Bamako - History


Bamako – Mali lies in the Niger River Valley, which has been inhabited for more than 150,000 years. Its fertile lands have fed the largest and strongest nations of West Africa's history. The early kingdoms grew rich using established trade routes that served all of west Africa crossing the Sahara into northern Africa and eventually Europe. Gold, ivory, kola nuts and salt were treasured commodities.

By the 11th century the Empire of Ghana had grown into the first dominant kingdom in the area. During this period the city of Timbuktu benefited from the revenues of the trans-Saharan trade. It became a major commercial centre with over 100,000 inhabitants, and a centre for Islamic learning. Two universities were built as well as several mosques.

The Mali Empire grew more to the east than its Ghanaian predecessors. It included all or part of modern day Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and Mauritania. In the 14th century the Mali Empire became rich trading cotton and salt. As the Mali Empire weakened a younger political capital further to east began to grow. The Songhai Empire had a professional army, a civil service and even subsidized doctors and religious leaders. In the 16th century Berber invaders from Morocco destroyed what remained of the kingdoms in Mali and trader-sailors began to undermine trans-Saharan trade.

By the late19th century, the influence of the French grew tremendously, and in 1883, present-day Mali became part of the colony of French Sudan. The cultivation of cotton and rice was encouraged through large irrigation projects and a new railroad connected the interior to Dakar on the Western coast. (This same railroad still runs today.) Mali was incorporated into French West Africa, a federation which lasted from 1895 to 1959.

After independence from France in April 1960, and a brief attempt at a loose federation with Senegal, the Republic of Mali set out on its own. Mali became socialist and received Soviet advisors and Soviet money. After several years of dealing with failing state enterprises and widespread unrest, Moussa Traorι led a successful coup. He ruled Mali as its president for 23 years. During these years, however, severe droughts and poor government management led to a dramatic drop in food production. The late 80s brought increasing support for both a free market system as well as multiparty democracy.

In 1991, Colonel Amadou Tounani Touri staged a coup, arresting Traore for his crimes against the Malian people. Touri then arranged for a free and fair election for the office of president. Alpha Oumar Konari, a former history teacher, was elected to the office of president on April 26, 1992. Both development and hope are now on the rise in this nation of 11 million people.

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