Once home to several pre-colonial empires, the landlocked, arid West African country of Mali is one of the largest on the continent. For centuries, its northern city of Timbuktu was a key regional trading post and center of Islamic culture. Mali gained independence from France in 1960 and held multi-party elections in 1992. In March 2012, while an armed rebellion overtook the north of the country, Mali’s elected civilian government was removed in a military seizure of power, and an interim administration was subsequently put in place, followed by a return to elected government. In 2013, rebels began overtaking towns in Mali’s Northern regions. France intervened militarily upon the government's request, and its troops overran rebel strongholds.
In September 2013, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was democratically elected by the people of Mali, and took office, promising to help unify the country after a rebellion, a coup and an Islamic insurgency. One of President Kieta’s first acts as president was to create the Ministry of National Reconciliation and Development of Northern Regions, charged with the promotion of inclusive dialog and reconciliation with the North. In 2015, the government signed a United Nations-sponsored Peace Agreement with Northern rebels. President Keita was reelected in 2018, and continues to work with international partners to bring peace and stability to Mali and the Sahel region.
U.S.-Mali relations have been strong for decades and have been based on shared goals of strengthening democracy and reducing poverty through economic growth. Except during the 2012 crisis, the country’s democratic government has significantly reduced poverty and improved the quality of life for many Malians.
Mali has long functioned as a crossroads between northern and western Africa and has thus developed a rich cultural tradition. In addition, its location between the Arab nations to the north and the sub-Saharan African nations to the south has for centuries made it a cultural meeting place.