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Republic of Mali

Mali location

Official language – French
Capital – Bamako (largest city)
National holiday – Independence Day, 22 September (1960) (from France)
Government type – Presidential Republic

Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (for which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. During its golden age, there was a flourishing of mathematics, astronomy, literature, and art. At its peak in 1300, Mali covered an area about twice the size of modern-day France, and stretched to the west coast of Africa. In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, France seized control of Mali, making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined with Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation. Shortly thereafter, following Senegal's withdrawal from the federation, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali.
After a long period of one-party rule, a 1991 coup led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state.
In January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, which Tuareg rebels took control by April and declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. There was then a full scale military coup by the Mali military in March and fighting between Tuareg and rebels. In response to perceived Islamist gains, the French military launched Opération Serval in January 2013.

Mali, a Sahel state, is landlocked and is mostly desert or semi-desert.
Area – 1,240,192 sq km
Border countries: Algeria (in the north), Niger (in the east), Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire (in the south), Guinea (in the south-west), Senegal and Mauritania (in the west)

Natural resources: gold, phosphates, kaolin, salt, limestone, uranium, gypsum, granite, hydropower
note: bauxite, iron ore, manganese, tin, and copper deposits are known but not exploited

Population – 20,3 mln (2020, UNCTAD)
The population is predominantly rural (68% in 2002), and 5–10% of Malians are nomadic. More than 90% of the population lives in the southern part of the country, especially in Bamako, which has over 1 million residents.
Mali's population encompasses a number of sub-Saharan ethnic groups.
The Bambara (Bambara: Bamanankaw) are by far the largest single ethnic group, making up 36.5% of the population. About 80% of Mali's population can communicate in Bambara, which is the country's principal lingua franca. Mali's official language is French, but numerous (40 or more) African languages also are widely used by the various ethnic groups.

Collectively, the Bambara, Soninké, Khassonké, and Malinké (also called Mandinka), all part of the broader Mandé group, constitute 50% of Mali's population. Other significant groups are the Fula (French: Peul; Fula: Fulɓe) (17%), Voltaic (12%), Songhai (6%), and Tuareg and Moor (10%). Over the past 40 years, persistent drought has forced many Tuareg to give up their nomadic way of life.
As in all Sahel states, there is a strong division of race between the lighter-skinned Arab-Berber populations of the north, and the black populations of the south, due the historical importance of the slave trade in the spread of Islam in the region.
An estimated 800,000 people in Mali are descended from slaves. Slavery in Mali has persisted for centuries. The Arab-Berber population kept black slaves well into the 20th century, until slavery was repressed by the French authorities around the mid 20th century, and there still persist certain hereditary servitude relationships, and according to some estimates, even today approximately 200,000 Malians are still enslaved. As a result, there remain racial tensions between the "black" (sub-Saharan) and "white" (Arab-Berber) groups, especially between the Songhai and the Tuareg. Due to a backlash against the northern ("white") population after independence, Mali is now in a situation where both groups complain about racial discrimination on the part of the other group. This racial conflict also plays a role in the continuing conflict

Islam came to west Africa in the 11th century and remains the predominant religion in most countries in that region. An estimated 90% of Malians are Muslim (mostly Sunni and Sufi), approximately 5% are Christian (about two-thirds Roman Catholic and one-third Protestant) and the remaining 5% adhere to indigenous or traditional animist beliefs. Atheism and agnosticism are believed to be rare among Malians, most of whom practice their religion on a daily basis.
The constitution establishes a secular state and provides for freedom of religion, and the government largely respects this right.
Islam as practiced in Mali before 2012 was moderate, tolerant, and adapted to local conditions; relations between Muslims and practitioners of minority religious faiths were generally amicable

Calling code: 223