Timeline of Events in Independent Mali


Sense of history: The name of the country was taken from the greatest period in the region's history. Thus, 80 years of the French civilizing mission was unable to completely obliterate precolonial history.

Economic ties: Despite the construction of the Dakar- Niger Railway, and statistics that show the majority of the Niger Valley's external trade passed through Dakar, precolonial trade survived. Salt traders still brought Saharan salt to Timbuktu and Gao, while other desert traders still journeyed through the Sahara to Algeria and Morocco. Still other traders traveled from the Middle Niger Valley south towards Ghana/Ivory Coast, and east to Mossi country in Burkina Faso, and further east to Hausa country in Niger and Nigeria.

Religious ties: Malian Muslims regularly made the hadj to Mecca or to other shrines like Touba (Senegal).

Conflicting consequences of French colonial rule: centralized, bureaucratic government; belief in economic progress; politics dominated by charismatic individual leaders and mass parties, the desire for equality as French citizens or independent Africans.


The population was overwhelmingly rural. It was also overwhelmingly Muslim. According to a 1993 publication on Africa, Mali was 90% Muslim, 9% traditional and 1% Christian.

The economy was overwhelmingly agricultural. According to a 1956 study by the Bureau International du Travail, the French Soudan had only 3% wage-earners, compared to 93% in Great Britain, 65-70% in France, 40% in Japan and 5% in Africa as a whole. [Source: Le Syndicalist Libre, nÝ3, (22 September 1956).] As of 20 Juin 1960, the date that Mali became independent, 95% of the population was involved in agriculture. [Source: Alain Maharaux, L'Industrie au Mali, (Paris: L'Harmattan et CNRS, 1986), 13-14.]

There were only 36 industrial units in 34 locations in Mali. This was a legacy of French policy that treated the Soudan as a supplier of raw materials and a market for French industrial output. There were 9 rice processing plants, 7 electrical generating stations, 6 bottling companies (4 in Bamako), four bakeries (all in Bamako), 2 vegetable-oil processing plant, 1 cotton processing plant, only 3 metal fabricating sites, 1 ship construction, 1 brick manufacturing, 1 candy factory, 1 consumer chemical plant (soap and perfumes).

The Soudan depended on financial subsidies from France and the rail connection to Dakar. The Soudan possessed only extractive and light consumer industries. Imports provided all heavy construction material, automobiles, and fuel oil. All financing for major development projects came from France (like the Niger River bridge at Bamako, under construction since 1947 and finished in 1961.


During July 1-3, 1959, the PFA held its first congress to organize the government of the Mali Federation. Modibo Keita represented the Soudan while Mahmadu Dia and Leopold Senghor represented Senegal.

Questions on the form of independence: The Soudanese and the Senegalese differed on the form of government: the Soudanese wanted immediate and complete indpendence from France, while Senegal wanted a more moderate relationship in a confederation of the French community. The Senegalese view prevailed on September 23-24, 1959 with the agreement on independence for the Mali Federation. On September 28, the leaders notified De Gaulle that the Mali Federation would seek independence within the French Community, and on November 26, notified the French government of the precise terms of the constitutional change needed. On December 14, 1959, De Gaulle voiced the approval of the French government for Malian independence.

Official forms of independence: On June 8 and 10, 1960, respectively, the legislative assemblies of Soudan and Senegal adopted the constitution of the Mali Federation, paving the way for the declaration of independence. Modibo Keita was the president of the Mali federal government, and Mahmadou Dia was vice-president. Independence began on a good note, at midnight on June 20. On July 28, Mali was admitted to the United Nations by a unanimous vote of the Secuirty Council. Within a few months after the independence of the Mali Federation, all of the other states in AOF became independent.

External efforts to undermine the federation: The French sided with the autonomists, under the assumption that any attempt to group Africans was a prelude to political succession. Félix Houphouet-Boigny offered support to autonomist forces in the Soudan, while Guinea's Sékou Touré assisted rebels in the Casamance. Most vexing was the question of relations with France, which were made even more sensitive by the resumption of violence in Algeria. Senghor supported France while Keita was opposed, and in the end, Dia sided with Senghor.

In addition, the Sengalese and Soudanese disagreed on how to distribute revenues in the Mali Federation. The Soudanese, who were less numerous, represented a disproportionate part of the civil service from the days of the GGAOF. The Senegalese saw this as a transfer of taxes from the productive coastal region to the poorer and less populated interior. On the other hand, the Soudanese condemned the Senegalese for corruption and lethargy with respect to the struggle for independence.

In the end, the different priorities of interior and coastal states doomed the Mali Federation. On September 20, 1960, the Senegalese expelled the Soudanese leaders and workers, including more than a thousand railway workers and their families, when the Soudanese refused to accept Senghor as president of the Federation of Mali.

Modibo Keita served as the president of Mali until he was overthrown on November 11, 1968. In that period, he established a one-party state and converted the party organization into the state. All decisions were made at national party congresses attended by representatives of local party organizations.

In 1962, Modibo Keita's RDA attempted to reduce the country's dependence on France by establishing its own currency, the Malian Franc. Businessmen protested, since this made it harder for them to trade with the exterior, and the government clamped down with hundreds of arrest. Two people died and ten were injured in riots. Two of Keita's main political opponents (plus a leading merchant) were executed, while 75 received sentences ranging from one year to life in prison.

In 1968, a group of relatively unknown junior army officers (captains and lieutenants) overthrew Keita's government. Lt. Moussa Traore agreed to speak for the group after they seized the national radio station, and as a result, became the leader of the new government when the revolution succeeded.


Traoré's rule was marked by closer relations with France and some relaxation of the policy of African socialism, but during the 1970s oil crisis, he and his family amassed huge profits through their control of import/export trade. Protests by students began in the late 1970s, and a confrontation between government troops and a crowd of citizens in Bamako in March 1991 led to another military coup.

In 1991, Mouusa Traoré was overthrown by forces loyal to General Ahmadou T. Traoré (known as "ATT"). ATT held elections for a civilian government as promised, and in 1992, Ahmadou Alpha Konaré was elected president of Mali.