Mali - Political background



Colonized by the French and part of the French West African Federation, Mali was known as the French Soudan. For approximately one year the Soudan formed a federation with Senegal. This federation was dissolved, and the Soudan gained its independence as the Republic of Mali in September of 1960 under President Modibo Keita. In 1968, Lt. Moussa Traoré, at the head of the Military Committee of National Liberation (CMLN), deposed Keita in a coup d'état and suspended the Constitution. In 1974, under a new Constitution, a 137-member National Assembly was created (as of 2003, the National Assembly had grown to 147 seats). Mali became officially a one-party state under the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM). In 1979, Traoré was elected president in a tightly controlled election and was reelected in 1985.

Mali's economic prospects continued to fade under Traoré's increasingly corrupt and unyielding dictatorship. He imprisoned former political rivals; Keita died in prison in 1977. As multiparty democratic pressures swept the continent in the late 1980s, Traoré resisted calls for political party formation outside of the UDPM. Tensions between politically resistant groups calling for reform and the government continued throughout the fall of 1990 and into the spring of 1991, leading to several days of bloodshed in Bamako and regional capitals. When it became obvious that Traoré was not going to yield, a group of army officers, led by Amadou Toumani Touré, deposed Traoré on 25–26 March 1991. They dissolved the government and the UDPM, suspended the Constitution, and eventually set up a Transitional Committee for the Welfare of the People (Comité de Transition pour le Salut du Peuple, CTSP) with a 25-member cabinet.

Touré remained interim head of state until municipal, legislative, and presidential elections were held in the winter and spring of 1992. Alpha Oumar Komaré emerged as the winner on 26 April 1992, becoming Mali's first democratically elected president. Touré stepped down, becoming just the second African leader to leave office in a peaceful transition following democratic elections (the other was Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria). Ten years later, in elections held in April–May 2002, Touré was returned to power in a democratic election. Ibrahim Bouibacar Keita, leader of the Rassemblement pour le Mali (RPM) and a prime minister from 1994–2000, was voted to head the National Assembly.

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