The University of Iowa University of Iowa






18,429,893 (July 2018 est.)


Sub-tropical to arid


605.3 XOF = 1 USD (2012 est.)

Important Cities

Sikasso, Mopti, Gao, Segou






Major Peoples

Bamana, Bobo , Bwa, Djenné, Dogon, Fulani , Senufo, Tuareg, Amazigh (Berber)


Muslim 94.8%, Christian 2.4%, Animist 2%, none 0.5%, unspecified 0.3% (2009 est.)



Principal Language

Bamana, Senufo, Songhai, Fulfulde, Tamacheg

Official Language



Head Of State

Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga (since 31 December 2017)

Type of Government

Semi-presidential Republic

Date of Independence

June 20, 1960

Major Exports

Cotton, Livestock, Gold

Precolonial History

The region of present-day Mali was once controlled by a succession of powerful trading empires—the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai—in the West African savannah. The Mali Empire originated in the upper Niger River and expanded rapidly during the reign of King Sundiata Keïta from about 1235 to 1255. The epic poem of how Sundiata founded the empire has been passed down by official oral historians known as griots or djali. The empire reached its height circa 1325 when King Musa I (also known as Mansa Musa) conquered the cities of Timbuktu and Gao. Mali territory extended to the Atlantic Ocean, but the empire declined, and the Songhai rose to prominence in the 15th century. The Songhai Empire fell to Moroccan invaders in 1591 and was dismantled into smaller kingdoms, with Timbuktu as an Islamic center of commerce and scholarship. French colonial expansion reached the area in the 1880s, and the country’s present borders were established in 1890. France completed its military conquest of the colony upon the capture of Malinké resistance leader Samory Touré in 1898. French Sudan was governed as part of French West Africa, and merged with Sénégal to form the Mali Federation in 1959. Sénégal withdrew a year later, and the Republic of Mali declared independence from France in September 1960.

Postcolonial History

Modibo Keïta of the socialist Union Soudanaise-Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (US-RDA) became Mali’s first president. He was overthrown in a bloodless military coup in 1968, and Lieutenant Moussa Traoré ruled Mali as president of a single-party state under the Comité Militaire de Libération Nationale (CMLN). A new party, the Union Démocratique du Peuple Malien (UDPM), was founded in 1976. Traoré was re-elected in 1979, but faced several coup attempts and anti-government protests in 1980. He remained in power until deposed by a democratic transitional committee led by Amadou Toumani Touré in 1991. Alpha Oumar Konaré of the Alliance pour la Démocratie en Mali (ADEMA) became Mali’s first democratically elected president in 1992. He was re-elected until 2002, and was succeeded in office by Amadou Toumani Touré. Touré was deposed in 2012 by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who seized power for one month, amid international protests. During the interim government that followed, Islamist militants invaded northern Mali and captured Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal. The French army assisted in liberating the cities and ending the Islamist occupation of Mali. Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, a former prime minister and National Assembly leader, was elected president in 2013.

Recommended Sources:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, “The Empires of the Western Sudan: Mali Empire” (

National Museum of African Art, “Mali Empire and Djenne figures” (

Pascal James Imperato and Gavin H. Imperato, Historical Dictionary of Mali (Scarecrow Press, 2008).

Audio and Video


Bamana Goussoun [excerpt]

Mali; Bamana peoples
"Bamana Goussoun [excerpt]"
Mali, Kolokani, Bamana, 1974-1976
Collected by Judith Mahy-Shiffrin
Indiana University, Bloomington
Archives of Traditional Music

Fula Song of Welcoming to Djenné

Mali; Fulani (Fula) peoples
"Fula Song of Welcoming to Djenné"
Mali, Kondo, Bamako and elsewhere, Bamana, Fula and Dogon, 1984- 1987
Collected by Peter Lucas
Indiana University, Bloomington
Archives of Traditional Music