Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa. Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (for which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, France seized control of Mali, making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined with Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation.
Shortly thereafter, following Senegal’s withdrawal from the federation, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali. After a long period of one-party rule, a coup in 1991 led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state.
In January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, which Tuareg rebels took control of by April and declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. The conflict was complicated by a military coup that took place in March] and later fighting between Tuareg and Islamist rebels. In response to Islamist territorial gains, the French military launched Opération Serval in January 2013. A month later, Malian and French forces recaptured most of the north. Presidential elections were held on 28 July 2013, with a second round run-off held on 11 August, and legislative elections were held on 24 November and 15 December 2013.
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