The recorded history of the area now called Mali begins with the empire of Ghana, which is said to date from the 4th century AD . At its height in the 10th century, it occupied eastern Senegal, southwest Mali, and southern Mauritania and carried on a steady trade across the Sahara with Arab states. The Ghana Empire disintegrated by the 13th century and was succeeded by the Mali Empire, from which the independent republic takes its name.
The Mali Empire reached its peak in the 14th century under Mansa Musa (r.1312–37), who captured Tombouctou and made Mali a center of Muslim scholarship. Tombouctou and Djenné became key centers for trans-Sahara trade. By the 17th century, however, the empire had ceased to exist, and the Tuareg took much of the northern area. Meanwhile, to the east, the Songhai Empire was founded around AD 700 on the middle Niger. Later centered at Gao, the empire was at its zenith after the capture of Tombouctou in 1468. The chief rulers in this period were Sonni 'Ali Ber (r.1464–92) and Askia Muhammad I (r.1492–1528).
In 1591, the Songhai fell to an invading Moroccan army, which established secure bases at Gao, Tombouctou, and Djenné. Under Moroccan rule, a military caste known as the Arma developed, which controlled the countryside, but by 1780, the area had become fragmented into petty states. In the 19th century, al-Hajj 'Umar, a member of the Tukulor tribe, waged a Muslim holy war against the pagans of the area. In 1862, he conquered Ségou and Macina, and the next year he plundered Tombouctou. He was killed in 1864 trying to put down a rebellion. Around 1880, the French began their advance into what was to become the Republic of Mali. They were opposed from 1882 to 1898 by Samory Touré, a Malinké (Mandingo) leader who was ultimately captured and exiled. The capture of Sikasso in 1898 completed the French conquest.
Under French administration, the area became known as French Sudan (Soudan Français) and was a part of French West Africa. Achievements of French rule included the building of the Dakar-Bamako railway and a Niger Delta development scheme. In 1946, the Sudanese became French citizens, with representation in the French parliament. Under the constitution of 1946, the franchise was enlarged and a territorial assembly was established. Universal suffrage was established in 1957, when enlarged powers were conferred on the territorial assembly, which was also given the right to elect a council of ministers responsible for the administration of internal affairs. In 1958, under the constitution of the Fifth French Republic, French Sudan became an autonomous republic, called the Sudanese Republic, within the French Community.
In January 1959, in Dakar, representatives of the Sudanese Republic, Senegal, Dahomey (now Benin), and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) drafted a constitution of the Federation of Mali (named after the medieval African empire), but only the assemblies of the Sudanese Republic and Senegal ratified it and became members of the federation. Later that year the new Mali Federation asked the French Community to grant it complete sovereignty while permitting it to remaining a member of the Community. The Mali Federation became a sovereign state in June 1960.Discord soon arose over external and internal policy, and on 20 August 1960, the federation was dissolved.
On 22 September 1960, the Sudan declared itself independent as the Republic of Mali. Modibo Keita, a cofounder of the African Democratic Assembly and political secretary of the Mali Federation's African Federation Party, took control of the government. The break with Senegal was followed by the decision to leave the French Community. All ties between Senegal and Mali were severed, and Mali embargoed trade with or through Senegal until 1963, when an accord was reached.
The one-party dictatorship led by President Keita evolved into a socialist regime modeled on that of the People's Republic of China. However, by 1968, economic problems and discontent became severe. On 19 November, Keita was overthrown in a bloodless coup led by Lt. (later Gen.) Moussa Traoré. The 1960 constitution was abolished, and a 14-member Military Committee for National Liberation took command. The junta brought Mali back into the franc zone in 1968 and opened its doors to investment from nonsocialist as well as socialist countries.
This Day in 2010:
Mali celebrated 50 years of independence from France Wednesday amid a hostage crisis, with Al-Qaeda militants holding seven foreigners captive, five of them French, in the north of the country. French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux was in Bamako for the independence celebrations and was to meet his Malian counterpart President Amadou Toumani Toure.
Hortefeux was also likely to meet other African heads of state in Bamako, including Mauritania's Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, sources said. Discussions would focus on a military offensive by the Mauritania army against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) units in Mali from September 17 to 19. The outfit has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.
The five French, one Togolese and one Madagascan hostages were kidnapped in Niger last Thursday and transferred to Mali, which borders Mauritania. Heads of state from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Guinea, Libya, Mauritania and Togo were attending the independence celebration and many were expected to hold talks. "The festival comes at a time when there are many security problems in the region. It's normal that the heads of state shall consult," a Malian official said.
Malian musical duo Amadou et Mariam are known internationally for their music combining Malian and international influences.
They were the ones I was talking about, some three years ago (here): Beaux Dimanches: it's the title of a nice, simple song by an African duo (sorry I didn't get their names, but apparently they're from Bamako) I heard in the wrap-up of this year's Glastonbury Festival. It was also what it was today in London, after days of continuous rain!
[Sourced from here and here]