U.S. Department of State Background Note
Sponsored LinksTravel reviews & great deals at TripAdvisor:
Mali's population consists of diverse Sub-Saharan ethnic groups, sharing similar historic, cultural, and religious traditions. Exceptions are the Tuaregs and Maurs, desert nomads, related to the North African Berbers. The Tuaregs traditionally have opposed the central government. Starting in June 1990, armed attacks in the north by Tuaregs seeking greater autonomy led to clashes with the military. In April 1992, the government and most opposing factions signed a pact to end the fighting and restore stability in the north. Its major aims are to allow greater autonomy to the north and increase government resource allocation to what has been a traditionally impoverished region. The peace agreement was celebrated in 1996 in Timbuktu during an official and highly publicized ceremony called Flamme de la Paix--peace flame.
Historically, good inter-ethnic relations throughout the rest of the country were facilitated by easy mobility on the Niger River and across the country's vast savannahs. Each ethnic group was traditionally tied to a specific occupation, all working within close proximity. The Bambara, Malinke, and Dogon are farmers; the Fulani, Maur, and Tuareg are herders; the Soninkés or Saracolés are traders; while the Bozo are fishers. In recent years, this linkage has shifted as ethnic groups seek diverse, nontraditional sources of income.
Although each ethnic group speaks a separate language, nearly 80% of Malians communicate in Bambara, the common language of the marketplace. Malians enjoy a relative harmony rare in African states.
Malians express great pride in their ancestry. Mali is the cultural heir to the succession of ancient African empires--Ghana, Malinké, and Songhai--that occupied the West African savannah. These empires controlled Saharan trade and were in touch with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern centers of civilization.
The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke or Saracolé people and centered in the area along the Malian-Mauritanian frontier, was a powerful trading state from about A.D. 700 to 1075. The Malinke Kingdom of Mali had its origins on the upper Niger River in the 11th century. Expanding rapidly in the 13th century under the leadership of Soundiata Keita, it reached its height about 1325, when it conquered Timbuktu and Gao. Thereafter, the kingdom began to decline, and by the 15th century, it controlled only a small fraction of its former domain.
The Songhai Empire expanded its power from its center in Gao during the period 1465-1530. At its peak under Askia Mohammad I, it encompassed the Hausa states as far as Kano (in present-day Nigeria) and much of the territory that had belonged to the Mali Empire in the west. It was destroyed by a Moroccan invasion in 1591. Timbuktu was a center of commerce and of the Islamic faith throughout this period, and priceless manuscripts from this epoch are still preserved in Timbuktu. The United States and other donors are making efforts to help preserve these priceless manuscripts as part of Mali's cultural heritage.
French military penetration of the Soudan (the French name for the area) began around 1880. Ten years later, the French made a concerted effort to occupy the interior. The timing and resident military governors determined methods of their advances. A French civilian governor of Soudan was appointed in 1893, but resistance to French control did not end until 1898, when the Malinké warrior Samory Touré was defeated after 7 years of war. The French attempted to rule indirectly, but in many areas they disregarded traditional authorities and governed through appointed chiefs. As the colony of French Soudan, Mali was administered with other French colonial territories as the Federation of French West Africa.
In 1956, with the passing of France's Fundamental Law (Loi Cadre), the Territorial Assembly obtained extensive powers over internal affairs and was permitted to form a cabinet with executive authority over matters within the Assembly's competence. After the 1958 French constitutional referendum, the Republique Soudanaise became a member of the French Community and enjoyed complete internal autonomy.
In January 1959, Soudan joined 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, Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew from the French Community.
President Modibo Keita--whose party Union Soudanaise du Rassemblement Democratique Africain (US/RDA) had dominated preindependence politics--moved quickly to declare a single-party state and to pursue a socialist policy based on extensive nationalization. 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. The UDPM spread its structure to cercles and arrondissements (administrative subdivisions) 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, and new incentives to private enterprise, and worked out a new structural adjustment 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 multiparty 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 government workers and others supported it. On March 26, 1991, after 4 days of intense anti-government rioting, a group of 17 military officers 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 were elected. On June 8, 1992, Alpha Oumar Konare, the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (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 Konare's ADEMA Party, causing some other historic parties to boycott subsequent elections. President Konare won the presidential election against scant opposition on May 11. In the two-round legislative elections conducted on July 21 and August 3, 1997, ADEMA secured more than 80% of the National Assembly seats.
General elections were organized in June and July 2002. President Konare did not seek reelection since he was serving his second and last term as required by the constitution. All political parties participated in the elections. In preparation for the elections, the government completed a new voter's list after a general census was administered a few months earlier with the support of all political parties. Retired General Amadou Toumani Toure, former head of state during Mali's transition (1991-1992) became the country's second democratically elected President as an independent candidate in 2002, and was reelected to a second 5-year term in 2007.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Under Mali's 1992 constitution, the president is chief of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The president is elected to a 5-year term, with a limit of two terms. The president appoints the prime minister as head of government. The president chairs the Council of Ministers (the prime minister and currently 28 other ministers, including 5 women), which adopts proposals for laws submitted to the National Assembly for approval.
The National Assembly is the sole legislative arm of the government. It currently consists of 147 members. Representation is apportioned according to the population of administrative districts. Election is direct and by party or independent list. The term of office is 5 years. The Assembly meets for two regular sessions each year. It debates and votes on legislation proposed either by one of its members or by the government and has the right to question government ministers about government actions and policies. Sixteen political parties, aggregated into five parliamentary groups, are represented in the Assembly. In legislative elections held in July 2007, the ADEMA Party regained the majority it lost in 2002, winning 51 seats, ahead of another party aligned with President Toure, the Union for Republic and Democracy (URD), which won 36. The former majority party at the National Assembly, the Rassemblement Pour le Mali (RPM) of former Prime Minister Ibrahim B. Keita, won 11 seats. Other than the RPM, President Toure has the support of most of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.
Mali's constitution provides for a multiparty democracy, with the only restriction being a prohibition against parties based on ethnic, religious, regional, or gender lines. In addition to those political parties represented in the National Assembly, others are active in municipal councils.
Administratively, Mali is divided into eight regions and the capital district of Bamako, each under the authority of an appointed governor. Each region consists of five to nine districts (or cercles), administered by prefets (commandants). Cercles are divided into communes, which, in turn, are divided into villages or quarters. The decentralization process has started with the establishment of 702 elected municipal councils, headed by elected mayors. Election of local officials took place; greater local control over finances and the reduction of administrative control by the central government are being implemented.
Mali's legal system is based on codes inherited at independence from France. New laws have been enacted to make the system conform to Malian life, but French colonial laws not abrogated still have the force of law. The constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary. However, the Ministry of Justice appoints judges and supervises both law enforcement and judicial functions. The Supreme Court has both judicial and administrative powers. Under the constitution, there is a separate constitutional court and a high court of justice with the power to try senior government officials in cases of treason.
Principal Government Officials
Mali maintains an embassy in the United States at 2130 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-2249), and a permanent mission to the United Nations at 111 E. 69th Street, New York, NY 10020 (212-734-4150).
With the encouragement of the major donors and international financial institutions, the Government of Mali initiated a series of adjustment and stabilization programs beginning in 1982. Measures were introduced to reduce budgetary deficits, public enterprise operating losses, and public sector arrears.
Under the economic reform program signed with the World Bank and the IMF in 1988, the government has taken a number of steps to liberalize the regulatory environment and thereby attract private investment. For example, applications for the establishment of business enterprises now enjoy "one window"--guichet unique--processing through a single ministry, allowing a business to be established in a matter of days. In addition, price controls on consumer goods have been progressively eliminated; the last price control, on petroleum products, was removed on July 1, 1992. Import quotas were eliminated in 1988, and export taxes were dropped in 1991. The Commerce Code was revised in 1991 to remove impediments to commercial activity. The investment and the mining codes also were revised in the early 1990s in order to present a good investment climate. Also in 1991, a system of commercial and administrative courts was established to handle private trade complaints and claims against the government.
During the period 1988-96, the government implemented a large reform program of the public enterprise sector, including the privatization of 16 enterprises, the partial privatization of 12, and the liquidation of 20; others were restructured. Among the 20 enterprises left, eight were privatized, including the largest--the electricity and water company (Energie du Mali, or EDM), and the textile company (Industry Textile du Mali, or ITEMA). The privatization of EDM was initially considered as a success, but the company returned to the government portfolio in mid-2005 when the French concessionaire SAUR and the Government of Mali agreed to end the 20-year concession. The government completed the concession of the railroad company to the Salt Lake City-based Savage Corporation in 2005. The privatization process for the cotton seed oil factory (Huilerie Cotonniere du Mali, or Huicoma), was completed in June 2005. The privatization completion date for two major companies--Societé de Telecommunications du Mali (SOTELMA) and the Cotton Ginning Company (CMDT)--is still uncertain, although target dates are set for 2008.
In 1999, the executive board of the IMF approved a 3-year loan for Mali under the enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF) to support the government's economic reform program, for a total of $63 million. For the third ESAF covering the period April 1999-March 2002, the IMF board of directors urged the Malian authorities to persevere with their policy of fiscal consolidation, including the modernizing of the tax system, and to deepen and accelerate structural reforms and rehabilitate the judicial system. Mali was selected in 1999 as an eligible country to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program and has been benefiting from the program since FY 2000 as a budgetary support. In April 2003, Mali reached the HIPC completion point with the result that former debt payments will now be used to fund poverty alleviation programs. Total debt relief under the original and the enhanced HIPC initiative will amount to about $539 million, representing a 37% reduction. As one of 14 African nations that have reached the HIPC completion point, Mali will benefit from multilateral debt forgiveness under the G8 Gleneagles debt forgiveness agreement.
In 2003, U.S. assistance reached $44.2 million: This included $40.7 million in sector support made available through U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs; a Peace Corps program budget of $2.8 million for 190 volunteers serving in Mali; Self-Help and the Democracy Funds of $153,000; and State Department Public Diplomacy Funds of $300,000 for educational opportunities and local projects. Military assistance includes $100,000 for the International Military Education Training (IMET) program, and $200,000 for the Regional Defense Counter Terrorism Fellowship (RDCTF) program. The Department of State dedicated $1.05 million to train militaries of the Pan Sahel countries, including Mali. Mali was granted eligibility for funding from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) in 2004 and 2005. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Mali signed a compact in October 2006 for a U.S. $460 million grant to support Mali’s proposal for an agro-business development, airport modernization and extension, and an industrial zone development. Mali was also granted eligibility for funding from the President’s Malaria Initiative for about U.S. $75 million.
Since independence in 1960, Malian governments have shifted from an ideological commitment to socialism and a policy alignment with communist states to pragmatism that judges issues and their merits, welcomes assistance from all sources, and encourages private investment. The present government, which assumed office in 2002, is committed to democracy, economic reform, free market policies, regional integration, and international cooperation on peacekeeping and counter-terrorism activities.
Mali is a member of the UN and many of its specialized agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank; the International Labor Organization (ILO); the International Telecommunications Union (ITU); and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). It also belongs to the African Union (AU); the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); and the African Development Bank (ADB). Mali also is an associate member of the European Union (EU).
Mali is active in regional organizations. It participates in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic Monetary Union (UEMOA) for regional economic integration; Liptako-Gourma Authority, which seeks to develop the contiguous areas of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso; the Niger River Commission; the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS); and the Senegal River Valley Development Organization (OMVS).
U.S.-Malian relations are excellent and expanding. They are based on shared goals of averting suffering and strengthening democracy. The bilateral agenda is dominated by efforts to increase broad-based growth, improve health and educational facilities, promote the sustainable use of natural resources, reduce the population growth rate, counter the spread of highly infectious diseases, encourage regional stability, build peacekeeping capabilities, institutionalize respect for human rights, and strengthen democratic institutions in offering good governance. Mali currently is a small market for U.S. trade and investment, but there is potential for considerable growth as its economy expands.
Mali is a leading regional partner in the Global War on Terrorism. Mali also serves as an important laboratory for testing new anti-malaria medicines for use by American citizen travelers and for research that will have an Africa-wide impact. USAID, Peace Corps, and other U.S. Government programs play a significant role in fostering sustainable economic and social development. USAID programs also strengthen efforts to consolidate the peace process in northern Mali and the region's socioeconomic and political integration. Defense Department security assistance programs and training support help permit Mali to achieve its potential in international peacekeeping and counter-terrorism efforts.
Principal U.S. Officials
The U.S. Embassy is located at ACI 2000 Rue 243, Porte 297, Bamako, tel.: (223) 270 2300, fax: (223) 270 2479. The mailing address is BP 34, Bamako, Mali. The embassy website is http://mali.usembassy.gov/. Embassy hours are 7:30 a.m-5:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 7:30 am-11:30 am on Friday.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.
The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.
The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Further Electronic Information
Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help with the export process, and more.STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank.
Revised: Oct. 2007