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Mali, officially Republic of Mali, West Africa's largest country (478,764 sq mi/1,240,000 sq km), Mali is bordered by Senegal, Guinea, and Mauritania (west), Niger (east and southeast), Algeria (north), and Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast (south).

Land and economy

The land in the south, fed by the Niger and Senegal rivers, supports the chief cash crops of peanuts and cotton and subsistence crops of rice, millet, maize, and sorghum. Exports include fish from the Niger and livestock. Extensive mineral resources are largely untapped, though some salt, gold, and phosphates are mined. Industries include textiles, food processing, and cotton ginning. Land in the north, is primarily arid, supporting minimum grazing (cattle, goats, sheep).


The population basically comprises 6 tribal groups, who speak the official language, French, and several indigenous tongues. About 80% are Muslims; the rest are animists.


The early 14th century saw the zenith of the powerful medieval empire of Mali, one of the world's chief gold suppliers. Its cities of Timbuktu and Djenné were major cultural and trade centers. The Songhai empire of Gao was prominent in the late 15th century before a Moroccan army destroyed its power (1590) and the region divided into small states. French conquest of Mali was complete by 1898, though they had faced a resurgence of Islam and were opposed by Muslim emperors. Mali became French Sudan and then part of French West Africa. After World War I, the Sudanese Union, a militant political force of the new nationalist movement, led by Modibo Keita, gained momentum, resulting in the autonomous Sudanese Republic in 1958. The republic joined with Senegal in 1959 to become the Mali Federation, a union that ended in 1960 as the Republic of Mali became fully independent and broke with the French Community. The one-party, socialist state, led by President Keita, left the French bloc (1962) but returned in 1967, due to financial difficulties. Keita was overthrown by the military (1968), displaced by Lt. Moussa Traoré as head of the military regime. In the 1970s a severe drought damaged Mali's agrarian economy and contributed to the deaths of nearly 100,000 people. A new constitution calling for civilian rule was implemented in 1979, reelecting Traoré as president. Traore's rule lasted 25 years and ended with a coup in 1991. The new leaders announced a transitional period as a stepping stone to democracy. In 1997 Swiss banks reimbursed money which had been embezzled by Traoré.


Additional topics

21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Lyon, Mary to Manu