Bamako (bämäkōˈ) [key], city (1987 pop. 646,163), capital of Mali and of its Bamako region, 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. Manufactures include textiles, processed meat, and metal goods. Bamako ships shea-nut oil, kapok, cotton, and peanuts. There is commercial fishing on the Niger. Bamako was a leading center of Muslim learning under the Mali empire (c.11th–15th cent.) but by the 19th cent. had declined into a small village. In 1883 it was occupied by French troops. In 1908, Bamako became the capital of the French Sudan (see Mali) and began to develop into a major city. As a result of a conference of Africans from French West and Equatorial Africa, held in Bamako in 1946, the Rassemblement démocratique africain, an important regional political party, was founded. Bamako is a picturesque city, with a botanical and zoological park and many decorative gardens. Bamako's educational institutions include schools of administration, medicine, and engineering. The city also has an international airport.