The Republic of Mali is located in West Africa and has a long history of colonialism, dictatorship, and rebellion. Over the past twenty years, Mali experienced a military coup that was followed by the first general elections that continued to the first democratic transition in Mali’s history in 2002. However, this model for African democracy has been recently rescinded as Malian military officers staged a second military coup in response to the government’s inability to counter a nomadic Muslim uprising, led by the Tuareg’s, in Northern Mali. This uprising and government takeover was met with international attention and caused the French to deploy troops to the region and broker a deal between the Tuareg’s and the Malian government. Since 2013, peace has been restored and democracy has resumed although there are concerns of institutional shortcomings such as corruption, difficulty in the administrations ability to respond to ethnic difficulties in the North arising from Mali’s porous borders, as well as the erosion of basic human rights as caused by the most recent coup d’état.
The economy of Mali has recently been estimated to have huge growth potential as Mali’s economy grows at above world average rates. While this is a promising indication of Mali’s future, Mali remains one of the world’s 25 poorest countries with life expectancy to be around 55 years. The country is divided into three major economic sectors: the service sector, agricultural sector, and the industrial sector. The service sector comprises around 40% of Mali’s economic activity and includes construction, tourism and public services and is most vulnerable to civil unrest and contracted by upwards of 40% during the most recent unrest in 2012. The agricultural sector comprises around 36% of the economy and includes the production of sorghum, rice, cotton, livestock, millet, corn, and other vegetables. Mali is heavily dependent on this sector as 70% of the population is directly employed and depends strongly on exports of cotton. Finally, the industry sector comprises in 23% of the nation’s GDP and includes 10% based on chemicals, and includes food processing, construction, phosphate, diamond and gold mining. Gold is of particular importance as it accounts for 20% of the government’s income and incorporates 80% of Mali’s exports and makes the Malian economy vulnerable to international commodities markets.
Mali is a member of multiple international organizations including the United Nations and UN Economic Partnership Agreements, negotiates with the European Union, IMF and Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and has recently been reinstated in the African Union following the democratic transition following the 2012 military coup. As a result of Mali’s history with European colonialism, Mali and its institutions are heavily influenced by the French and EU member states and can be exemplified by the French deployment of 2000 troops, with the help of the Netherlands’ 368 troops, and further support from Chinese peacekeeping forces of 400 servicemen limited to non-combat roles to contain the northern Malian rebellion coordinated by the Tuareg’s. Major corporations in various sectors include those of gold mining, agribusiness and water divergence projects that are sponsored by foreign nations such as the French and German in agricultural development.
Military-civil relations in Mali have recently come under much attention due to the coup d’etat of 2012 that required foreign intervention by a French led coalition of forces. One of the major problems in Mali is the large land mass and inadequate military forces to administer security coupled with historically contentious ethnic groupings that are nomadic in nature. Most notably, the 2012 Tuareg Rebellion led to the overthrow of the Malian government by Captain Amadou Sanogo as the government was improperly handling the northern rebellion and not providing enough funding to quash the rebellion. Furthermore, it must be noted that many of Mali’s military-civil problems lie in the political corruption that occurs in the capital of Bamako, most notably the allowance of cocaine trafficking that undermines the legitimacy of law and order, and consequently, of military respect.
The ethnic composition of Mali has been formed based on history and geography. The Niger separates the sparsely populated and arid deserts of the northern Azawad from the fertile soil of the south where a majority of the population resides. The main ethnic groups are the Mande, the Peul, the Voltaic, and the Tuareg, which each respectively comprise 50%, 17%, 12%, and 10% of the population. However, while these ethnic groups are apparent throughout the territory, the Tuareg largely reside in the north and have historically rebelled for independence since French colonialism claimed the north as part of the greater Malian region. To combat many of the ethnic problems in the north, the EU along with the African Union have begun a project that aims to provide security through economic and infrastructural development.