The Republic of Mali (République du Mali in French and Mali ka Fasojamana in Bambara) is a landlocked country in West Africa. It lies between latitudes 10° and 25°N, and longitudes 13°W and 5°E. Mali is bordered by Algeria to the northeast, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire to the south, Guinea to the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania to the west. Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, with an area of just over 480,000 square miles (1,240,000 square kilometers). The population of Mali is 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako. Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert, while the country’s southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country’s economy centers on agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali’s prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent, and salt. About half the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 (U.S.) a day. A majority of the population (90%) are Muslims.
Mali is mostly flat, rising to rolling northern plains covered by sand. The Adrar des Ifoghas massif lies in the northeast. It lies in the torrid zone and is among the hottest countries in the world. The thermal equator, which matches the hottest spots year-round on the planet based on the mean daily annual temperature, crosses the country. Most of Mali receives negligible rainfall and droughts are very frequent. Late June to early December is the rainy season in the southernmost area. During this time, flooding of the Niger River is common, creating the Inner Niger Delta. The vast northern desert part of Mali has a hot desert climate with long, extremely hot summers and scarce rainfall which decreases northwards. The central area has a hot semi-arid climate with very high temperatures year-round, a long, intense dry season and a brief, irregular rainy season. The little southern band possesses a tropical wet and dry climate very high temperatures year-round with a dry season and a rainy season.
The name Mali is taken from the name of the Mali Empire. The name was originally derived from the Mandinka or Bambara word mali, meaning “hippopotamus”, but it eventually came to mean “the place where the king lives”. The word carries the connotation of strength.
Mali was once part of three famed West African empires which controlled trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, slaves, and other precious commodities: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (for which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. These Sahelian kingdoms had neither rigid geopolitical boundaries nor rigid ethnic identities. The earliest of these empires was the Ghana Empire, which was dominated by the Soninke, a Mande-speaking people. The empire expanded throughout West Africa from the eighth century until 1078, when it was conquered by the Almoravids.
The Mali Empire later formed on the upper Niger River, and reached the height of power in the fourteenth century. Under the Mali Empire, the ancient cities of Djenné and Timbuktu were centers of both trade and Islamic learning. The empire later declined as a result of internal intrigue, ultimately being supplanted by the Songhai Empire. The Songhai people originated in current northwestern Nigeria. The Songhai had long been a major power in West Africa subject to the Mali Empire’s rule.
In the late fourteenth century, the Songhai gradually gained independence from the Mali Empire and expanded, ultimately subsuming the entire eastern portion of the Mali Empire. The Songhai Empire’s eventual collapse was largely the result of a Moroccan invasion in 1591, under the command of Judar Pasha. The fall of the Songhai Empire marked the end of the region’s role as a trading crossroads. Following the establishment of sea routes by the European powers, the trans-Saharan trade routes lost significance.
One of the worst famines in the region’s recorded history occurred in the eighteenth century. According to John Iliffe, “The worst crises were in the 1680s, when famine extended from the Senegambian coast to the Upper Nile and ‘many sold themselves for slaves, only to get a sustenance’, and especially in 1738–56, when West Africa’s greatest recorded subsistence crisis, due to drought and locusts, reportedly killed half the population of Timbuktu.”
Mali fell under the control of France during the late ninteenth century. By 1905, most of the area was under firm French control as a part of French Sudan. In early 1959, French Sudan (which changed its name to the Sudanese Republic) and Senegal united to become the Mali Federation. The Mali Federation gained independence from France on June 20, 1960.
Senegal withdrew from the federation in August 1960, which allowed the Sudanese Republic to become the independent Republic of Mali on September 22, 1960. Modibo Keïta was elected the first president. Keïta quickly established a one-party state, adopted an independent African and socialist orientation with close ties to the East, and implemented extensive nationalization of economic resources. In 1960, the population of Mali was reported to be about 4.1 million.
On November 19, 1968, following progressive economic decline, the Keïta regime was overthrown in a bloodless military coup led by Moussa Traoré, a day which is now commemorated as Liberation Day. The subsequent military-led regime, with Traoré as president, attempted to reform the economy. His efforts were frustrated by political turmoil and a devastating drought between 1968 and 1974, in which famine killed thousands of people. The Traoré regime faced student unrest beginning in the late 1970s and three coup attempts. The Traoré regime repressed all dissenters until the late 1980s.
The government continued to attempt economic reforms, and the populace became increasingly dissatisfied. In response to growing demands for multi-party democracy, the Traoré regime allowed some limited political liberalization. They refused to usher in a full-fledged democratic system. In 1990, cohesive opposition movements began to emerge, and was complicated by the turbulent rise of ethnic violence in the north following the return of many Tuaregs to Mali.
Anti-government protests in 1991 led to a coup, a transitional government, and a new constitution. Opposition to the corrupt and dictatorial regime of General Moussa Traoré grew during the 1980s. During this time strict programs, imposed to satisfy demands of the International Monetary Fund, brought increased hardship upon the country’s population, while elites close to the government supposedly lived in growing wealth. Peaceful student protests in January 1991 were brutally suppressed, with mass arrests and torture of leaders and participants. Scattered acts of rioting and vandalism of public buildings followed, but most actions by the dissidents remained nonviolent.
From March 22 through 26, 1991, mass pro-democracy rallies and a nationwide strike was held in both urban and rural communities, which became known as les evenements (“the events”) or the March Revolution. In Bamako, in response to mass demonstrations organized by university students and later joined by trade unionists and others, soldiers opened fire indiscriminately on the nonviolent demonstrators. Riots broke out briefly following the shootings. Barricades as well as roadblocks were erected and Traoré declared a state of emergency and imposed a nightly curfew. Despite an estimated loss of 300 lives over the course of four days, nonviolent protesters continued to return to Bamako each day demanding the resignation of the dictatorial president and the implementation of democratic policies.
By March 26, the growing refusal of soldiers to fire into the largely nonviolent protesting crowds turned into a full-scale tumult, and resulted in thousands of soldiers putting down their arms and joining the pro-democracy movement. That afternoon, Lieutenant Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré announced on the radio that he had arrested the dictatorial president, Moussa Traoré. As a consequence, opposition parties were legalized and a national congress of civil and political groups met to draft a new democratic constitution to be approved by a national referendum.
In 1992, Alpha Oumar Konaré won Mali’s first democratic, multi-party presidential election, before being re-elected for a second term in 1997, which was the last allowed under the constitution. In 2002, Amadou Toumani Touré, a retired general who had been the leader of the military aspect of the 1991 democratic uprising, was elected. During this democratic period Mali was regarded as one of the most politically and socially stable countries in Africa.
Slavery persists in Mali today with as many as 200,000 people held in direct servitude to a master. In the Tuareg Rebellion of 2012, ex-slaves were a vulnerable population with reports of some slaves being recaptured by their former masters.
In January 2012, a Tuareg rebellion began in Northern Mali, led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. In March, military officer Amadou Sanogo seized power in a coup d’état, citing Touré’s failures in quelling the rebellion, and leading to sanctions and an embargo by the Economic Community of West African States. The MNLA quickly took control of the north, declaring independence as Azawad. However, Islamist groups including Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who had helped the MNLA defeat the government, turned on the Tuareg and took control of the North with the goal of implementing sharia in Mali.
On January 11, 2013, the French Armed Forces intervened at the request of the interim government. On January 30, the coordinated advance of the French and Malian troops claimed to have retaken the last remaining Islamist stronghold of Kidal, which was also the last of three northern provincial capitals. On February 2, the French President, François Hollande, joined Mali’s interim President, Dioncounda Traoré, in a public appearance in recently recaptured Timbuktu.
The first stamps of the Mali Federation were issued on November 7, 1959. The first stamps of the Mali Republic were air post stamps issued on December 18, 1960. In 1959 and early 1960, nine stamps were issued in the name of the short-lived Federation of Mali which consisted of Senegal and French Sudan. They depict symbols of the Federation with a series of fish and a common issue with some other of former French colonies in Africa. But tensions quickly arose between the two states of the new federation. Senegal then seceded, while the former Sudan retained the name of Mali, as well as the use of the Federation stamps. The stamps of the defunct federation are rare on letters, especially as in 1961 the remaining stock was overprinted RÉPUBLIQUE DU MALI.
Scott #109 was released on August 12, 1968, part of a set of six stamps depicting early bicycles and automobiles (Scott #109-112, C60-61). The 2-franc green, olive and magenta stamp was printed by engraving and perforated 13. It depicts the dandy horse (draisienne in French), the first means of transport to make use of the two-wheeler principle and regarded as the forerunner of the bicycle. The dandy horse was invented by Baron Karl Drais in Mannheim, Germany, and patented in France in February 1818 (Badenian privilege in January 1818). It is also known as a Laufmaschine (Drais’ own terminology, German for “running machine”), the official designation velocipede, or draisine (a term now used primarily for light auxiliary railcars regardless of their form of propulsion), and in its French form draisienne.
The design of the Mali stamp appears to include an error in stating that the bicycle was from 1809 when it hadn’t been invented until nearly a decade later.
The dandy-horse was a two-wheeled vehicle, with both wheels in-line, propelled by the rider pushing along the ground with the feet as in regular walking or running. The front wheel and handlebar assembly was hinged to allow steering.
Several manufacturers in France and England made their own dandy-horses during its brief popularity in the summer of 1819 — most notably Denis Johnson of London, who used an elegantly curved wooden frame which allowed the use of larger wheels. Riders preferred to operate their vehicles on the smooth sidewalks instead of the rough roads, but their interactions with pedestrians caused many municipalities worldwide to enact laws prohibiting their use. Later designs avoided the initial drawback of this device when it had to be made to measure, manufactured to conform with the height and the stride of its rider. An example is Nicéphore Niépce’s 1818 model with an adjustable saddle for his ‘velocipede’ built by Lagrange.
In the 1860s in France, the vélocipède bicycle was created by attaching rotary cranks and pedals to the front-wheel hub of a dandy-horse.
The dandy horse has been adapted as a starter bicycle for children, and is variously called a balance bike or push bike.