History Files


African Kingdoms

West Africa




Mandingo Kingdom of Kangaba
c.AD 1050 - 1235

Built out of a confederation of African Mandinka tribes, the kingdoms in Mali existed for several centuries before they were unified as a small state just to the south of Old Ghana. The city state of Ka-ba (modern Kangaba) was a vassal of the Ghana empire, but became more powerful itself in the thirteenth century and broke away.

c.1050 - c.1090



Old Ghana is critically weakened by warfare against the Almorivids, and it loses control of the Mandika tribes in Mali.

c.1090 - c.1150


c.1150 - c.1190


c.1190 - c.1200

Di Jigi Bilali

c.1200 - c.1218

Keita Nari fa Majan

c.1218 - 1228

Danagaram Tumo

1228 - 1235



Soninke's successor quickly creates a Mali empire out of the kingdom.

Mali Empire / Manding / Manden Kurufa
AD 1235 - 1645

Evolving from the Mandingo kingdom of Kangaba, the empire was founded by Sundiata Keita as a medieval Islamic West African state of the Mandinka from 1235 to 1645. At its height it stretched from the West African coast at Mauretania, bordering on Murabit Islamic territory, to Timbuktu and Gao on the River Niger. It became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I. It also had many profound cultural influences on West Africa, allowing the spread of its language, laws and customs along the Niger.

The Mali emperors were almost all of the Keita dynasty, and they traced their lineage back to Muhammed's faithful muezzin (the caller to prayers), Bilal. Oral chroniclers preserved a list of each Keita ruler from Lawalo (supposedly one of Bilal's seven sons who settled in Mali) to Maghan Kon Fatta (the father of Sundiata Keita), although the details may be fairly dubious in places.

1235 - 1255

Mari Jata I / Sondjata / Sundjata / Sundiata

Created the empire.


Old Ghana falls to Mali.

1255 - 1270

Uli / Ouali

c.1260 - 1275

Mali occupies the Songhai empire.

1270 - 1274

Wati / Ouati



1274 - 1285

Abu Bakr I / Abubakari

1285 - 1300

Sakura / Sakoura

1300 - 1305

Qu / Gao

1305 - 1310

Mohammed ibn Gao


1310 - 1312

Abu Bakr II / Abubakari

1312 - 1337

Musa I / Mansa (Kankan) Musa


Mali occupies the Songhai empire. The Mali empire is extended to the Atlantic.

1337 - 1341

Magha I

1341 - 1360

Suleiman / Souleyman


Qasa / Camba

1360 - 1374

Mari Jata II

1374 - 1387

Musa II

1387 - 1388

Magha II

1388 - 1390


1390 - 1404

Mahmud / Magha III

1404 - c.1440

The throne is vacant.


Musa III


Uli / Ouali II


The empire is in decline, and former subjects break away. The Songhai empire occupies Timbuktu, an important trading post on the trans-Saharan trading route. Songhai also gains dominance in the gold trade, further weakening Mali.


Mahmud II


Mahmud III


Mahmud IV


A Moroccan invasion hastens the decline of the Songhai empire. The Songhai forces are routed at the Battle of Tondibi by the Saadi gunpowder weapons despite vastly superior Songhai numbers. Gao, Timbuktu, and Jenne (Djenné), are sacked and the Songhai are destroyed as a regional power. The Saadi Moroccans takes over control of Mali while the Songhai themselves retreat to the Dendi region of Niger and reform a smaller kingdom.


Mama Maghan

1630 - 1645

Shortly after the Songhai empire has fallen to the Moroccans, the remnants of the Mandinka also fall to the Bamana of Jenne (formerly a city within the Songhai empire which had been sacked in 1591).

Tukulor Empire
AD 1854 - 1894

This was a short-lived empire formed from the splinter states in Mali, but it was quickly overrun by the invading French.

1854 - 1864

Omar al-Hajj

1864 - 1893



The kingdom is conquered by the French. It becomes French Sudan, more formally known as the Sudanese republic.

1959 - 1960

Named the Mali Federation, a brief experiment with a federal state in conjunction with Senegal fails after just a year. The region gains independence from France in 1960, and becomes the republic of Mali.

Modern Mali
AD 1960 - Present Day

A landlocked state in West Africa, the republic of Mali is largely sustained by the fertile Niger river basin in the south and east of the country. Its capital is at Bamako, while the historic city of Timbuktu (which used to be spelled variously as Timbuctoo or Timbuktoo) is located twenty kilometres north of the River Niger, on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. Mali is neighboured by Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkino Faso and Ivory Coast to the south, and Guinea, Senegal, and Mauritania to the west.

Modern Mali was formed out of the various splinter states that had existed in the region since the collapse of the Mali empire in the seventeenth century. That empire had grown to greatness in the thirteenth century after shrugging off the Old Ghana empire. It had expanded to include the centre and south of the modern state as well as a similarly-sized strip to the Atlantic coast. Decline set in during the fifteenth century and the empire fractured in the seventeenth, leaving it ripe for takeover by the French. Upon independence the twentieth century Mali republic became a one-party socialist state.

One of the world's poorest countries, Mali suffered after independence, from drought, rebellion, military coups, and military dictatorship. In the 1990s it experienced a period of economic growth. This encouraged and supported a flourishing democracy and relative social stability. All of this was put at risk by the steady collapse of central authority in the north of the country and the rise of al-Qaeda-related Islamic fighters. An inconclusive coup and French military intervention against the Islamists made matters even more complicated.

(Additional information from External Link: BBC Country Profiles.)


Despite the new sense of hope that may have been offered by independence, in fact the economy has been declining steadily. President Modibo Keita is ousted in a bloodless coup that is led by Lieutenant Moussa Traoré. This event, on 19 November, is subsequently celebrated as 'Liberation Day'. All political activity is banned and a police state is introduced.

1968 - 1991

Moussa Traoré

President of a military committee. Born 1936.


Former President Keita dies in prison in mysterious circumstances. Protests erupt when the news reaches the populace, and a large crowd attends his funeral, but Traoré cracks down hard on any further demonstrations of protest, often violently.

Moussa Traoré
Moussa Traoré started as a second-lieutenant in the army and ended up as a virtual dictator of Mali during the 1970s and 1980s before being deposed and replaced by democratic elections


The new constitution paves the way for elections. Lieutenant Traoré is re-elected president in a contest of only one candidate. This is repeated in 1985 when he is also specially exempted from the normal limit of two terms of office.


The nomadic Tuareg of northern Mali begin an insurgency over land and cultural rights. A previous uprising in the 1960s had ended in an uneasy peace. Central government attempts at military and negotiated solutions fail continuously to resolve the situation over the next few years.

1991 - 1992

Traoré puts down a huge protest march in Bamako, with up to three hundred people being killed. Four days later, Traoré is deposed by a military coup led by the commander of his personal guard. He is replaced by a transitional committee and military rule is ended by democratic elections.


A peace agreement with the Tuareg tribes leads to the return of thousands of refugees. Major fighting against the Tuareg ends, although the region is never truly at peace.

2006 - 2007

In June the government signs an Algerian-brokered peace deal with the Tuareg rebels who are seeking greater autonomy for their northern desert region. The rebels loot weapons from the town of Kidal in May, raising fears of a new rebellion. The insurgency gathers pace in 2007. Government soldiers are abducted in separate incidents near the Niger and Algerian borders and the Tuareg are blamed.

2008 - 2009

Tuareg rebels kill seventeen soldiers in a May attack on an army post in the north-east, despite a ceasefire being agreed just a month earlier. In December, at least twenty people are killed and several taken hostage in an attack by Tuareg rebels on a military base in northern Mali. The following year, the government states that the army has taken control of all bases of the most active Tuareg rebel group. A week later, seven hundred rebels surrender their weapons in a ceremony that marks their return to the peace process. In May, Algeria begins sending military equipment to Mali in preparation for a joint operation against Islamic militants that are linked to al-Qaeda.


The Tuareg benefit from an influx of arms from the recent Libyan civil war. The Saharan branch of al-Qaeda is quick to move into this increasingly lawless area as a direct rival to the Tuareg.

2012 - 2013

The government has steadily been losing control over the north of the country to Islamic fighters. Army officers who are angry at the level of support they have received in the fight against the Tuareg overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure in March. In the chaos that follows, the Tuareg seize control of the north before being ousted by al-Qaeda-linked groups who imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic law on the local population, carrying out amputations and executions.

Tuareg fighter
Despite being traditionalist nomads, the modern Tuareg are virtually a match for the government forces that have been struggling to suppress them


At a meeting in Nigeria in November 2012 the West African regional grouping, Ecowas, agrees to launch a coordinated military expedition to recapture the north, with UN backing. The Islamists seize the initiative and begin to advance towards the government heartland in the south-west. Alarmed at the capture of the town of Konna, the government in Bamako asks France to intervene militarily. French troops rapidly overrun Islamist strongholds in the north, bringing the insurgency to an end and freeing the captured cities, including historic Timbuktu. The north remains tense, however, with both Tuareg separatists and Islamists sporadically active. Civilian rule in the north is re-established in 2013. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita takes office in September, in the first free elections since the coup.


A fragile truce with Tuareg separatists breaks down and the fighting continues. It is sporadic and relatively ineffectual, and does not force a rethink of the gradual withdrawal of French troops.