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Moussa Traoré

In office
November 19, 1968 – March 26, 1991
Preceded by Modibo Keïta
Succeeded by Amadou Toumani Touré

Born September 25, 1936 (1936-09-25) (age 73)
Kayes, Mali
Nationality Malian
Political party Military (later UDPM)
Spouse(s) Mariam Traoré

General Moussa Traoré (born 25 September 1936) is a Malian soldier and politician. As a Lieutenant, he led the military ouster of President Modibo Keïta in 1968. Thereafter he served as Head of State (by various titles) from 1968-1979, and President of Mali from 1979 to 1991, when he was overthrown by popular protests and military coup. He was twice condemned to death in the 1990s, but eventually pardoned on both occasions and freed in 2002. He has since retired from political life.


Early life

Born in Kayes Region, he studied at Kita and at the military academy in Fréjus, France. He returned to Mali in 1960, after its 1959 independence. He became second lieutenant in 1961, and lieutenant in 1963. He went to Tanganyika (now Tanzania) as military instructor to its liberation movements. He then became instructor at the École militaire interarmes in Kati.

Head of State 1968-1991

On 19 November 1968 he took part in the coup d'état which deposed President Modibo Keïta. He became president of the Comité militaire de libération nationale, which made him effective Head of State of the Republic of Mali. All political activity was banned. A police state was run by Captain Tiécoro Bagayoko. Informers monitored academics and teachers, mostly hostile to the military rule. The socialist economic policies of Modibo Keïta were partially dropped. In 1972-1973, a major drought hit Mali. International aid money was corruptly appropriated. In 1974, he issued a changed constitution for a Malian Second Republic, which was inaugurated in 1978, and was proported 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 non-ideological democratic centralism. Single- party presidential and legislative elections were held in June 1979, and Gen. Moussa Traore received 99% of the votes.[1]

In 1977 ex-president Modibo Keïta died in detention, in suspicious circumstances. His funeral was well attended. The regime reacted strongly, and made violent arrests. On 28 February 1978, Moussa Traoré had arrested both Tiécoro Bagayoko and Kissima Doukara, defence and security minister, on accusations of plotting a coup. In trying to move to more open politics, he appointed the historian Alpha Oumar Konaré as arts minister. In 1979, he created the UDPM (Union Démocratique du Peuple Malien), a single permitted political party; also the Union Nationale des Femmes du Mali and Union Nationale des Jeunes du Mali, compulsory organisations for women and young people. In 1980, student demonstrations were broken up, and their leader Abdoul Karim Camara ("Cabral") died from torture. In 1982, he was made commander-in-chief. Traoré was chairman of the Organization of African Unity from May 1988 to July 1989. The UDPM-controlled legislature amended the constitution in 1985 to remove limits on the length of time a president could hold office--effectively making Traoré president for life.

The political situation stabilized during 1981 and 1982, and remained generally calm throughout the 1980s. The UDPM began attracting additional members as it demonstrated that it could counter an effective voice against the excesses of local administrative authorities. 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 an 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. [2]

Opposition and overthrow

In 1990, the National Congress for Democratic Initiative (Congrès National d’Initiative démocratique, CNID) was set up by the lawyer Mountaga Tall, and the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Alliance pour la démocratie au Mali, ADEMA) by Abdramane Baba and historian Alpha Oumar Konaré. These with the Association des élèves et étudiants du Mali (AEEM) and the Association Malienne des Droits de l'Homme (AMDH) aimed to contest Moussa Traoré's rule, with a plural political life. Under the old constitution, all labor unions had to belong to one confederation, the National Union of Malian Workers (UNTM). When the leadership of the UNTM broke from the government in 1990, the opposition grew. In part this was a reaction to the stalling of Traoré's "Multiparisme" program, announced in October 1989 but then shelved. In part, these groups were driven by paycuts and layoffs in the government sector, and the Malian government acceding to pressure from international donors to privatise large swathes of the economy that had remained in public hands even after the overthrow of the socialist government in 1968. Students, even children, played an increasing role in Bamako's protest marches, and homes and businesses of those associated with the regime were ransacked by crowds. On 22 March 1991 a huge protest march in central Bamako was put down violently, with estimates of those killed reaching 300. Four days later a military coup deposed Traoré. The Comité de Transition pour le Salut du Peuple was set up, headed by General Amadou Toumani Touré.[3]

Trials and pardons

In 1993, Traoré was condemned to death for "political crimes", largely focused on the killing of around 300 pro-democracy demonstrators in Bamako, but his sentence was later commuted. In 1999 was once more condemned to death with his wife Mariam Traoré, for "economic crimes": the embezzling of the equivalent of USD$350,000 during his rule. President Alpha Oumar Konaré commuted these sentences to life imprisonment. Shortly before leaving office, on 29 May 2002, he further pardoned the couple, for the sake of national reconciliation, a stance which incoming president Amadou Toumani Touré championed. [4]

Traoré's once reviled legacy has been somewhat softened under President Amadou Toumani, with the former dictator recognised at least informally as a former head of state and many former supporters now rallying around Chogel Maiga's Patriotic Movement for Renewal party (Mouvement Patriotique pour le Renouveau, MPR). Both Traoré and his wife have retired from public life, in part due to ill health.[5]


  1. ^ Background Note: Mali. Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Description: Historical, Political and Economic Overviews of the Countries of the World Date: Apr, 15 19934/15/93.
  2. ^ Background Note: Mali. Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Description: Historical, Political and Economic Overviews of the Countries of the World Date: Apr, 15 19934/15/93.
  3. ^ Patrick Manning. Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 1880-1995: 1880-1995. Cambridge University Press (1998) ISBN 0521645190 pp.198-199
  4. ^ Former Malian president escapes death again, BBC 22 September 1999. New Malian president sworn in, BBC 8 June 2002.
  5. ^ Mali ex-ruler rejects pardon, BBC, 30 May 2002.


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