Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


(French Sudan)

Capital : Bamako

Size: 479 000 sq m Popn: 9 818 000


The area that is now modern Mali was part of the ancient Ghana Empire from the C7th to the C11th. From the C11th to C15th, it was part of the ancient empire of Mali, which covered most of West Africa and was the centre of the world's gold trade before America was discovered. In the C13th and C14th it controlled the southern trans-Saharan trade routes and the gold financed the spread of Islam throughout the middle East. The stable and peaceful empire was destroyed by conversion to Islam, the trans-atlantic slave trade and European colonisation. During the C15th and C16th, it was under the rule of the Songhay Empire but this was dissolved after an invasion by Morooco in 1591 and the area was divided into smaller kingdoms.

As Mali has no coastline, it had little contact with Europeans who established their trading posts along the West African seaboard. In the C19th, the France made treaties with local rulers and established the huge territory of French West Africa. The area that is now Mali was part of this as French Sudan (Soudan) from 1895. The conquest was completed in 1916, with administration depending upon the support of the 800 tribal chiefs.

In 1946 the campaign for independence began and autonomy was granted in 1958. In 1959, it joined Senegal to form the Federation of Mali but Senegal left in 1960 and Mali became a fully independent republic. The authoritarian socialist regime of the first President, Modibo Keita, almost reduced the country to bankruptcy and it was still poor after the Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN) under Lieutenant Moussa Traoré overthrew him in 1968. He was president and head of state and prime minister as well from 1969. He promised to reinstate civilian government and a new constitution made Mali a one-party state in 1974 despite student opposition and military objections to civilian rule. In 1976, a new party, the Malian People's Democratic Union (UDPM) was formed and by 1979 there was a constitutuional government although real power was shared between the party and the military.

By 1986, the government seemed to be in control of the economy but admitted that the social support policy was not efficient due to lack of funds. The adoption of an anti-desertification strategy and attempts to halt the spread of the Sahara do not, however, have much effect and there is a rapid birth rate. In January 1991, there were violent demonstrations against one-party rule and in March Traoré was overthrown by Lt-Col. Amadou Toumani Toure. A multi-party constitution was approved by a referendum in 1992 and elections were held in April, replacing Toure with Alpha Oumar Konare.

The ethnic groups are Bambara, Dogon, Songhai, Malinke and Senoufo, French is the official language and Bambara most widely spoken along with Senoufo-Sarakolle, Tuareg and Arabic. The country is 75% Islamic with the rest following Christianity and traditional beliefs.



Alpha Amadou Modibo Mossa Moussa Oumar
Ousmane Toumani        


Aminata Fanta        


Deo Diarra Keita Konare Toure Traoré

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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