Mali is a landlocked West African country – one of the poorest in the world. Since independence from France in 1960, Mali has for decades suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup and 23 years of military dictatorship before convening its first democratic elections in 1992. Mali experienced rapid economic growth after the 1990s, coupled with a flourishing democracy and relative social stability. This steady growth came to a halt in early 2012, when the gradual collapse of state control over the north of the country was followed by an inconclusive military coup and French military intervention against Islamist fighters who threatened to advance into the south.
Although civilian rule was re-established in the summer of 2013, a fragile truce with Tuareg separatists broke down when fighting resumed a year later.
War in the north
In the early 1990s the nomadic Tuareg of the north began an insurgency over land and cultural rights – the insurgency persists to this day despite the central government’s attempts at military and negotiated solutions. The insurgency gathered pace in 2007, and was exacerbated by an influx of arms from the 2011 Libyan civil war.
The Saharan branch of Al-Qaeda was quick to move into this increasingly lawless area, and seized control of the Tuareg north after the March 2012 military coup, effectively seceding from the rest of Mali and establishing a harsh form of Islamic law.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), agreed to launch a coordinated military expedition to recapture the north at a United Nations- backed meeting in Nigeria that November. However, with preparations expected to take several months, the Islamists took advantage of the delay and advanced towards the government heartland in the south-west. Alarmed at the capture of the town of Konna, the government in Bamako asked France to intervene militarily. French troops rapidly overran Islamist strongholds in the north, ending the major part of the insurgency. The north does however remain tense with both Tuareg separatists and Islamists sporadically active.
|President||Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta|
|GDP per capita (2013)||$12.07 billion2014 (World Bank)|
|Population (2013)||15.3 million|
|Surface area||1.24 million km2|