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(mä`lē), officially Republic of Mali, independent republic (2015 est. pop. 17,468,000), 478,764 sq mi (1,240,000 sq km), the largest country in W Africa. Mali is bordered on the north by Algeria, on the east and southeast by Niger, on the south by Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, and on the west by Guinea, Senegal, and Mauritania. BamakoBamako
, city (1987 pop. 646,163), capital of Mali and of the Bamako district, SW Mali, on the Niger River. It is the nation's administrative center, as well as a river port, a junction on the Dakar-Niger RR, and a major regional trade center.
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 is the capital and by far the largest city.

Land and People

In the south, traversed by the Niger and Senegal rivers, are fertile areas where cotton, rice, and peanuts are grown. Elsewhere the country is arid desert or semidesert and barely supports grazing (mainly cattle, sheep, and goats). The Niger serves as an important transportation artery and a source of fish. The main ethnic groups are the Mande (Bambara, Malinke, and Soninke), who are chiefly farmers and fishermen, and the Fulani and Tuareg, who are pastoralists. About 90% of the population is Muslim; most of the remainder follow traditional religions. While French is the official language, Bambara is spoken by 80% of the population and there are many other African tongues.


The vast majority of Malians are employed in farming, herding, or fishing. Cotton and peanuts are the country's only significant cash crops, with millet, rice, corn, sorghum, and vegetables being the major food crops. Agriculture and herding have been increasingly hurt by the encroaching desert. Mali's industries are mainly limited to the processing of farm commodities, construction, and the manufacture of basic consumer goods. Gold, phosphate, kaolin, salt, limestone, and uranium are mined, and the country has extensive unexploited mineral resources, including bauxite, iron ore, manganese, tin, and copper. Remittances from Malians working abroad are also an important source of income. The Manantali Dam on the Bafing River (a Senegal tributary) produces hydroelectric power.

Gold and cotton account for the bulk of Mali's export revenues; livestock and fish are also exported. The main imports are petroleum, machinery and equipment, construction materials, food, and textiles. Mali's chief trading partners are China, France, Senegal, and Thailand.


Mali is governed under the constitution of 1992. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is the head of state and is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president. The unicameral National Assembly has 147 members who are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into ten regions and the district of Bamako.


Early History to the End of Colonialism

The Mali region has been the seat of extensive empires and kingdoms, notably those of GhanaGhana
, ancient empire, W Africa, in the savanna region of what is now E Senegal, SW Mali, and S Mauritania. The empire was founded c.6th cent. by Soninke peoples and lay astride the trans-Saharan caravan routes. Its capital was Kumbi Salih (in present-day SE Mauritania).
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 (4th–11th cent.), Mali, and Gao. The medieval empire of Mali was a powerful state and one of the world's chief gold suppliers; it attained its peak in the early 14th cent. under Mansa MusaMansa Musa
(Musa I) , c.1280–1337, ruler of the Mali empire (1312–37). A devout Muslim, he brought the Mali empire to its greatest height, encompassing what is now Niger and parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and
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 (reigned c.1312–1337), who made a famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 laden with gold and slaves to proclaim Mali's prosperity and power. During his rule Muslim scholarship reached new heights in Mali, and such cities as TimbuktuTimbuktu
, city (1987 pop. 31,925), central Mali, near the Niger River. Connected with the Niger by a series of canals, Timbuktu is served by the small river port of Kabara.
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 and DjennéDjenné
or Jenné
, town, S central Mali, on the Bani River. It is an agricultural market center. The nearby, pre-Islamic ruins of Jenné-Jeno, which at its height may have been a city of more than 15,000 people, date back to 250 B.C. In the 13th cent.
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 (Jenne) became important centers of trade, learning, and culture.

The Mali empire was followed by the SonghaiSonghai
or Songhay
, largest of the former empires in the western Sudan region of N Africa. The state was founded (c.700) by Berbers on the Middle Niger, in what is now central Mali. The rulers accepted Islam c.1000.
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 empire of Gao, which rose to great power in the late 15th cent. In 1590 the empire, already weakened by internal divisions, was shattered by a Moroccan army. The Moroccans, however, could not effectively dominate the vast region, which broke up into petty states. By the late 18th cent., the area was in a semianarchic condition and was subject to incursions by the Tuareg and Fulani.

The 19th cent. witnessed a great resurgence of Islam. The Tukolor empire of al-Hajj UmarHajj Umar, al-
or Hajj Omar
, 1797–1864, Muslim religious and military leader in W Africa. A chieftain of the large Tukulor tribe of Senegal, he desired to convert the pagan tribespeople of the W Sudan.
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 (1794–1864) and the empire of Samori Touré (1870–98) emerged as Muslim states opposing French invasion of the region. By 1898 the French conquest was virtually complete; Mali, called French Sudan, became part of the Federation of French West AfricaFrench West Africa,
former federation of eight French overseas territories. The constituent territories were Dahomey (now Benin), French Guinea (now Guinea), French Sudan (now Mali), Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).
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. A nationalist movement, spearheaded by trade unions and student groups, blossomed during the period between the two world wars. The Sudanese Union, a militantly anticolonial party, became the leading political force. Its leader, Modibo KeitaKeita, Modibo
, 1915–77, African political leader in the Republic of Mali. He studied in France and taught in the French Sudan (later the Republic of Mali) before becoming active in nationalist politics in 1946.
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, was a descendant of the Mali emperors.

Independence and Beyond

In the French constitutional referendum of 1958, French Sudan voted to join the French CommunityFrench Community,
established in 1958 by the constitution of the Fifth French Republic to replace the French Union. Its members consisted of the French Republic, which included metropolitan France (continental France, Corsica, Algeria and the Sahara), the overseas territories
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 as the autonomous Sudanese Republic. In 1959 the republic joined Senegal to form the Mali Federation, but political differences shattered the union in 1960. That same year, the Sudanese Republic, renamed the Republic of Mali, obtained full independence from France and severed ties with the French Community. Seeking to promote African unity, Mali joined in a largely symbolic union with Guinea and Ghana, and in 1963 it joined the newborn Organization of African Unity.

Under Keita's presidency Mali became a one-party state committed to socialist policies. In 1962 the country withdrew from the Franc Zone and adopted a nonconvertible national currency. The resulting economic and financial difficulties forced an accommodation with France in 1967; Mali devalued its currency, returned to the Franc Zone, and permitted French administrators to assume a supervisory role in the economy. Militant elements in the Sudanese Union opposed this rapprochement, however, and Keita formed a people's militia to destroy opposition. The arrest of several dissenting army officers by the militia in 1968 provoked a bloodless military coup that overthrew the Keita regime and installed Lt. Moussa TraoréTraoré, Moussa,
1936–2020, Malian army officer and political leader. He served in the French army and, following independence in 1960, Mali's army, rising to the rank of lieutenant.
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 as president. The country continued to pursue a course of nonalignment in international affairs.

In the early 1970s, a prolonged drought desiccated the SahelSahel
, name applied to the semiarid region of Africa between the Sahara to the north and the savannas to the south, extending from Senegal and Mauritania on the west, through Mali, N Burkina Faso, Niger, N Nigeria, and Chad, to Sudan and Eritrea on the east.
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 region of Africa, further reducing Mali's already meager water supplies. The drought shattered the country's agriculture economy by killing thousands of head of livestock and hindering crop production. The resulting famine, disease, and poverty contributed to the deaths of untold thousands and forced the southward migration of many peoples.

Keita died in prison in 1977, touching off a series of protests. A new constitution (1979) contained provisions for elections to be held, and democratic measures were implemented in spite of an unstable political climate. Traoré was reelected president in 1979; he effectively repressed coup attempts in the late 1970s and early 1980s and was again elected in 1985. Also in 1985, a border dispute with Burkina Faso erupted into armed conflict. Neighboring nations sent troops to end the fighting, but relations between the two countries remain strained.

In 1991, Traoré was overthrown in a coup and replaced with a transitional committee headed by Amadou Toumani Touré. Mali had been a one-party state controlled by the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM) from 1974 until 1992. In that year a new constitution was approved providing for a multiparty democracy, and Alpha Oumar KonaréKonaré, Alpha Oumar,
1946–, Malian politcal leader. He served as Mali's youth, sports, and culture minister (1978–80); was a professor of history and archaeology; founded and edited a cultural review and a daily newspaper; and started Mali's first free radio
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 of the Alliance for Democracy (ADEMA) became Mali's first democratically elected president. In the early 1990s the Malian army was engaged in conflicts with the Tuareg ethnic group in the north, who rebelled against alleged government usurpation of its land and the suppression of its culture and language; following an upsurge in violence in 1994, a peace settlement was implemented in 1995 and thousands of refugees returned to Mali.

In 1997, Konaré was reelected virtually unopposed and ADEMA won decisively in the legislative elections, which were boycotted by much of the opposition. In 1999 the ousted dictator Traoré and his wife were sentenced to death for embezzlement; their sentences were commuted to life in prison by President Konaré, who later pardoned them. Presidential elections in April and May, 2002, resulted in a victory for Amadou Touré, the former interim military ruler. Touré ran as an independent candidate, and after the subsequent National Assembly elections (July), he formed a broad-based government that included the two largest groupings in the National Assembly.

In May, 2006, there were attacks in N Mali by Tuaregs the government said were army deserters, but in July a peace agreement was signed with the rebels. Additional fighting, however, occurred in 2007. Touré, running as the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP) coalition (which included ADEMA), was reelected in Apr., 2007, and in July National Assembly elections the ADP won a sizable majority of the seats. A new truce was signed with the Tuareg rebels in Sept., 2007, but they attacked government forces in 2008 (despite signing a cease-fire in Apr., 2008). A new cease-fire agreed to in July did not hold, but government forces won significant victories against the rebels in early 2009. Militant Islamists based in N and W Mali and originally opposed to the Algeria government have also mounted attacks and abductions in Mali. In mid-2009 government forces conducted operations against the Islamist's bases; other operations against their Mali bases were later mounted by Mauritania, at times in conjunction with France or Mali.

The fall of QaddafiQaddafi, Muammar al-
, 1942–2011, Libyan army officer and dictator. He graduated from the Univ. of Libya in 1963 and became an army officer in 1965. In 1969 he formed, along with a group of fellow officers, a secret revolutionary committee and led (1969) a successful coup
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 in Libya (2011) reinvigorated the Tuareg rebellion when Tuaregs who had served in his army returned to Mali. In 2012 Tuareg and Islamist forces made significant advances in N Mali, and government losses sparked an army coup led by Capt. Amadou Sanogo in March. Territorial losses accelerated after the coup. By April the rebels controlled N Mali (roughly two thirds of the country but with a tenth of the population) and Tuareg forces declared the region independent. West African nations meanwhile pressured Sanogo to restore civilian government, and in April President Touré officially resigned as part of a deal to establish an interim government and hold new elections. The speaker of the parliament, Dioncounda Traoré, became interim president.

There was an alleged, unsuccessful countercoup in May, and Sanogo supporters subsequently called for him to serve as president and attacked the interim president; the situation in S Mali continued to be politically muddled, with no clear central authority and a lack of civilian control of the security forces. In December the military arrested the prime minister and forced him to resign.

Meanwhile, Islamist forces gained ascendancy in the north by June, and destroyed the shrines of Sufi saints there and imposed harsh Islamic law; several hundred thousand people fled the region. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sought an agreement on providing more than 3,000 troops in support of the government's retaking the north. The details of plan to do so and agreement with the Malians and the African Union and United Nations on the force were finalized gradually, and the Dec., 2012, ouster of the prime minister endangered the plan. The UN Security Council approved the deployment of foreign troops in Mali later in December, and after Islamists began advancing further toward the capital in Jan., 2013, France launched air strikes against the rebels, and France, ECOWAS nations, and Chad moved quickly to send troops to Mali.

French-led forces rapidly ousted the Islamists from the main population centers, but Gao, in E Mali, suffered a series of Islamist attacks after it was retaken. The Islamists largely retreated to nearby mountains and deserts, and mounted sporadic attacks in the main urban centers of N Mali from there. Tuareg rebels remained in control of Kidal, in NE Mali, and in June Tuareg rebels and the government signed a cease-fire accord. In April the United Nations approved a 12,600-member peacekeeping force for Mali (Minusma) that would incorporate some of the West African troops already in the country. Subsequently, combined French, UN, and Malian forces mounted occasional offenses against the Islamists, who also continued to mount their own attacks in the months that followed. Slowly progressing negotiations with the Tuareg rebels led to clashes in late 2013; progress was hindered in part by divisions among the rebels.

In July–Aug., 2013, Ibrahim Boubacar KeitaKeita, Ibrahim Boubacar,
1945–, Malian politician. Keita was a member of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (1990–2001) until founding the Rally for Mali in 2001.
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, who had served as prime minister in the 1990s, was elected president with more than three quarters of the vote in the August runoff. Keita subsequently moved to reduce the influence that the participants in the coup had over the army. In legislative elections held in November and December, Keita's Rally for Mali won a plurality of the seats, and with its allied parties it secured a majority. In May, 2014, there were clashes between government and Tuareg rebel forces, but a cease-fire was reestablished; there was also fighting between progovernment forces and rebels in Apr., 2015.

A peace accord proposed by Algeria was rejected by the main rebel alliance in Mar., 2015. Subsequently, some armed groups signed a peace agreement in May, and the main Tuareg rebel coalition signed in June, after additional government concessions. Progress toward the implementation of the agreements, however, was slow, due to disagreements between pro- and antigovernment Tuareg factions. In July, 2016, there was fighting between progovernment and antigovernment Tuareg groups in Kidal; fighting between them intensified in 2017, but subsequently they signed a cease-fire and peace agreement. Since 2015 there has been unrest and attacks by Islamists in central as well as northern Mali, and increasing interethnic violence in central Mali; there were increased attacks on government forces by Islamists beginning in 2019.

In the 2018 presidential election, Keita was reelected after a runoff; turnout in the election, which was marred by militant attacks, was 34%. In 2019 Keita indicated that 2015 accord could be renegotiated, leading some of the former rebel groups to withdraw from the political dialogue established by the accord. New legislative elections, postponed three times, were held in 2020 amid violence in some regions; Keita's party won a plurality of the seats. In August, after weeks of protests against Keita due to the unresolved rebellion, poor economic conditions, and concerns about corruption, an army mutiny became a coup, and Keita resigned and dissolved the government. A junta led by Colonel Assimi Goita took power but, after pressure from West African nations, an interim government was established with Bah N'Daw (Ba N'Daou), a former air force colonel and defense minister, as president; Goita became vice president.


See A. Bebler, ed., Military Rule in Africa: Dahomey, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Mali (1973); N. Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali (1973); P. J. Imperato, Historical Dictionary of Mali (2d ed. 1986) and Mali (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a state that arose in the eighth century, in the western Sudan, between the upper reaches of the Senegal and Niger rivers, and that disintegrated in the 17th century. It is first mentioned, as Mallal, in the works of the ninth-century Arab historian al-Yaqubi. Until the first quarter of the 13th century, Mali was a vassal of the kingdom of Ghana. In the first half of the 14th century, at the height of its power, the empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Adrar-Iforas Plateau. Detailed descriptions of Mali in this period were given by the Arab historians al-Omari and ibn Battuta. Early feudal relations predominated, and slavery also existed. The caravan trade with North Africa and Egypt was important to the economy; gold and slaves were exported and salt and handicraft goods imported. Muslim colonies existed in the major centers (Djenné, Tombouctou, and Gao) and played a significant role in the cultural development of the western Sudan. In the 1360’s the empire began to decline, chiefly as a result of internecine wars, and in the 16th century it became a vassal of the Songhai state.


Kubbel’, L. E. “Iz istorii drevnego Mali.” Tr. In-ta etnografii AN SSSR, new series, vol. 76. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963. (With bibliography.)
Monteil, C. “Les Empires du Mali: Etude d’histoire et de sociologie soudanaises.” Bull, du Comité d’Etudes Historiques et Scientifiques de I’A. O. F, 1929, no. 12.
Niane, D. T. “Recherches sur Pempire du Mali au moyen âge.” Recherches Africaines, 1959, nos. 1-4; 1960, no. 1.




(Republic of Mali).

Mali is a state in West Africa, bounded on the west by Senegal, on the north by Mauritania and Algeria, on the east by Niger, on the southeast by Upper Volta, and on the south by the Ivory Coast and Guinea. Area, 1.2 million sq km. Population, 5,260,000 (1972). The capital is Bamako. Administratively, it is divided into six regions.

Mali is a republic. After a military coup a decree was promulgated on Nov. 28, 1968, providing for the interim organization of state power. The Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN), consisting of a chairman (who is also the head of state and government), his deputy, a secretary, and members, is the highest organ of state power. The chairman appoints ministers, high officials, and judges, serves as the commander in chief of the armed forces, and ratifies international treaties. Regional commissioners, area governors, and district commanding officers, appointed by the head of state, head the regions, areas, and districts.

The judicial system includes the Supreme Court, consisting of three civil, one criminal, and one administrative chambers (whose members are appointed by the head of state for five-year terms), the Court of Appeals, and two courts of first instance.

Most of the country lies within the tropical zone of the northern hemisphere.

Terrain. Almost the entire western, central, and northern parts of the country (more than 90 percent of its total area) are covered by plains with elevations ranging from 200 to 500 m. In the northern part of the plains are the rocky, sand-rock, and gravel deserts of the western and central Sahara. On the north, south, and east the plain is rimmed by mountain massifs and scarps: the spurs of the Fouta Djallon massif (Bambouk and Mandingues mountains), rising to 785 m; the Bandiagara scarp and Hombori Mountains, with elevations ranging from 700 to 1,155 m; and the Iforas Plateau (Adrar des Iforas), rising to 853 m. A vast alluvial plain lies along the middle course of the Niger, forming the Niger inland delta.

Geological structure. Most of the country lies on the African-Arabian Platform. The western part occupies the eastern and southern sides of the large Taoudenni Depression (syneclise), filled with marine and continental deposits from the Late Precambrian to the Anthropogene. The eastern zone lies within the Mali-Niger Depression. Both depressions are divided in the north by the southern projection of the Precambrian massif Ahaggar, and in the south, by the Late Precambrian folded zone of Gourma, which rims the Leone-Liberian ancient Precambrian massif of the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea. The Gao graben, which developed in the Late Mesozoic and Cenozoic, extends between these uplifts along the Niger Valley.


Climate. The climate is tropical, hot, and arid, except in the far south, where it is subequatorial. Temperatures average 28°-29°C throughout the year, with small monthly fluctuations. Easterly and northeasterly dry winds (harmattan) blow chiefly from November through June. The year is divided into the rainy season (from about June to October), a dry, cool period (November to February), and a dry, hot season (March to May). Moving northward the amount of precipitation and the length of the rainy season decline. From north to south three climatic regions may be identified: the Saharan, with average monthly temperatures of 19.5°-34°C and a maximum annual precipitation of 150 mm; the Sahelian, with average monthly temperatures of 22.5°-34.5°C and 200-600 mm of rainfall annually; and the Sudanic, with average monthly temperatures of 23.5°-35.5°C and 600-1,500 mm of rainfall per year.

Rivers and lakes. Mali has few rivers and lakes. The Senegal and Niger rivers and their tributaries are the major waterways. There are many wadis, such as the Tilemsi and Azaouak, in the east and northeast. Underground springs are the only source of water elsewhere. Mali has considerable hydroelectric resources (1.3 gigawatts), but they have been poorly developed. The waters of the Niger are used for irrigation.

Soil and vegetation. Almost half the area in the northern part of the country is covered by the brush and grass-brush deserts of the Sahara. To the south stretches a desert savanna, or Sahel, with acacias and grasses growing on red-brown soil; here also grow the doum palm and the baobab. Migratory and semimigra-tory herding is well developed in the Sahel. Further to the south ordinary and tall-grass savannas grow on red-brown and red lateritic soils; the region supports such trees as the kapok, karite, palmyra, Senegal khaya, and terminalia and various grasses, many of them serving as fodder for livestock. A forest savanna and gallery forests along rivers are found in the extreme south. The brown-red soils of the Niger Valley and red soils of tall-grass savannas are the most suitable for farming.

Animal life. The northern desert and semidesert regions are inhabited by addaxes, oryxes, gazelles, giraffes, cheetahs, and striped hyenas. Many species of antelope, wild hogs (warthogs), and predators such as lions, leopards, and jackals are found in the savanna. The number of elephants is steadily declining. Crocodiles inhabit the rivers and lakes; hippopotamuses, found along the Niger, have been decimated. There is a wide variety of birds, and the rivers and lakes abound in commercially important fish, such as the giant perch. Insects include termites and wild bees; mosquitos, blackflies found in shrubs along rivers, and the tsetse fly in the southern forested areas cause great damage to human beings and domestic animals. A national park has been created along the Baoule River for the protection of plant and animal life, particularly elephants, water buffalo, and various species of antelope.

Natural regions. Five large natural regions may be identified: the desert north, Sahelian region, Sudanic savanna region, southern region of forest savannas, and the region of the Niger inland delta.

Most of the peoples inhabiting the central regions speak languages of the northern Mande group. These include the Bambara, who together with the Kagoro number more than 1.5 million (1970, estimate), Soninke (400,000), Malinke (300,000), Diula, and Sanu. The Mande language is also spoken by groups of mixed origin, such as the Kasonke (Malinke with Fulani) and Kagoro (Bambara with Soninke). The Fulani and Wolof, numbering 700,000, speak languages of the Atlantic family. Languages of the Gur group (central Bantoid) are spoken by the Senufo, Dogon, Bobo, and Mossi, together numbering more than 1 million and inhabiting the southern and southeastern regions. In the Niger Valley live the Songhai (300,000, speaking Songhaic) and Tuareg, speaking Tamacheq, a Berber language. The Sahara is sparsely populated by Tuareg, including the Kel Ahaggar and Kel Azdjer, and Arabs.

About 70 percent of the people practice Islam, and most of the remainder adhere to tra’ditional beliefs. There are small numbers of Christians. French is the official language, and Bambara is the most widely used language (spoken by 70 percent of the population). The official calendar is the Gregorian.

Annual population growth between 1963 and 1971 averaged 2.1 percent. The gainfully employed population numbered 2.8 million persons in 1970, of whom 90 percent were engaged in agriculture. The overwhelming majority of the population consists of peasants, and there are some 200,000 craftsmen. Wage earners numbered 52,400 persons in 1968, of whom 20 percent worked in industry, construction, and public works; 16 percent in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 8 percent in commerce and banking, more than 7 percent in transport and communications; and 49 percent in offices (45 percent employed by the government). In 1970 the per capita income was about $50.

The country is sparsely settled. Average population density is four persons per sq km (1971), with more than 70 percent of the population living in the Niger and Senegal Valleys. There is considerable seasonal migration to Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana. In turn, peasants from Upper Volta and Niger come to Mali. In 1970 only 12 percent of the population lived in urban areas. The principal cities are Bamako, with 300,000 inhabitants in 1972, Mopti, Ségou, Kayes, Sikasso, and Gao.

The precolonial (until the late 19th century) and colonial (from the late 19th century to 1960) periods. The ancient history of Mali has been little studied. The first West African states, the strongest of which were Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, emerged during the Middle Ages in the area now occupied by Mali. In these states developing feudal relations were intermingled with clan-tribal relations. The spread of Islam began with the arrival of North African traders in the eighth century.

During the second half of the 19th century the central regions of West Africa became an object of French colonial expansion. The local population courageously defended its independence. The Malinke, Soninke, and Tukulor peoples under the leadership of Samory and other chiefs fiercely resisted the French, and it was not until 1894 that the main centers of resistance were crushed. In 1892 the regions along the upper and middle Niger and Senegal rivers were united to form the colony of French Sudan, which in 1895 became part of French West Africa. Between 1899 and 1920 the French Sudan was divided between neighboring French colonies; it was restored as a separate colony in 1920.

The colonialists introduced forced labor and other forms of exploitation of the inhabitants. Certain privileges were granted the native nobility, on whose support the colonial powers sought to base their rule. The indigenous population did not cease its anticolonial struggle, which in its initial stages had religious objectives. Among the largest and most stubborn revolts were those of the Tuareg in 1915-18 and the Soninke in 1915-16.

After World War II, the anti-imperialist movement in French Sudan intensified. In October 1946 the constituent assembly of the African Democratic Rally (RDA) was held in Bamako, and later that year a section of the RDA, the Sudanese Union, was organized in the French Sudan and subsequently led the national-liberation movement in the country. Mamadou Konate, a teacher from Bamako and one of the leaders of the RDA, was elected chairman of the Sudanese Union, and Modibo Keita became its secretary general in 1947.

The Sudanese Union struggled to broaden the jurisdiction of local elective bodies—municipal agencies and the Territorial Assembly (established in 1947 and prior to 1952 called the General Council). It also sought to end political discrimination and the exploitation of the indigenous population and to improve public education and health services. The colonial powers attempted to thwart the Sudanese Union, which also had to overcome the opposition of several other political organizations (the largest of which was the Democratic Party of the Sudan) that had been created by representatives of the old nobility and that cooperated with the colonial administration. The Sudanese Union drew its support from progressive forces in other countries of French West Africa and France. The trade unions of Mali (established in 1945), which were members of the French General Confederation of Labor, played an important role. The trade unions consistently defended the people’s political and economic interests, thereby aiding the spread of the anticolonial movement. With trade union support the Sudanese Union became the leading political force in the country. In 1957 its deputies for the first time won a majority in the Territorial Assembly. One of the leaders of the Sudanese Union, Jean-Marie Koné, became head of the Governing Council (established in 1957), an executive organ with limited jurisdiction under the French governor. After the acceptance by referendum of a new constitution in France, French Sudan was renamed the Sudanese Republic and became a member of the French Community on Sept. 28, 1958.

In 1959 the government of the Sudanese Republic carried out administrative, economic, and social measures designed to decolonialize the country, the most important of which was administrative reform. French civil servants were replaced by Sudanese, and the appointed canton and village chiefs gave way to elected representatives. The administrative reform undermined the prestige of the old nobility, whose political organizations lost their influence and ceased to function. The Sudanese Union, which became the country’s sole party, directed all public organizations, including trade unions and youth and women’s associations.

In 1959 the Sudanese Republic and the Republic of Senegal united to form the Mali Federation. Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal was elected president of the Federal Assembly, and Modibo Keita became president of the federal government. In June 1960 the Mali Federation became independent within the French Community. Disagreements over foreign and domestic policy within the federation’s leadership caused its disintegration on Aug. 20, 1960, when the government of the Republic of Senegal announced its withdrawal. On Sept. 22, 1960, the Legislative Assembly of the Sudanese Republic proclaimed the country a sovereign and independent state, changed its name to the Republic of Mali, and resolved to withdraw from the French Community.

After independence. A constitution was adopted at the time of the proclamation of the Republic of Mali, and Modibo Keita became the head of state and government. On Sept. 28, 1960, the Republic of Mali was admitted to the UN. Foreign policy was determined by decisions of the Extraordinary (Sept. 22, 1960) and Sixth (1962) Congresses of the Sudanese Union Party, in accordance with which the government of Mali pursued a policy of “positive neutrality” and refused participation in military blocs. It actively opposed the vestiges of colonialism and neocolonialism, calling for disarmament and opposing the proliferation of atomic weapons. Diplomatic relations were established with the USSR in October 1960, and agreements on economic and commercial cooperation and cultural ties were signed in March 1961. The government of Mali gained the withdrawal of French troops from its territory in 1961.

The Extraordinary Party Congress had declared the basic task of economic development to be “the creation of a new economic structure within the framework of socialist planning.” This course was approved by the Sixth Congress, which proclaimed “scientific socialism as the ideological basis of the party.” The congress outlined a broad reform program, aimed at strengthening the country’s political independence and achieving its economic independence. Projected reforms included sharply reducing the influx of foreign capital, laying the foundation for a national industry, modernizing agriculture and establishing cooperatives, and reorganizing public education and public health. However, implementation of these plans was hindered by increasing opposition from the rising national bourgeoisie, by shortages of resources and the lack of trained personnel, and by the factional activity of some party functionaries who opposed the foreign and domestic policy adopted by the party. Effective measures were not taken to combat corruption, speculation, and smuggling. In these circumstances the revolutionary-democratic wing within the leadership of the Sudanese Union gradually lost its influence in public organizations and with the masses. The situation was aggravated by a deteriorating financial and economic situation, inflation, and shortages of foodstuffs and consumer goods.

In 1967 several politicians and statesmen, headed by Modibo Keita, formed the National Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CNDR), which took control of the country. The highest organs of the Sudanese Union and the Legislative Assembly were dissolved. Relying on the support of the trade unions and youth organizations, the CNDR adopted measures designed to improve the economic situation and combat corruption. These measures, however, proved belated, and on Nov. 19, 1968, the government was overthrown by a military coup. The 1960 constitution was suspended. A decree promulgated on Nov. 28, 1968, provided for the provisional organization of state power and the formation of the Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN), which assumed all state power. The chairman of the CMLN, Lieutenant M. Traoré (from October 1971, Colonel Traoré) became head of state in November 1968 and head of government in September 1969. The Sudanese Union Party, the directing body of the trade union confederation (the National Union of Malian Workers), and major public organizations were dissolved. The leaders of the CMLN declared that the basic principles of foreign policy and national economic development would not be altered. The government continued to support national-liberation movements, to work for détente and peace, and to oppose racism and neocolonialism. The CMLN proclaimed its chief task to be the “economic and financial recovery of the country.” In 1974 the draft of a new constitution was submitted to a popular referendum and approved. According to the new constitution, the CMLN will continue to determine and carry out policy until 1979. In 1974 public organizations such as trade unions and women’s unions resumed their activity.


Skorov, G. E. Frantsuzskii imperializm v Zapadnoi Afrike. Moscow, 1956.
Ol’derogge, D. A. Zapadnyi Sudan v XV-XIX vv. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Letnev, A. B. Derevnia Zapadnogo Mali. Moscow, 1964.
Subbotin, V. A. Kolonial’naia politika Frantsii v Zapadnoi Afrike (1880-1900). Moscow, 1964.
Gavrilov, N. I. Natsional’no-osvoboditel’noe dvizhenie v Zapadnoi Afrike. Moscow [1965].
Kubbel’, L. E. Strana zolota. Moscow, 1966.
Kondrat’ev, G. S. Put’ Mali k nezavisimosti. Moscow, 1970.
Badian, S. Les Dirigeants d’Afrique Noire face à leurpeuple. Paris, 1964.
Schachter, S. R., and R. Morgenthau. Political Parties in French-speaking West Africa. Oxford, 1964.
Snyder, F. G. One Party Government in Mali. New Haven-London, 1965.

Mali is an agricultural country. The low level of its economic development is largely the result of the country’s colonial past. Approximately half the value of the gross national product is derived from farming, animal husbandry, the gathering of wild fruits, and fishing. In the early 1970’s crafts were more important economically than factory production. The economy is diverse, comprising subsistence and semisubsistence production, smallscale production, private capital (principally French), and a state-capitalist sector. After independence, the state sector was considerably enlarged, particularly in industry, foreign trade, finance, and transport. Industrial enterprises in the BamakoSegou region were constructed, and the agricultural concern Niger Office was transferred to state control. State economic planning was introduced.

The USSR and other socialist countries are assisting economic development. The USSR built a cement plant in Diamou and assisted in the reclamation of land belonging to the Niger Office. It has also been conducting geological exploration. Capital investments from the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, and other countries have increased.

Agriculture. Communal land ownership predominates in agriculture, and private land ownership is weakly developed. Approximately 9 percent of the country’s area, including fallow, is being worked; pastures and meadows account for 24 percent; and forests cover 3.6 percent of the area. Less than 1.5 percent of the area, or 1.8 million hectares (ha), is under crops. The slash-and-burn method is widely used. The hoe is the basic agricultural implement, although plows have been increasingly used since the 1960’s (25,000 in 1959, 80,000 in 1970). Sedentary farming without irrigation is possible on only one-fifth of the country’s area; even so, only 10 percent of the arable land is irrigated. The Sansanding irrigation project was undertaken to bring under irrigation and cotton and rice cultivation large areas that had reverted to desert. The Niger Office was established in 1932 to carry out the project. The irrigation system was designed to bring water to 150,000-160,000 ha, but as of 1974 only about a third of this area was reclaimed and planted to crops, chiefly rice.

Agriculture is not based on monoculture. The major food crops are millet, sorghum (both grown everywhere), rice, corn, sweet potatoes, yams, and cassava, raised mainly in the south. The upper Niger Valley and its tributaries, the central region between Bamako and Mopti, and the area belonging to the Niger Office (now the Mali State Association) are the leading rice-producing regions. Peanuts and cotton are the major exports. Peanuts are grown primarily along the Kayes-Koulikoro railroad and in the Segou Region, and cotton is raised on unirrigated land in the southeast. The French Textiles Development Company is assisting in the organization of cotton production on African farms—the selection and sale of seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals and supervision of the planting and working of fields. The company has a monopoly over the purchase and export of cotton. The State Office of Agricultural Products is responsible for the buying of grain. Various fruits and vegetables are grown, chiefly on irrigated land, including tomatoes, pepper, cabbage, carrots, mangoes, papayas, guavas, citrus fruits, and pineapples. (See Table 1 for the sown area and yield of principal crops.)

Mali is one of West Africa’s most important breeding countries. In 1972 there were 5 million head of cattle, 5.5 million sheep, and 5.35 million goats, with 70 percent of the cattle and 80 percent of the sheep and goats belonging to nomadic and seminomadic herdsmen. More than 50 percent of the country’s households own no cattle. Livestock has a low level of productivity. The fodder consists of natural pastures. Because of a catastrophic drought that began in 1966, 40 percent of the livestock perished for lack of fodder and water. Fishing is mostly

Table 1. Sown area and yield of principal crops
 Sown area (hectares)Yield (tons)
1 Yearly average
Peanuts ...............172,000169,000250,00088,000138,000130,000
Cotton (raw) ...............33,00038,00080,0004,00022,00073,000
Millet and sorghum ...............1,268,0001,132,0001,200,000682,000782,000700,000
Rice ...............182,000178,000170,000148,000173,000150,000
Corn ...............100,00068,00090,00060,00074,00060,000
Sweet potatoes and yams ...............10,0005,0008,00060,00070,00071,000
Cassava ...............14,00010,00010,000142,000160,000160,000

concentrated in the Niger inland delta, and the annual fish catch totals 90,000 tons. Dried and smoked fish is consumed domestically and exported to neighboring countries.

Industry. Mining industry is limited to the extraction of limestone and marble around Bafoulabé. There is small-scale salt mining in Taoudenni (3,000-4,000 tons per year), and gold prospecting in the southwest. In 1971 electric power production totaled 44.7 million kilowatt-hours, with electric power plants having a total capacity of 27,000 kilowatts. The thermal electric power plant in Bamako (11,200 kilowatts) supplies 85 percent of the nation’s electric power. Manufacturing is represented by enterprises for the processing of rice, cotton, and animal products. Other industries include plants producing beer, fruit juice, and mineral water at Bamako, cigarette and match factories at Bamako, fruit and vegetable canneries at Baguineda, vegetableoil plants at Koulikoro, and a sugar refinery at Dougabougou. There are textile plants at Bamako and Segou, metalworking plants at Bamako and Markale, building material enterprises at Bamako and Diamou, and plants for the assembly of transistor radios (at Bamako), bicycles, and motorcycles. Crafts are well developed.

Transportation. The only railroad is a 645-km stretch of the line running from Dakar to the Niger River. There are 12,000 km of highways, of which 7,500 km are all-weather roads and 1,600 km are paved, as compared with 400 km of paved roads in 1960. There were 16,000 motor vehicles in 1971. The old caravan routes between Tombouctou and Taoudenni continue to be important economically, and the Niger River is a major transport artery. Airports are located in Bamako (international), Gao, Segou, Mopti, and Kayes. Another international airport is under construction (1974) at Senou, near Bamako.

Foreign trade. The country’s chronic trade deficit results from limited export resources and large imports. In 1971 exports were valued at 19.6 billion Mali francs and imports at 30.5 billion. Exports include cotton, peanuts, livestock, dried and smoked fish, karite oil and kernels, and peanut oil and oil cake. Imports consist of machinery and equipment, raw material and semifinished products, foodstuffs, and consumer goods. Foreign trade is conducted mainly with France (20.1 percent of exports and 44.4 percent of imports in 1971), Ghana (7.8 percent of exports), the Ivory Coast (27.2 and 10.5 percent), and Senegal (approximately 8 and 6.3 percent). Trade with the USSR, accounting for about 6 percent of imports, and other socialist countries is developing. The monetary unit is the Mali franc. According to the exchange rate of the State Bank of the USSR (January 1974), 1,000 Mali francs equal 1.62 rubles.


Radchenko, G. F. Respublika Mali. Moscow, 1969.
Annuaire statistique de la République du Mali 1968. May, 1969.
Economic Africaine 1971: Supplement annuelau Moniteur Africain 1972.

The armed forces, totaling about 3,700 men in 1973, consist of ground troops and an air force. The armed forces are headed by the supreme commander in chief—the chairman of the Military Committee for National Liberation, who is also the minister of defense. The army is recruited by enlistment. There is a gendarmerie and a republic guard of about 2,000 men. An air force (now about 100 men) is being established.

Between 1965 and 1970 the average birth rate was 49.8 per 1,000 and the average death rate 26.6 per 1,000; infant mortality was 120 per 1,000 live births. Infectious diseases predominate, and malaria and gastrointestinal diseases and infestations are the chief causes of death. Leprosy and trachoma (afflicting as much as 70 percent of the population) are found in rural areas. Amebiasis, ankylostomiasis, strongyloidiasis, trichocephaliasis, and hymenolepiasis are widespread.

In the savanna zone, particularly in the Niger and Senegal valleys, falciparum malaria is hyperendemic; acanthocheilonemiasis, loiasis, and yaws are frequently encountered; and urogenital and intestinal schistosomiasis, wuchereriasis, onchocerciasis, and trypanosomosis are endemic. In the transition zone between the Sahara and the savannas malaria and acanthocheilonemiasis are mesoendemic; urogenital schistosomiasis is found in the Niger inland delta. In the Sahara zone malaria is hypoendemic, and urogenital schistosomiasis occurs in the oases. Dermal leishmaniasis is found among the nomads.

In 1971 there were 114 hospitals with 3,700 beds, or 0.7 per 1,000 inhabitants. In 1970 outpatient care was provided by nine polyclinics and 294 rural ambulatory facilities. There is a medical-hygiene laboratory, and 11 mobile units have been organized to fight infectious diseases. In 1971 there were 136 physicians, or one per 35,000 inhabitants, five dentists, 112 pharmacists, and over 1,500 medical assistants; about 35 percent of the national medical personnel works in Bamako. Medical assistants are trained in three schools, and physicians receive their training abroad.

In 1972 public health expenditures totaled 8 percent of the state budget. Mali receives public health assistance from the World Health Organization and UNICEF ($206,200 in 1971). In 1965 the USSR built a school in Bamako for the training of nurses and midwives. The school has facilities for 200 students and was given to Mali as a gift.


Veterinary services. The population of domestic animals has been reduced by rinderpest (27 outbreaks in 1972) and peripneumonia (85 outbreaks in 1972), which occur in areas of seasonal concentration of livestock, such as the Kayes Region and the bend of the Niger River. Anthrax (ten outbreaks) and blackquarter (72 outbreaks) are more frequently recorded along cattle trails in the northern and northwestern regions of the country. Tuberculosis and brucellosis are widespread among cattle. In the south cattle and hogs are infected with ectoparasitic diseases and numerous helminthiases, which sharply reduce the productivity of animals and cause considerable losses. Pasteurellosis is constantly encountered in the northern regions. In the southwestern part of Mali cattle trypanosomiasis occurs because of the presence of the tsetse fly in the southern forest regions. In the southern part of the savanna the lack of calcium in the soil causes metabolic disorders, as may be seen by the stunted growth of the livestock. A state veterinary service has been organized; in 1972 there were 39 veterinarians.


The first schools (Koranic) were founded in the 14th century. The cities of Tombouctou and Djenné were important centers of medieval Arab culture, and from the 15th to the 18th century major Muslim universities flourished here, in which prominent Arab scholars taught, notably Ahmad Baba and Muhammad Koti al-Tombouctou. The first secular schools appeared in the second half of the 19th century, but education developed very slowly. By the time the country gained independence 97.8 percent of its adult population was illiterate, and only 8 percent of school-age children were attending classes.

Since independence a school reform has been carried out. In 1967 the government introduced alphabets for the four major languages of the country (Bambara, Fulani, Songhai, and Tamashek), devised by the Center for Functional Alphabetization. In 1972 expenditures for public education totaled about 14 percent of the state budget, or approximately 4 percent of the national income, and 22.7 percent of school-age children were attending school. Primary education is free and compulsory. Between six and 10 years of age children are enrolled in a nine-year primary school consisting of two cycles of five and four years each. The three-year secondary school is not free; graduates receive the baccalaureate and have the right to enter the university. There are two levels of vocational and technical training. Workers who have completed the first cycle of the primary school are eligible to enroll in a two- or three-year vocational program, and secondary technical education is available to graduates of the second cycle of the primary school. Since independence the USSR has helped to establish the École Normale Supérieure, the National School of Public Administration, a medical school, a center for vocational instruction in Bamako, and the Agricultural Polytechnic Institute in Katibougou. In 1971 about 211,000 students were enrolled in primary schools, about 3,000 in general secondary schools, about 2,700 in specialized secondary schools, and more than 600 in universities. Many students are receiving a higher or special secondary education in the USSR. About 3,000 persons were studying Russian in Mali schools in 1972.

Other cultural institutions include the National Library (5,000 volumes), the National Museum of the Humanities Institute, the municipal library in Bamako, and the Center for Arab Literature in Tombouctou.


The Humanities Institute was founded in 1913, and the Zootechnical Research Center, an experimental farm with a biochemistry and other laboratories, was established in 1927. Since independence the Agricultural Institute, the Mali Scientific Research Institute, and other research centers have been organized. Agricultural problems are studied by the Rice Research Center, the National Center for Fruit Research (a branch of the French Institute for Fruit Research), a branch of the French Institute of Tropical Agronomy and Food Crops, and a branch of the French Institute for Research on Cotton and Fiber Crops. French scientists direct the work of the Institute of Tropical Ophthalmology, specializing in trachoma research, and of the Institute for Leprosy Research. Considerable attention is being given to the study of Mali’s geology. Mineral prospecting is conducted by the National Association for the Exploration and Exploitation of Mineral Resources. Soviet geologists have assisted in explorations for petroleum, oil shale, cement raw materials, and gold. The national research institutes are under the supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

In 1973 the leading periodical publications were the daily L’Essor (founded in 1948, circulation 3,500), the organ of the CMLN; the monthly Bambara-language newspaper Kibaru (published since 1972, circulation 8,000), and the government organ Journal officiel de la République du Mali. The government-owned Radio Mali was established in 1957 and broadcasts in French, Fulani, Bambara, Tamashek, and other languages.

The oral literature of the peoples of Mali includes myths, heroic epics, tales, and fables. All of these genres existed among the common people, but there were also professional bards, called griots. Of special interest are the griot narrators of the Mandingo peoples, known as belen-tigi, who have preserved the oral historical tradition. Until the late 1960’s the languages of the peoples of Mali, with the exception of the Fulani, did not have written alphabets. Modern literature is developing in the French language.

A distinctive feature of Mali literature is its strong interest in and use of oral motifs. The first adaptations of folk legends by Mali writers date from the 1930’s: Mambi Sidibe’s Sundyata Keita, Historic and Legendary Hero, Emperor of the Mandingo (1937) and Ibrahima Mamadou Ouane’s The Dogon of the French Sudan (1938). Uan, a historian, may be regarded as the father of modern Mali literature. He is the author of the historical novels Fadimata, Princess of the Desert (1956) and Necklace of Shells (1957). The most important writer of the 1950’s is the political and trade union leader Fily-Dabo Sissoko (1900-63), noted for his collections of verse Harmakhis (1955) and Poems of Black Africa (1963) and his novel Red Savanna (1962), describing the development of the African intelligentsia during and immediately after World War I. The best pages of Sissoko’s novel are devoted to the anti-French revolts of the Tuareg between 1915 and 1918. However, both Uan and Sissoko advocated a close alliance between Africa and France, regarding it as necessary for surmounting African backwardness.

Seydou Badian (born 1928) belongs to a different school. His novel Into the Storm (1957) depicts the conflict of patriarchal customs with the new ideas of young people, shaped by the anti-imperialist movement and the growth of national consciousness. In his drama Chaki’s Death (1962) he used a historical subject to elucidate pressing problems in modern Africa. Mamadou Gologo’s collection of poetry My Heart Is a Volcano (1962) and his novel Flight From Alcohol (1963) are imbued with the passion of the anticolonialist struggle. Important young poets who emerged in the mid-1960’s include Gaoussou Diawara and Siriman Cissoko.

In 1968, Yambo Ouologuem (born 1940) published his novel Bound to Violence, a polemical work directed against the admiration for traditional Africa that pervaded the literature of the former French possessions. Ouologuem portrays the precolonial rulers of Africa as cruel and treacherous. Rightly criticizing the archaic aspects of the social organization and life of the African peoples, Ouologuem somewhat distorts reality in the heat of his polemic, and his excessive naturalism diminishes the novel’s social significance. In 1968 he published a collection of satirical essays, A Letter to Negro France, dealing with the problem of eradicating racism among both Europeans and Africans.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s a number of books appeared containing traditional literary adaptations of folklore subjects. Historical legends are reworked in Massa Makan Diabate’s If the Fire Goes Out (1967) and Kala Jata (1970), and fairy tales are retold in V. N. Diaie’s Evenings in Mali (1970).


Sund’fata: Mandingskii epos. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
Potekhina, G. I. “Grioty mandingo—khraniteli ustnoi istoricheskoi traditsii.” In the collection Afrikanskaia filologiia. Moscow, 1965.
Poety Mali: Sbornik. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from French.)
Gaoussou Diawara. Rozhdenie Mali. Moscow. 1965.
Gaoussou Diawara. Chernye zvezdy. Moscow, 1966.
Gal’perina, E. L. “Itak—afrikanskii antimif?” Inostrannaia literatura, 1969, no. 6.
Skazki narodov Mali. Moscow, 1969.
“Seydou Badian ecrivain malien.” Littérature africaine. Paris, 1968.

The oldest relics of Mali culture date from the Neolithic and include cliff drawings in Bandiagara; sketches in grottoes of the Bamako Region, depicting hunting scenes, wars, and dances; a group of menhirs in Tondidarou, near Niafounké; and clay and stone figures in the Mopti Region. From earliest times the basic form of dwelling has been the hut made of banko (mixture of clay and straw). In rural areas huts are round with pole frames; they are windowless and have conical, low-hanging straw roofs. In the cities the houses are usually rectangular with clay, iron, or slate roofing. In the mountain regions the villages of the Dogon people are fortified, and their huts have structures resembling watch-towers. The northern nomads (Fulani, Tuareg, Arabs) live in tents and round huts of mats or skins.

Between the llth and 16th centuries urban construction developed in the states occupying the territory of Mali. Cities such as Niani, Gao, Tombouctou, and Djénné were fortified by walls and had an irregular layout. There were public buildings, such as the palace in Tombouctou built in the 14th century by the architect Es Saheli, mosques (Mopti, Djéné, Tombouctou) with vertical ribs on the walls and conical minarets, and banko houses in the local “Sudanic style.” The houses were rectangular and had inner coutyards, flat roofs, thick notched trapezoid walls, and porticoes with overhangs. With the arrival of the colonialists cathedrals, government buildings, and private residences were constructed in the eclectic style. Barrack-type houses with wooden jalousie windows were built.

Since the 1950’s modern buildings have been constructed and such materials as reinforced concrete and plastics have been introduced. The socialist countries, particularly the USSR and Bulgaria, have rendered considerable assistance in construction. Between 1962 and 1966 a sports complex and a number of educational institutions were built in Bamako (chief architect, L. N. Afanas’ev of the USSR).

Wood carving has been highly developed since ancient times and decorates almost all wooden objects (doors, stools, plates, combs). Light wood is used for carving ritual masks and figurines of people and animals, usually highly stylized and expressive. Also widespread are coppersmithing, the fashioning of objects from snake and crocodile skins (handbags, belts), and the making of pottery and fabrics with geometric designs. Professional art began to develop after independence.


Griaule, M. Masques dogons. Paris, 1938.
L’Art negre. Paris, 1951.

The peoples of Mali have preserved their traditions of theatrical presentation (dances in masks, songs, the acting out of scenes from everyday life), derived from agricultural cults and linked with rural holidays or rituals accompanying such events as the birth of a child, weddings, or deaths. With the spread of Islam these celebrations largely lost their ritual meaning, and performances in which almost the entire population of a village had participated were left to semiprofessionals. By the mid-20th century these performances had been transferred to the stage and had completely lost their ritual significance.

Among the Bambara the ancient Koteba folk theater survived longer than among other peoples of West Africa. In the 1930’s and 1940’s Koteba actors formed troupes that performed improvised satirical and farcical scenes from village life on the streets of Bamako. The stock characters were the simple farmer and his loyal wife, the stingy master and lazy servant, the clever griot singer, the blasphemous pilgrim (marabout), and the boastful but cowardly hunter. These characters were obligatory for each performance, as was the participation of the dugu-tigi (village chief), who throughout the entire performance sat on the stage alongside the musicians (drummers, flutists), answering questions and directing the actors’ entrance. The Koteba theater reflects the ideas and mores of the old African village. A modern amateur theater developed during the 1950’s in cultural centers organized by the French colonial authorities. Plays on historical subjects formed the basic repertoire.

Since the proclamation of independence in 1960, the amateur theater has become widely popular and has been organized by the state. New companies have been established, staging plays with improvised texts on important contemporary themes. Amateur art competitions, beginning in the districts and ending with Youth Week in Bamako, have been held since 1962 (annually between 1962 and 1970 and once every two years since 1970). The National Folklore Troupe, created to disseminate the traditional art of Mali abroad, tours Europe. In 1964 it played in the Paris Theater of Nations, and in 1961 and 1970 it toured the USSR with a program of dances and pantomimes. In 1963 the National Institute of Arts with a division of drama was established in Bamako. In 1970 graduates of the institute formed the National Theater, whose first productions included Massa Makan Diabate’s Wonderful Lesson of Patience and Seydou Badian’s Chaki’s Death.

The contemporary dramatic art of Mali, like that of the other West African countries, aims at creating a new, modern culture through the reevaluation of tradition.


Meilassoux, C. “La Farce villageoise à la ville: Le Koteba de Bamaco.” Présence africaine, 1964, no. 52, pp. 27-59.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Mali

Capital city: Bamako

Internet country code: .ml

 Flag description: Three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), yellow, and red; uses the popular pan-African col­ors of Ethiopia

National anthem: “Le Mali”

National motto: “Un Peuple, un But, une Foi” (One Nation, One Goal, One Faith)

Geographical description: Western Africa, southwest of Algeria

Total area: 474,764 sq. mi. (1,240,278 sq. km.)

Climate: Subtropical to arid; hot and dry (February to June); rainy, humid, and mild (June to November); cool and dry (November to February)

Nationality: noun: Malian(s); adjective: Malian

Population: 11,995,402 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Mande 50% (Bambara, Malinke, Soninke), Peul 17%, Voltaic 12%, Songhai 6%, Tuareg and Moor 10%, other 5%

Languages spoken: French (official), Bambara 80%, numer­ous African languages

Religions: Muslim 90%, indigenous 6%, Christian 4%

Legal Holidays:

African Unity DayMay 25
Armed Forces DayJan 20
Christmas DayDec 25
Day of the MartyrsMar 26
Independence DaySep 22
Labor DayMay 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a landlocked republic in West Africa: conquered by the French by 1898 and incorporated (as French Sudan) into French West Africa; became independent in 1960; settled chiefly in the basins of the Rivers Senegal and Niger in the south. Official language: French. Religion: Muslim majority, also animist. Currency: franc. Capital: Bamako. Pop.: 13 408 000 (2004 est.). Area: 1 248 574 sq. km (482 077 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


A hardware memory device for logic programming computers with real time garbage collection.
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