that the ruling elite was not subject to the same strictures. In response to the growing demands for multiparty democracy then sweeping the continent, the Traoré regime did allow some limited political liberalization. In National Assembly elections in June 1988, multiple UDPM candidates were permitted to contest each seat, and the regime organized nationwide conferences to consider how to implement democracy within the one-party framework. Nevertheless, the regime refused to usher in a fullfledged democratic system.
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. Cohesive opposition movements began to emerge, including the National Democratic Initiative Committee and the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Alliance pour la Démocratie au Mali, ADEMA). The increasingly turbulent political situation was complicated by the rise of ethnic violence in the north in mid-1990. The return to Mali of large numbers of Tuareg who had migrated to Algeria and Libya during a prolonged drought increased tensions in the region between the nomadic Tuareg and the sedentary population. Ostensibly fearing a Tuareg secessionist movement in the north, the Traoré regime imposed a state of emergency and harshly repressed Tuareg unrest. Despite the signing of a peace accord in January 1991, unrest and periodic armed clashes continued.
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, led by current President Amadou Toumani Touré, 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 Jwere elected. On June 8, 1992, Alpha Oumar Konaré, the candidate of 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 Konaré's ADEMA party, causing some other historic parties to boycott subsequent elections. President Konaré 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.
Konaré stepped down after his constitutionally mandated limit of two terms and did not run in the 2002 elections. Touré then reemerged, this time as a civilian. Running as an independent on a platform of national unity, Touré won the presidency in a runoff against the candidate of Adema, which had been divided by infighting and suffered from the creation of a spin-off party, the Rally for Mali (Rassemblement pour le Mali—RPM). Touré had retained great popularity because of his role in the transitional government in 1991–92. The 2002 election was a milestone, marking Mali's first successful transition from one democratically elected president to another, despite the persistence of electoral irregularities and low voter turnout. In the 2002 legislative elections, no party gained a majority; Touré then appointed a politically inclusive government and pledged to tackle Mali’s pressing social and economic development problems.