Touré's rise to power in 1992 came at a critical juncture in African history when many countries in the region were undertaking democratic transitions following the break up of the Soviet Union and the end to the Cold War. Now coined the "Malian Revolution," prodemocracy demonstrations in Bamako and other cities turned violent when security forces fired upon youthful protestors, killing 300 in March 1991. Then Lieutenant Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré was appalled by the bloodshed, and led an army coup that overthrew Moussa Traoré, ending 23 years of despotic rule in Mali. Selected to head an interim government, Touré presided over a peaceful transition. For the next 14 months Touré and his transitional committee oversaw the drafting and approval of a Constitution, a structure for political parties, and a code for elections. When the resulting free and fair elections were held, Alpha Omar Konaré emerged the victor. Touré became only the second African military leader (after Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo) to give up power peacefully.
Following the transfer of power, Touré established a nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Children's Foundation, supported by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Touré's concern for women's and children's rights— including the fight against excision, pedophilia, and exclusion from education and healthcare—earned him international respect. Due to Touré's success in humanitarian and peace-keeping activities, in 2000 Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), invited Touré to become the special envoy to the Central African Republic to secure a peace agreement. These efforts were well received and led to broader involvement in promoting African integration.
Choosing to focus on his humanitarian work, Touré observed Mali's democratization process from the sidelines for almost a decade. Far from being a dispassionate observer of Malian politics, however, he was troubled by the erosion of traditional Malian values, which he believed had led to a loss of civic spirit and national harmony. In October 2001, he retired from the army in order to enter the presidential contest. According to Touré, it was his contact with children and his concern for their future that convinced him to reenter politics.
On 28 April 2002, Touré won the first round election with 29% of the vote, defeating former prime minister and presidential rival, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. In the run-off election held 12 May, he garnered 64% of the vote, defeating Soumalia Cissé to become the second democratically elected president of the Republic of Mali. Eleven francophone African leaders witnessed the transfer of power from one constitutionally elected president to another—the first time in Mali's history.