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Mali Modern History

Mali became independent from colonial power France in 1960. Soon thereafter, Mali became a socialist one-party state. In 1968, Moussa Traoré took power in a military coup. In the late 1980s, demands for democratic reforms grew, and in 1991 Traoré was deposited in a new military coup, led by Amadou Toumani Touré. The coup makers promised multi-party systems, which became a reality in 1992. Ten years later, Touré returned to power in a presidential election, but in 2012 he was deposed in yet another coup. It became the starting point for insurgency from both Tuareg and Islamists in northern Mali.

Under Independent Mali's first President Mobido Keïta, the country became a socialist one-party state. The only allowed party was the Sudanese Union-African Democratic Assembly (US-RDA). All companies in Mali were nationalized and the economy was centrally controlled. The aim was to break the continued French influence, but the result was instead a comprehensive government bureaucracy and an inefficient economy.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Mali. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

President Keïta was overthrown in a military coup in 1968. The socialist regime was replaced by a military dictatorship under Lieutenant Moussa Traoré. He promised to introduce civilian rule within five years but never fulfilled the promise. Under Traore's regime, all political and trade union organizations were banned except for the ruling party of the Malian People's Democratic Union (UDPM) and its trade union branch.

The dictator Traoré pursued a more market economy policy than his predecessor, but the economy did not improve significantly. Recurring drought and erroneous agricultural policies meant that food production could not keep up with population growth.

Contemporary History of MaliDemocratization demands

The poor economy caused the Traoré regime to turn to lenders. International lending institutions and Western countries granted loans during the first half of the 1980s in exchange for the Mali economy being deregulated, the state budget tightened and a number of state companies wound up.

At the end of the 1980s, the demands for democratic reforms, both from donors and the population, also increased. Popular dissatisfaction grew as new hard savings programs led to increased unemployment and higher food prices. In 1990 several protests were made against Traore's rule and a number of opposition groups were formed. One of these was the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Adéma).

At the same time, the Berber people rebelled in northern Mali. They demanded autonomy and accused the regime of withholding aid. The government responded with harsh reprisals. The Tuaregs fled in thousands across borders. An agreement on ceasefire and significant self-government for Tuaregs was signed in 1991 between Traoré and two of the Tuareg organizations.

In the capital Bamako, later that year, more than 100 people were killed by security forces during a demonstration for democracy. The riots ended with Traoré being deposed in a military coup, after 23 years in power.

New constitution

The coup makers promised free elections and a transition to multi-party systems, which was also implemented. A national conference of 1,800 delegates from across the Malian community devised a new constitution that came into force in 1992. The same year, parliamentary elections were held and Adéma won by far. Adéma's leader, archaeologist Alpha Oumar Konaré, won the presidential election that year with 70 percent of the vote. In the elections, however, only one-fifth of voters voted.

Despite the peace agreement between the government and Tuaregic rebels, the unrest in the north continued during the early 1990s. Only in the middle of the decade was a more stable peace agreement reached, partly through successes for the government army and partly through negotiations supported by local organizations and foreign aid donors.

At a 1996 ceremony, thousands of weapons were fired from rebel groups and militia. Five Tuareg organizations declared dissolved and thousands of rebels were integrated into the regular forces. Most of the refugees in neighboring countries were able to return home. In accordance with the peace agreement, new districts were created in the north and power was decentralized.

In 1997, parliamentary elections were held which could be rescheduled following accusations of electoral fraud, as well as presidential boycotts boycotted by many within the opposition. President Konaré won clearly in the presidential election and in the parliamentary elections, Adéma eventually gained a large majority.

After the election, President Konaré proposed that a broad coalition government be formed. But the contradictions persisted, despite the fact that some representatives of moderate opposition parties got a seat in the government.

Touré wins election

Preparations for the 2002 presidential election began as early as the turn of the millennium. As the constitution did not allow Konaré to stand for re-election, Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta resigned to prepare his presidential candidacy for Adéma. When it emerged that Keïta did not have enough support within Adéma, he formed a new party, the Collection for Mali (RPM), and brought with him some 40 of Adéma's MPs. Adéma's presidential candidate became former finance minister Soumaïla Cissé.

Favorite for the presidential post, however, was the popular ex-general Amadou Toumani Touré, who was the coup leader when Traoré crashed. Touré had a good reputation in both Mali and abroad by quickly leaving power after the coup in 1991. Touré, who was not affiliated with any party, won by 64 percent of the votes in the second round of Cissé.

As President, Touré became successful in his quest for consensus in politics and he came to lead unity governments in which all major parties in parliament were members. At times, almost no opposition was possible, as all parties were involved in Touré's politics.

In 2007, Touré was re-elected, with 71 percent of the votes already in the first round. An election alliance supporting Touré took home a satisfactory majority in the parliamentary elections that year.

Tuareg and Islamist insurgency

Domestic politics under President Touré was dominated by the conflict with the Tuaregs. The peace treaty with the rebels lasted largely during the first years of the 21st century. When on several occasions disputes erupted between different peoples groups on grazing land and water, the government managed to mediate instead of being drawn into the conflict.

In 2006, however, Tuaregrebels began to attack government forces again. A peace agreement was concluded after mediation from Algeria the same year, but new strife flared up in the following years. Alongside the Tuareg secularism, there was a new ingredient in the unrest: the militant Islamist group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) had gained a foothold in the region. With Aqim came attacks against the Malian military and against Westerners, as well as increased smuggling of drugs, among other things.

In the fall of 2011, hundreds of well-armed Tuaregians began to return from Libya, where they served in the overthrown leader Muammar Gaddafi's army. Many joined a newly formed group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which called for an independent state in Mali's northern desert region. The Tuaregs call the Azawad region.

In early 2012, the MNLA attacked several smaller cities in the north. The poorly equipped army was quickly pushed back and over 100,000 civilians were escaped. Several militant Islamist groups joined the armed uprising. Alongside Aqim, there was the Unity and Jihad Movement in West Africa (Mujao), a breakout group from Aqim, as well as Ansar al-Din (Tron's defender) who, like the MNLA, predominantly consisted of Tuar rule.

Military coup and Islamist advancement

The acute situation in the north resulted in a military coup, since the government's inability to deal with the uprising caused street protests in Bamako and great dissatisfaction within the army. In March, a group of military deposed President Touré. It was about a month before the presidential election was held, in which Touré, according to the constitution, was not allowed to stand.

The international protests against the military coup became powerful. The West African cooperation organization Ecowas imposed such severe sanctions that Mali was totally isolated. After only a few weeks, the junta gave up and allowed Parliament's President Dioncounda Traoré (not related to Moussa Traoré) to take over as provisional president. Touré secretly left the country.

In the chaotic situation that arose at the coup, the MNLA quickly advanced and occupied all the important cities in the north and retreated the army. By the beginning of April, the rebel movements had taken control of the entire northern part of Mali, or two-thirds of the country.

Soon there were reports that the Islamists in the north forced the people to strictly interpret Islam, with the ban on, for example, music and TV, as well as corporal punishment for petty crimes. Accusations of war crimes occurred. The Islamists also destroyed world-class Muslim cultural treasures, which they considered to be "idolatry".

Foreign intervention

During the summer, Ansar al-Din took control of the entire area and introduced sharia laws. By the end of the summer, nearly half a million people were reported to have moved from northern Mali since the militia took over the area. The humanitarian situation was very serious.

President Traoré appealed for military intervention against the rebels. Ecowas decided to send 3,300 troops to Mali, which the UN Security Council approved. But when the rebels around the turn of the year 2012/2013 moved south, the crisis became acute. French soldiers were quickly dispatched to Mali and Ecowas accelerated their intervention.

With the help of the foreign troops, in just a few months, the Islamists could be forced back into inaccessible mountain areas in the north. Thereafter, the French began a gradual retreat, while the Ecowas force was transformed into a regular UN force, Minusma, which formally assumed responsibility for the continuing war against the Islamists on July 1, 2013. The MNLA had then abandoned its weapons and positioned itself on the side of the army in hope. about being able to develop a long-sought self-government for the Tuaregic areas. A smaller organization, the High Council of Azawad's Unity (HCUA), also made peace with the government.

 
 

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