Capital | Bamako
Population | 13,443,225 (July 2009 est.)
Area | 1,240,192 sq km (slightly less than twice the size of Texas)
Official language | French
Holidays | Independence Day, September 22 (1960) - Mali gained independence from France in June of 1960.
Currency | Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF)
Time Zone | UTC 0
Best time to visit | October to February (before the heat)
Connecting with the Culture | Hunting for bargains in Bamako’s pavement market stalls. Trekking through the magnificent Bandiagara Escarpment. Watching a gorgeous sunset at Gao. Photographing the mud-brick houses and mosque at Djenne. Buying colorful handwover fabrics at the market in Segou. Making your way through the desert to enigmatic isolated Timbuktu
Read | The Unveiling of Timbuktoo: The Astounding Adventures of Caillie by Gailbraith Welch, and account of the first Western explorer to both reach and return form Timbuktu
Listen | to the beautiful and intimate tracks on Je Chanterai pour Toi by Boubacar Traore; Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure’s Talking Timbuktu
Watch | Yeleen by Souleymane Cisse, dipicting the struggle of a young warrior to destroy the corruption of older society
Eat | fried Nile perch; poulet yassa- chilli spiced grilled chicken; riz yollof- meat or vegatables cooked with tomato
Drink | ginger and hibiscus juices sold in plastic bags
In a word | Merci (thank you)
Characteristics | Castellated mosques; desert landscapes; the Bambara and Dogon cultures; bustling markets; archaeological ruins; faded French colonial glory; ancient rock paintings; the indigo turbans and robes of the Tuareg; griot music; desert elephants
Surprises | The music and dance performances held in local carrefour (cultural centers); the riotous football matches; the villages carved into moutain cliffs.
NEWS ABOUT MALI:
Mali interim leader threatens 'total war' on Azawadis
(Video: Al Jazeera)
(HN, 4/13/12) - Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore, the country's former parliamentary head took office in Bamako Thursday, returning to constitutional rule 3 weeks after a coup overthrew the nation's democratically elected leader. Traore will serve as Mali's president for 40 days according to the constitution though regional leaders already acknowledge it will take longer than that for the country to form new elections. The agreement to bring Mali back to constitutional rule was done between the head of the military junta Army Captain Amadou Sanogo & West Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS. Longtime President Amadou Toumani Toure emerged from hiding Sunday to render his official resignation. The coup soldiers said they grabbed power because Toure mishandled an uprising that began in northern Mali in January, but it was only after he was ousted that Tuareg rebels, aided by Islamist `Azawadis' succeeded in taking the 3 largest cities in the north & declared independence - plunging Mali into crisis.
Mali Timbuktu Rebels End Operations, Declare `Azawad'
(Video France 24)
(HN, 4/10/12) - Mali's MNLA separatist rebels, working with the group Ansar Dine & some of the Tuareg breakaway tribal group announced Thursday they had ended all military operations in the northern part of the country; claiming it had now achieved its goal of creating the state of "Azawad". Some definitions also include parts of northern Niger & southern Algeria - & reports say gunmen took 7 workers from Algeria's consulate in Gao forcing them to an unknown location. The area has been under siege by separatist groups most recently since January, tho the area has seen 4 major rebellions against Malian rule over the years: the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962-64), the rebellion of 1990-1995, the rebellion of 2007-2009, & a 2012 rebellion by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) & Ansar Dine. The rebellion was further complicated by - & was the reason for the toppling of Mali's President Amadou Toumani Touré by Army commander Amadou Haya Sanogo March 21st.
After the coup, the MNLA & Ansar Dine took control of the regional north capitals of Kidal & Gao along with their military bases; on April 1, Timbuktu was captured. After the seizures the MNLA stated it had gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all `Azawadis' abroad to return home & join in constructing institutions in the new state. In the meantime, coup commander Sanogo has said he is reinstating the 1992 constitution & is planning to hold elections soon. The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) along with other international states have condemned the coup & placed sanctions on the country. In Ivory Coast, military chiefs of the nations bordering Mali met Thursday to discuss a plan for military intervention.
ECOWAS sanctions begin in Mali
(HN, 4/7/12) - The 14 West African leaders of ECOWAS which do not include Mali (15th) - Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo have implemented harsh sanctions on Mali's new military junta ahead of emergency talks at the UN Tuesday. In Bamako, the capital, Malians lined up outside of petrol stations (the country imports all of its oil & without new supply will have 15 days worth); stood in line for hours at banks (as the country's bank accounts are being frozen), & cleaned store shelves of food in anticipation of the country's borders & trade routes being closed as sanctions took hold after a coup last month on March 21 which removed Amadou Toumani Touré as President.
ECOWAS had given Mali's coup leader Amadou Haya Sanogo a 72-hour deadline to restore civilian rule, which expired Monday; sanctions went into effect immediately overnight. Non-ECOWAS members Mauritania & Algeria, which border Mali to the north & west, were at the emergency summit in Dakar on Monday & will also implement the embargo. The soldiers who grabbed power said they did so because of the former president's mishandling of a Tuareg insurgency in the north (who want their own nation); but since then, coup rebels have essentially seized control of the entire northern portion of the country taking the 3 major towns of Kidal, Gao & Timbuktu over the weekend. Meanwhile, close to 200,000 people have fled fighting in Mali & the violence has forced the World Food Programme to suspend its activities in the area. (Read more at AlManar)
Mali rebels get deadline, face challenges
(Video via Al Jazeera)
(HN, 4/1/12) - Leaders of the African regional Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) led by the Chair, President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d'Ivoire is due in Mali within 48 hours to secure the speedy restoration of constitutional order in the country following the March 22 coup that ousted President Ahmani Toumani Toure; after the group's plane was turned back from Bamako airport by protestors Thursday. The dispatch of the delegation, which also includes the Chair of the African Union, President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin, & the Presidents of Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger & Nigeria, was 1 of the decisions of the March 27 summit of regional leaders held in Abidjan which also included Senegal, Togo, Mauritania & Algeria; & which named President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso as mediator in the Malian crisis. ECOWAS officials are asking Mali coup leader Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo for a rapid return to constitutional order & warned the nation of the possibility of sanctions for non-compliance. ECOWAS has condemned the coup & announced the immediate suspension of Mali from participating in all regional decision-making. Meanwhile, in addition to dealing with the coup aftermath, Mali's junta says the strategic city of Kidal has been invaded by Tuareg rebels fighting to carve out a homeland in the nation's north since January. ECOWAS gave coup leaders a 72-hour deadline to hand power back to civilians or else face severe consequences.
Mali's Neighbors, ECOWAS Meet: Won't tolerate "Military Adventurism"
(HN, 3/28/12) - Mali's regional neighbors voiced concern today at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan after mutinous soldiers toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure March 22. Toga Gayewea McIntosh, vice president of ECOWAS, said the conference is focused on solutions to resolve the crisis & to see how quickly "we, as ECOWAS, can bring to some logical conclusion, or some basic understanding, of what is currently going on in Mali & get the democratic process back on track". ECOWAS, the African Union (AU), the EU, the UN Security Council & members of the international community have condemned last week’s coup; some such as the US - where coup leader Amadou Haya Sanogo was trained - have suspended aid to Mali.
In a statement released Monday, the UN called on coup leaders to "cease all violence & return to their barracks"; demanding "constitutional order be restored & elections held in April, as previously planned". Coup leaders said Monday they are partially reopening the West African nation’s main airport even as demonstrations organized by a new political alliance called the United Front for the Restoration of Democracy, which is seeking the immediate restoration of law & civilian rule in Mali took place in the capital Bamako. 21 years ago today current ousted President Amadou Toumani Touré led a coup ousting longtime dictator Moussa Traoré. Touré eventually stepped aside, then came back years later to win 2 presidential elections.
As the situation continues, the Tuareg tribe uprising is gaining ground in the unstable north of the country - with an unfolding humanitarian crisis still of concern to the international community. It is unclear how military coup leaders are dealing with the Tuareg situation - a main reason for their ouster of President Toure. (Read more at Ghana Broadcasting)
Leader of Mali coup trained in US
(HN, 3/25/12) - A US defense official said Friday that Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, leader of the Mali coup "received military training in the United States on several occasions". Sanogo led a renegade military unit Thursday in deposing Mali’s democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure just 1 month before national elections were to take place; upset at the government's handling of a Tuareg peoples uprising in the north of the country, which started in January. Patrick Barnes, a U.S. Africa Command public affairs official based at the Pentagon in Washington, DC said Sanogo, "visited the United States several times to receive professional military education, including basic officer training" as part of the "International Military Education & Training" program which the State Department funds, & foreign officers are generally selected by US Embassy officials.
Mali has been a strong US partner in efforts to deal with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa & the State Department condemned the coup, calling for restoration of democratic rule. Tho it has not suspended aid - $140 million promised this year alone - or diplomatic relations yet. However by law, the U.S. government will be required to suspend military relations with Mali because of the coup. The European Union said it would stop non-humanitarian aid, & the African Union on Friday suspended Mali’s membership. The coup claimed 3 lives, with 40 wounded. (Read more at the Washington Post)
Mali Soldiers Stage Coup d'etat
(HN, 3/22/12) - Soldiers in the Western Africa nation of Mali stormed the presidential palace of Amadou Toumani Toure on Thursday and said they had taken control of the country, just 1 month before national elections. They closed the airport in the capital of Bamako, imposed a curfew, & announced that Mali is now under the control of the military’s National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy & the Restoration of the State, (CNRDR). The soldiers are upset with the government because of what they says is a mishandling of an ethnic Tuareg uprising in the country’s north that began in mid-January. The rebellion grew when fighters who had supported the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi returned home.
The unrest has forced tens of thousands of the country's 14.5 million people to flee the violence seeking safety in neighboring countries of Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Senegal & Mauritania, raising international fears of a humanitarian crisis. The soldiers say they "solemnly swear to return power to a democratically elected president as soon as national unity & territorial integrity are established.” The West African regional bloc ECOWAS said it “strongly condemns the misguided actions of the mutineers.” (Read more at News24)
UN refugee agency seeks $35 million to assist thousands uprooted by Mali conflict
(HN, 3/1/12) - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is appealing for $35.6 million to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis resulting from renewed fighting in northern Mali between government forces & ethnic Tuareg, Songhai, Moor & Fulani rebels. An estimated 130,000 people have been uprooted in & outside Mali since clashes resumed in mid-January & the appeal aims will cover needs of 85,000 until July inside Mali & neighbouring countries, Niger with 28,858 arrivals, followed by 22,958 in Mauritania where UNHCR has begun relocating people to the Mbera camp; & 17,499 in Burkina Faso. UNHCR has already delivered tents & relief items for 22,000 people who are currently hosted in remote arid border villages already affected by food crisis, severe drought, & the general insecurity in the Sahel region; & are in desperate need of adequate shelter, food, water & sanitation, healthcare & education. They need basic household items such as sleeping mats, mosquito nets, blankets & kitchen sets. (Read More at UN News Centre)