Currently viewing country profile for Mali
The landlocked West African country of Mali - one of the poorest in the world - has experienced rapid economic growth since the 1990s.
For several decades after independence from France in 1960, Mali suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup and 23 years of military dictatorship. But since its first democratically-elected president took power in 1992, it has had a civilian government and enjoyed relative political stability.
The core of ancient empires going back to the fourth century, Mali was conquered by the French in the middle of the 19th century.
In 1958 it was proclaimed the Sudanese Republic and the following year it became the Mali Federation, after uniting with Senegal. However, Senegal seceded and Mali became independent in 1960.
Although swathes of Mali are barren, the country is self-sufficient in food thanks to the fertile Niger river basin in the south and east.
Mali is one of the continent's biggest cotton producers. Along with other African exporters it has lobbied against subsidies to cotton farmers in richer countries, particularly the US. It argues that these depress prices and restrict Malian farmers' access to export markets.
Mali is saddled with a chronic foreign trade deficit, making it heavily dependent on foreign aid and the money sent home from emigrants working abroad.
In 1985 Mali fought a brief border war with Burkina Faso, and relations continue to be strained.
In the early 1990s the army was sent to the north to quell a rebellion by nomadic Tuareg tribes over land, cultural and linguistic rights.
The uprising was ended by a series of treaties in the mid-1990s, but frustration over continuing perceived inequalities led to a renewed rebellion in 2007.
Sporadic fighting continued throughout 2008, despite a cease-fire signed in May. In early 2009, military successes for the government and the surrender of several hundred rebels boosted hopes of a return to a peace process.
Mali has produced some of the stars of African music. The Festival in the Desert, held every year in Essakane, a Saharan oasis, celebrates this talent.
The kidnapping of a number of foreigners apparently at the hands of al-Qaeda has raised fears that the country is being used as a sanctuary by the militants.
Mali has not adopted as tough a stance towards al-Qaeda as its neighbours Algeria and Mauritania, and has agreed to free militant prisoners in order to secure the release of foreign hostages.
This has given rise to tensions between Mali and the other Saharan states.
- Full name: The Republic of Mali
- Population: 13.3 million (UN, 2010)
- Capital: Bamako
- Area: 1.25 million sq km (482,077 sq miles)
- Major languages: French, Bambara, Berber, Arabic
- Major religions: Islam, indigenous beliefs
- Life expectancy: 50 years (men), 51 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
- Main exports: Cotton, gold, livestock
- GNI per capita: US $680 (World Bank, 2009)
- Internet domain: .ml
- International dialling code: +223
nterim president: Dioncounda Traore
Dioncounda Traore was inaugurated in April 2012, marking a return to civilian rule after the military coup in March that toppled his predecessor, Amadou Toumani Toure.
Army officers, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, said they were taking over because of Mr Toure's mishandling of a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north.
Under a deal with the military brokered by regional powers, Mr Traore named a prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra to head a "unity administration" including the military until new elections can be held.
Captain Sanogo agreed in May 2012 to let President Traore remain in office for a year to oversee the full transition to civilian rule.
Mr Traore, a former speaker of parliament, vowed to respect the constitution and preserve democracy. He also won UN Security Council backing for an expeditionary force by the West African Ecowas grouping to oust Tuareg Islamist separatists in the north, which is expected to be launched in early 2013.
Discontent among military leaders about the Ecowas intervention plan boiled over in December, however, and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Diarra - a strong proponent of the expeditionary force. President Traore quickly appointed an aide, Django Sissoko, to the post, but faces possible US and UN sanctions over the alleged army intervention and the derailment of the Ecowas plan.
Amadou Toumani Toure, dubbed the "soldier of democracy", was an army general who was credited with rescuing Mali from military dictatorship and establishing democracy.
He came to power in 1991 after overthrowing military ruler Moussa Traore, and won presidential polls in 2002 and 2007.
He had been due to step aside at the end of his current term. Presidential elections were to have been held in April 2012.
Mr Toure formally resigned after the coup and left Mali for Senegal, although his supporters continued attacks on the new authorities in the capital, Bamako, into May.
Mali's broadcast and print media are among the freest in Africa. Laws that provide harsh penalties for slandering public officials are rarely invoked.
There are some 40 privately-owned newspapers and around 50 private radio and television stations, as well as state-run print and broadcast media.
- L'Aurore - national daily
- L'Essor - state-owned national daily
- Le Republicain - national daily
- L'Independent - privately-owned
- Info Matin - privately-owned daily
- Les Echos - daily
- Office de la Radiodiffusion Television du Mali (ORTM) - public, programmes in French and local vernacular languages
- Multi Canal - multichannel operator
- Tele-Kledu - multichannel operator
- Office de Radiodiffusion Television du Mali (ORTM) - public network of national and regional stations
- Radio Bamakan - community station, Bamako
- Radio Canal 2000 - Bamako
- Radio Patriote - commercial, Bamako
- Radio Frequence 3 (FR3) - commercial, Bamako
- Radio Tabale - Bamako
- Radio Guintan - Bamako
- Radio Liberte - commercial, Bamako
- Radio Kledu - commercial, Bamako
- Radio Kaira - Bamako
- Radio Benkan - Bamako
- Voix du Coran - Islamic station, Bamako
- Radio Rurale - network of community stations
- AMP- Agence Malienne de Presse
A chronology of key events:
11th century - Empire of Mali becomes dominant force in the upper Niger basin, its period of greatness beginning under King Sundiata in 1235 and peaking under Mansa Musa who ruled between 1312 and 1337 and extended empire to the Atlantic.
14th-15th centuries - Decline of the Empire of Mali, which loses dominance of the gold trade to the Songhai Empire, which makes its base in Timbuktu - historically important as a focal point of Islamic culture and a trading post on the trans-Saharan caravan route.
Late 16th century - Moroccans defeat the Songhai, make Timbuktu their capital and rule until their decline in the 18th century.
19th century - French colonial advance, and Islamic religious wars which lead to creation of theocratic states.
1898 - France completes conquest of Mali, then called French Sudan.
1959 - Mali and Senegal form the Mali Federation, which splits a year later.
1960 - Mali becomes independent with Modibo Keita as president. It becomes a one-party, socialist state and withdraws from the Franc zone.
1968 - Keita ousted in coup led by Lieutenant Moussa Traore.
1977 - Protests erupt following Keita's death in prison.
1979 - New constitution provides for elections; Traore re-elected president.
1985 - Mali and Burkina Faso engage in border fighting.
1991 - Traore deposed in coup and replaced by transitional committee.
1992 - Alpha Konare wins multiparty elections to become Mali's first democratically-elected president.
1995 - Peace agreement with Tuareg tribes leads to return of thousands of refugees.
1999 - Former President Moussa Traore sentenced to death on corruption charges, but has his sentence commuted to life imprisonment by President Konare.
1999 October - Several people killed in fighting in the north between members of the Kunta tribe and an Arab community over local disputes.
2000 February - Konare appoints former International Monetary Fund official Mande Sidibe prime minister.
2001 December - Manantali dam in southwest produces its first megawatt of hydro-electricity, 13 years after it was completed.
2002 April - Amadou Toumani Toure elected president by landslide. Poll is marred by allegations of fraud.
2002 September - France says it will cancel 40% of debts owed to it by Mali, amounting to some 80m euros ($79m, £51m).
2002 October - Government resigns, without public explanation. New "government of national unity" is unveiled.
2003 August - Clashes between rival Muslim groups in west kill at least 10 people.
Fourteen Europeans, kidnapped in Algeria in 2003, are freed in Mali after negotiations with militant captors.
2004 April - Prime Minister Mohamed Ag Amani resigns and is replaced by Ousmane Issoufi Maiga.
2004 September - Agriculture minister says severe locust plague has cut cereal harvest by up to 45%.
2005 June - World Food Programme warns of severe food shortages, the result of drought and locust infestations in 2004.
2006 May - Visiting French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy faces a hostile reception from protesters accusing him of racism over the tough immigration bill he introduced in parliament.
2006 June - The government signs an Algerian-brokered peace deal with Tuareg rebels seeking greater autonomy for their northern desert region. The rebels looted weapons in the town of Kidal in May, raising fears of a new rebellion.
2007 April - President Toure wins a second five-year term in elections.
2007 June - Five journalists and a teacher are convicted for insulting President Toure over a high school essay assignment on the sexual indiscretions of an imaginary head of state.
2007 July - The ruling coalition, Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), strengthens its hold on parliament in elections.
2007 August - Suspected Tuareg rebels abduct government soldiers in separate incidents near the Niger and Algerian borders.
2008 May - Tuareg rebels kill 17 soldiers in attack on an army post in the northeast, despite a ceasefire agreed a month earlier.
2008 December - At least 20 people are killed and several taken hostage in an attack by Tuareg rebels on a military base in northern Mali.
2009 February - Government says the army has taken control of all the bases of the most active Tuareg rebel group. A week later, 700 rebels surrender their weapons in ceremony marking their return to the peace process.
2009 May - Algeria begins sending military equipment to Mali in preparation for a joint operation against Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda.
2009 June - The British government says there is strong reason to believe that British citizen Edwin Dyer was killed by al-Qaeda in north-west Africa. He was being held in Mali after being kidnapped in January with a group of other Europeans.
2009 August - New law boosts women's rights, prompts some protests.
2010 January - Annual music event - Festival in the Desert - is moved from a desert oasis to Timbuktu because of security fears.
2010 March - Alicia Gamez, a Spanish woman kidnapped in Mauritania in November by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, is freed in Mali. The group frees an Italian couple soon afterwards.
2010 April - Mali, Algeria, Mauritania and Niger set up joint command to tackle threat of terrorism.
2010 August - Two Spanish aid workers kidnapped in Mauritania by al-Qaeda in November are set free in Mali after nine months in captivity.
2010 September - Mali marks 50 years of independence.
Seven foreigners kidnapped in Niger are reportedly transferred to Mali.
2011 January - French embassy in Bamako attacked by a man with explosives and a gun.
011 November - French soldiers join hunt for two French geologists kidnapped by an armed gang.
2012 January - Fears of new Tuareg rebellion following attacks on northern towns which prompt civilians to flee into Mauritania.
2012 March - Military officers announce on TV that they have seized control and deposed President Toure ahead of the April presidential elections. West African leaders' efforts to assess the situation stall, and the African Union suspends Mali.
2012 April - Tuareg rebels seize control of northern Mali, declare independence.
Military hands over to a civilian interim government, led by President Dioncounda Traore.
2012 May - Junta reasserts control after an alleged coup attempt by supporters of ousted President Toure in Bamako.
Pro-junta protesters storm presidential compound and beat Mr Traore unconscious.
The Tuareg MNLA and Islamist Ansar Dine rebel groups merge and declare northern Mali to be an Islamic state. Ansar Dine begins to impose Islamic law in Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda in North Africa endorses the deal.
2012 June-July - Ansar Dine and its Al-Qaeda ally turn on the MNLA and capture the main northern cities of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao. They begin to destroy many Muslim shrines that offend their puritan views.
2012 August - Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra forms a new government of national unity in order to satisfy regional demands for a transition from military-dominated rule. The cabinet of 31 ministers includes five seen as close to coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo.
2012 Autumn-Winter - Northern Islamist rebels consolidate their hold on the north. They seize strategically important town of Douentza in September, crossing into the central part of Mali and closer to the government-held south-west. In November they say they and al-Qaeda fighters capture Menaka, a town on the border with Niger, from the Azawad Tuareg rebels.
2012 November - The West African regional grouping Ecowas agrees to launch a coordinated military expedition to recapture the north at a meeting in Nigeria, with UN and African Union backing. Preparations are expected to take several months.
2012 December - Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra resigns, allegedly under pressure from army leaders who oppose plans for Ecowas military intervention. President Traore appoints a presidential official, Django Sissoko, to succeed him. The UN and US threaten sanctions over the move.
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Congo Dem Republic
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- The Gambia
- Western Sahara