Mali: Persistent Internal Turmoil in the Land of Gold

Mali: Persistent Internal Turmoil in the Land of Gold
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Mali's journey to independence stands as a defining chapter in its history, symbolizing its liberation from the controls of colonial rule and the emergence of a new era. On September 22, 1960, Mali achieved a hard-fought independence from France, an occasion now celebrated annually as Mali Independence Day.

This newfound freedom granted Mali the power to chart its destiny, fostering a profound sense of cultural pride and sparking the flames of self-determination. However, the journey towards this future has been spoiled by relentless internal conflicts. Notably, the recent decision by Mali's ruling junta to cancel the scheduled Independence Day celebrations on September 22, 2023, raises questions about the nation's ongoing challenges.

To mark Mali's Independence Day, in this article today, we will provide insights into the nation's historical background and existing matters.

The Kingdom of Ghana:

The Kingdom of Ghana, also known as Ghana Empire, was a historical empire situated in the modern-day southeast of Mauritania and western Mali. The Kingdom of Ghana, not to be confused with the modern country of Ghana, was an ancient West African kingdom that thrived between the 6th and 13th centuries.

Mali: Persistent Internal Turmoil in the Land of Gold
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Historians are uncertain about the exact starting year of The Kingdom of Ghana's ruling dynasty. The first written record mentioning the imperial dynasty dates back to 830, according to Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī. Additional details about the empire were later provided by Cordoban scholar al-Bakri in the 11th century.

The kingdom of Ghana became powerful and wealthy through trade, especially in gold and salt. They traded gold to the north and salt to the south. It was one of the world's leading producers of gold during its peak. It was sometimes referred to as the "Land of Gold." The Kingdom of Ghana eventually declined due to various factors, including invasions by neighboring empires and environmental changes.

The Malinké Kingdom:

The Malinké Kingdom, also known as the Mali Empire, emerged in the 13th century and was located in the region of modern-day Mali. Sundiata Keita, who ruled Mali in the early 13th century, is one of the most famous emperors of the Mali Empire. Similar to Ghana, the Mali Empire became a significant trading center, known for its trade in gold, salt, and other valuable goods.

Mansa Musa, who ruled Mali in the 14th century, is renowned for his pilgrimage to Mecca, during which he distributed vast amounts of gold, gaining global fame. The Kingdom of Malinké, also known as the Mali Empire, declined due to internal conflicts, invasions in the late 15th century and the collapse of the trans-Saharan trade network.

Its legacy includes significant contributions to art, architecture, and literature, as well as the spread of Islam in West Africa. The Mali Empire's decline in the 16th century was attributed to internal conflicts and attacks from neighboring states.

Songhai Empire:

After the collapse of the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire became as a tough power in the Mali region. They got stronger between 1465 and 1530, with their main base in Gao. When Askia Mohammad I was in charge, they controlled lots of places, even the Hausa states as far as Kano (which is now in Nigeria).

In 1590, Mali faced a significant turning point when the Moroccan forces, Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, launched an invasion. On October 16, 1590,  Ahmad saw an opportunity in the Mali region's internal conflicts. He sent a 4,000-strong army, led by a converted Spaniard named Judar Pasha, across the Sahara.

Despite the Songhai having 40,000 troops, they lacked the Moroccans' advanced weaponry and quickly retreated after the Battle of Tondibi. Ahmad then captured Timbuktu, Djenné, and Gao. But it became hard to control these distant cities, and by around 1620, the Moroccans lost their grip on them.

The French Arrival and The Independence of Mali:

After the Moroccan rule came to an end, Mali entered a period of regional fragmentation with various small kingdoms and groups fighting for dominance. Among these, the Bambara Kingdom stood out. The situation was marked by scattered governance and uncertainty.

Mali: Persistent Internal Turmoil in the Land of Gold
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However, the late 19th century saw the arrival of the French, who proclaimed their colonial influence over Mali, incorporating it into their overseas empire. This marked the beginning of French colonial rule in Mali, a period that would shape the nation's history and influence its future struggles for independence and self-determination.

Mali's independence from France was achieved on September 22, 1960, marking a significant milestone in its history. After years of French colonial rule, the people of Mali successfully negotiated their path to freedom. On this day, Mali officially became an independent nation, with the power to determine its destiny and governance.

Even after gaining independence in 1960, Mali kept close ties with France, especially in economic and military matters. France influenced Mali in various ways, like making French the main language. Both countries are part of the French-speaking community. Many Malians live in France. But, in recent times, their relationship got worse when Mali's military government made people angry at France. On January 31, 2022 Mali's military leaders even expelled the French envoy Joël Meyer.

France's Intervention in Mali (2013) & Presence of Russian Wagner:

In 2013, France launched Operation Serval in Mali, responding to a call for military assistance as extremist groups threatened the nation. The intervention aimed to combat terrorism, leveraging historical ties and UN authorization. Initially successful, Operation Serval expanded into Operation Barkhane, bolstering Mali's armed forces and establishing bases across the Sahel. Despite early victories, the Sahel region witnessed numerous casualties and displacements.

On March 18, 2022 the military junta governing Mali formally requested France's immediate withdrawal. In response, President Emmanuel Macron outlined a gradual withdrawal plan spanning four to six months. France completed its troop withdrawal from Mali on August 15, 2022.

As France exits, concerns escalate over Moscow's potential influence in Mali. The Wagner Group, a Russian private military company, has significantly bolstered its presence in Mali in recent months. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister's visit to Bamako in February 2023 and his commitment to improving Mali's military capabilities, suggested at Russia's growing role in the region.

Mali: Persistent Internal Turmoil in the Land of Gold
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Running President Assimi Goïta's leadership in Mali marked a turning point in the nation's dynamics, with a notable decline in France's influence. His junta's decision to remove French as an official language in June 2023 highlighted the diminishing French presence.


The landlocked Mali's democracy has faced challenges and interruptions over the years, including military coups and political instability. Since independence, The Republic of Mali has been controlled by military governments a total of 5 times. The country's journey toward a stable and solid democracy remains a work in progress, marked by challenges.

It faces economic challenges due to poverty, lack of infrastructure, and climate variation, but it also possesses valuable natural resources like gold and uranium. Internal conflict fosters hostility, which is detrimental to any nation. The more democracy in Mali prospers, the more the country will benefit.