Military of Mali

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Armed and Security Forces of Mali
Forces Armées et de Sécurité du Mali
Coat of arms of Mali.svg
Coat of Arms of Mali
Founded 10 October 1960[1][2][3]
Service branches Army, Air Force, Gendarmerie, Republican Guard, National Guard, and National Police (Sûreté Nationale)
Headquarters Bamako
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta
Minister of Defence and Veterans Abdoulaye Idrissa Maïga
Chief of General Staff General Mahamane Touré
Conscription Compulsory military service[4]
Active personnel 7,350 plus 4,800 paramilitary forces
Budget $68 million ($5 million procurement) (FY03)
Percent of GDP 2% (FY01)
Foreign suppliers Bulgaria[5]
United States[5]
Related articles
Ranks Military ranks of Mali

The military of the Republic of Mali consists of the Army (French: Armee de Terre), Republic of Mali Air Force (French: Force Aerienne de la Republique du Mali), and National Guard (French: Garde National du Mali).[6] They number some 7,000 and are under the control of the Minister of Armed Forces and Veterans. The Library of Congress as of January 2005 stated that "[t]he military is underpaid, poorly equipped, and in need of rationalization. Its organisation has suffered from the incorporation of Tuareg irregular forces into the regular military following a 1992 agreement between the government and Tuareg rebel forces."[7]

In 2009, the IISS Military Balance listed 7,350 soldiers in the Army, 400 in the Air Force, and 50 in the Navy.[8] The Gendarmerie and local police forces (under the Ministry of Interior and Security) maintain internal security. The IISS listed paramilitary total force as 4,800 personnel: 1,800 in the Gendarmerie (8 companies), 2,000 in the Republican Guard, and 1,000 police officers. A few Malians receive military training in the United States, France, and Germany.

Military expenditures total about 13% of the national budget. Mali is an active contributor to peacekeeping forces in West and Central Africa; the Library of Congress said that in 2004 Mali was participating in United Nations operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC, 28 personnel including 27 observers), Liberia (UNMIL, 252 personnel, including 4 observers), and Sierra Leone (3 observers).


The Malian armed forces were initially formed by Malian conscript and volunteer veterans of the French Armed Forces. In the months preceding the formation of the Malian armed forces, the French Armed Forces withdrew from their bases in Mali. Among the last bases to be closed were those at Kati, on 8 June 1961, Tessalit (un base aérienne secondaire), on 8 July 1961, Gao (la base aérienne 163 de Gao), on 2 August 1961, and Air Base 162 at Bamako (la base aérienne 162 de Bamako), on 5 September 1961.[1]

"On 1 October 1960, the Malian army was created and solemnly installed through a speech by Chief of Staff Captain Sekou Traore. On 12 October the same year the population of Bamako attended for the first time an army parade under the command of Captain Tiemoko Konate. Organizationally, says Sega Sissoko, is the only battalion of Ségou and includes units scattered across the territory. A memo from the Chief of Staff ordered a realignment of the battalion. Following on, a command and services detachment in Bamako was created, and the engineer company in Ségou, the first Saharan motorized company of Gao, the Saharan Motor Company of Kidal, the Arouane nomad group, nomadic group of Timetrine (in the commune of Timtaghène), the 1st Reconnaissance Company and Nioro 2nd Reconnaissance Company Tessalit. As of January 16, 1961, Mali's army totaled 1232 men."[1][3]

A national guard soldier walks by demonstrators at Bamako airport.

In the sixties and seventies, Mali's army and air force relied primarily on the Soviet Union for materiel and training.[7]

On 19 November 1968, a group of young Malian officers staged a bloodless coup and set up a 14-member military junta, with Lieutenant Moussa Traoré as president. The military leaders attempted to pursue economic reforms, but for several years faced debilitating internal political struggles and the disastrous Sahelian drought. A new constitution, approved in 1974, created a one-party state and was designed to move Mali toward civilian rule. The military leaders remained in power.[9]

Single-party presidential and legislative elections were held in June 1979, and General Moussa Traoré received 99% of the votes. His efforts at consolidating the single-party government were challenged in 1980 by student-led anti-government demonstrations, which were brutally put down, and by three coup attempts. The Traore government ruled throughout the 1970s and 1980s. On 26 March 1991, after four days of intense anti-government rioting, a group of 17 military officers, led by current President Amadou Toumani Touré, arrested President Traoré and suspended the constitution. They formed a civilian-heavy provisional ruling body, and initiated a process that led to democratic elections.[9]

The Tuareg rebellion began in 1990 when Tuareg separatists attacked government buildings around Gao. The armed forces' reprisals led to a full-blown rebellion in which the absence of opportunities for Tuareg in the army was a major complaint. The conflict died down after Alpha Konaré formed a new government and made reparations in 1992. Also, Mali created a new self-governing region, the Kidal Region, and provided for greater Tuareg integration into Malian society. In 1994, Tuareg, reputed to have been trained and armed by Libya, attacked Gao, which again led to major Malian Army reprisals and to the creation of the Ghanda Koi Songhai militia to combat the Tuareg. Mali effectively fell into civil war.

As of June 2008, service commanders were Colonel Boubacar Togola (Armée de Terre), Colonel Waly Sissoko (Armée de l'Air), Lieutenant-Colonel Daouda Sogoba (Garde Nationale) et du Colonel Adama Dembélé (Gendarmerie Nationale).[10]

The Malian army largely collapsed during the war against Tuareg separatists and Islamist rebels in early 2012. In a span of less than fourth months at the start of 2012, the Malian army was defeated by the rebels who seized more than 60% of the former Malian territory, taking all camps and position of the army, capturing and killing hundreds of Malian soldiers, while hundred others deserted or defected.[11]

Following the rebel advance, a group of soldiers from the Kati camp near Bamako staged a coup[when?] which overthrew Malian president Amadou Toumani Touré. After the junta seized power, they successfully repelled a counter coup on 30 April by loyalists from the red berets elite units.[12]

The Malian military was rebuilt by French forces, and is now capable of conducting counter terrorism operations.


Members of the Malian army conduct drills to instruct new recruits during exercise Flintlock 2007 in Tombouctou, Mali, 2007.
Fahd armoured personnel carrier of the Mali Army being prepared for an airlift.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Tuareg Rebellion, the Malian Army has struggled to maintain its size, despite recent military aid from the United States. It is organised into two tank battalions (T-55, T-54 [13] and T-34/85, tanks, including possibly a light armoured battalion of PT-76s [14] and Type 62 light tanks),[15] four infantry battalions, one Special Forces battalion, one airborne battalion (possibly the 33rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, Djikoroni, in Bamako[16]), two artillery battalions, one engineer battalion (34th), 2 AD artillery batteries, and one SAM battery.[8] In 2014, 30 BM-21 Grads were delivered from Bulgaria.[17] Croatia donated 4000 Zastava M70 rifles in 2013.[18]

Manpower is provided by two-year selective conscription. Mali apparently has six military regions, according to Jane's World Armies. The 1st Military Region and 13th Combined Arms Regiment may be in Gao.[19] The 3rd Military Region appears to be at Kati.[20] The 4th Military Region is at Kayes [1] and the 5th Military Region is at Timbuktu.[16]

The 512 Regiment was reported within the 5th Military Region in 2004.[2] In 2010 Agence France-Presse reported that French training would be given to the 62nd Motorized Infantry Regiment of the 6th Military Region, based at Sévaré.[21] The same story said that the regiment consisted of three Rapid Intervention Companies (CIR) and AFP said it was "considered the elite...of the Malian army."[21]

Mali is one of four Saharan states which has created a Joint Military Staff Committee, to be based at Tamanrasset in southern Algeria. Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, and Mali will take part.[22]

The Army controls the small navy (approx. 130 sailors and 3 river patrol boats).

Sources: Mali Actu 17 February 2012: Liste des généraux du Mali sous ATT : À quoi servaient-ils ? Quel sera leur sort ? and Le Monde-Duniya du 12 avril 2012: Les Generaux du MALI


Small arms[edit]

A M2 Browning Heavy machine gun
An RPG-7 Rocket-propelled grenade launcher
Name Origin Type Variant Notes
Walther PP [23] Germany Semi-auto pistol
MAT-49[23] France Submachine gun
AKM[23] Soviet Union Assault rifle modernized variant of the AK-47
AK-47 [23] Russia Assault rifle
SKS [23] Russia Assault rifle
MAS-36[23] France Assault rifle bolt action rifle
MAS-49[23] France Assault rifle
Zastava M77 B1[24] Yugoslavia Assault rifle
PKM[23] Soviet Union Light machine gun
RPK[23] Soviet Union Light machine gun
Uk vz. 59[25] France Light machine gun
DShK[23] Soviet Union Heavy machine gun
AA-52[23] France Heavy machine gun
M2 Browning[23] United States Heavy machine gun M2HB
RPG-7[23] Soviet Union Rocket-propelled grenade


A sideview of a BTR-60PB
A RG-31 similar to this one is used by Mali
Name Origin Type In service Notes
Armored fighting vehicle
T-54/T-55 Soviet Union Main battle tank 12[26]
T-34 Soviet Union Medium tank 30[5]
Type 63 People's Republic of China Light tank 18[5]
PT-76 Soviet Union Light tank 20[5]
BTR-60 Soviet Union Amphibious APC 54[5] BTR-60PB variant[5]
BTR-70 Soviet Union Armoured personnel carrier 9[5]
BTR-152 Soviet Union Armoured personnel carrier 10[5]
BTR-40 Soviet Union Armoured personnel carrier 30[27]
Fahd Egypt Armoured personnel carrier 5[5]
RG-31 Nyala South Africa MRAP 5[5]
BRDM-2 Soviet Union Scout car 64[5]
D-30 Soviet Union Howitzer 8[5]
D-44 Soviet Union Anti-armor gun 6[27]
M1944 BS-3 Soviet Union Anti-armor gun 6[5]
M43 120mm Soviet Union Heavy mortar 30[28]
BM-21 Grad Soviet Union Multiple rocket launcher 32[5] modernized by Bulgaria.[5]

Training establishments[edit]

The Malian armed forces have at least two significant training establishments:

The Alioune Bloundin Beye school is the tactical-level component of a trio of three ECOWAS peacekeeping training schools: the Alioune Bloundin Beye school (EMPABB), the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, Ghana (operational level), and the Nigerian National Defence College (strategic level).[29] The school has trained over 6900 students since its opening and is currently supported financially and technically by seven countries and as well as the ECOWAS.[30]

Malian soldiers stand MiG 21bis fighterd at Bamako–Sénou International

Air Force[edit]

The Mali Air Force (Armée de l'air du Mali) was founded in 1961 with French supplied military aid. This included MH.1521 Broussard utility monoplane followed by two C-47 transports until Soviet aid starting in 1962 with four Antonov AN-2 Colt biplane transports and four Mi-4 light helicopters.[31]

In the mid-1960s the Soviets delivered five MIG-17F fighters and a single MIG 15UTI fighter trainer to equip a squadron based at Bamako–Sénou initially with Soviet pilots. Two Ilyushin Il-14 transports and a Mil Mi-8 helicopter were delivered in 1971 followed by two Antonov An-24 transports.

In 1974, 12 MiG-21Bis were obtained for the Soviet Union, with a pair of two-seat MiG-21UMs to follow a couple of years later. These initial Fishbeds served alongside the four remaining MiG-17Fs and saw combat on two occasions during the Agacher Strip War in 1974 against Upper Volta, and again in 1985 when the same country, was renamed Burkina Faso. In 2005, another three MiG-21MFs were delivered from the Czech Republic, reinforcing the surviving jets. By 2010, the Fishbeds were only flown on ceremonial occasions. By January 2012, only one MiG-21MF and one MiG-21UM remained operational, until they were grounded for lack of spare parts, ammunition, and pilots a few month later. In January 2013 the Nigerian Air Force sent a technical team to Bamako–Sénou International, with the aim of refurbishing the MiG-21’s, but the project was abandoned. Other jets withdrawn from service were six L-29 Delfins's, which were used for training[32]

In June 2015 the Malian government ordered six Super Tucano light attack aircraft from the Brazilian company Embraer.[33]


Current inventory[edit]

Air Force roundel
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Harbin Y-12 China transport 2[32]
Basler BT-67 United States transport / utility 1[32] modified DC-3 with P&W PT6A Turboprop engines
CASA C-295 Spain transport 1[34]
Mil Mi-24 Russia attack Mi-24/35 5 2 on order[34]
Eurocopter AS332 France transport 2[34] formerly from Bristow Helicopters[32]
Trainer Aircraft
Humbert Tétras France trainer / observation 14[32]
A-29 Super Tucano Brazil COIN / attack 2 on order[34]
SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 Italy basic trainer 1[34]


  1. ^ a b c DISCOURS DE AMADOU TOUMANI TOURE, PRESIDENT DE LA REPUBLIQUE, : CINQUANTENAIRE DU 20 JANVIER Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. (Speech by Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the Republic Demi-Centennial of 20 January),, 20 January 2011. The President of Mali's Demi-Centennial Army Day speech, with a detailed history of the formation of the Malian Armed Forces and withdrawal of French forces.
  2. ^ 49EME ANNIVERSAIRE DU 20 JANVIER Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Discours de Amadou Toumani TOURE, Président de la République,(49th Anniversary of 20 January, speech by Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the Republic of Mali),, 20 January 2010. The President of Mali on the History of the Malian Armed forces.
  3. ^ a b Fete de l'armee: Beintot un demi siecle. Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. S. Konate. L’Essor n°16365, 2009-01-19. Reprinted on
  4. ^ Financial Times, World Desk Reference Mali Defense
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Trade Registers". Retrieved 2014-11-20. 
  6. ^ "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. United States Federal Government. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Library of Congress, Country Profile, January 2005
  8. ^ a b IISS Military Balance 2009 p.310
  9. ^ a b Herbert Howe, Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States, Lynne Rienner, 2005, p.277
  10. ^ État-major général des armées : Le colonel Gabriel Poudiougou promu Général de brigade. L'Indépendant, 12/06/2008
  11. ^ Dixon, Robyn; Labous, Jane (4 April 2012). "Gains of Mali's Tuareg rebels appear permanent, analysts say". Los Angeles Times. 
  12. ^ Pflanz, Mike (1 May 2012). "Mali counter-coup fails". The Daily Telegraph. 
  13. ^ Mandrake. "Esoteric Armour". Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  14. ^ Mandrake. "Esoteric Armour". Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  15. ^ May include 35ème régiment blindé in the vicinity of Kati -
  16. ^ a b United States European Command, 1/10 Special Forces Group Supports Pan Sahel Initiative, 2004
  17. ^ Retrieved 24 June 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Drazen. "Croatia delivers donated infantry weapons to Mali – Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Croatia". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  19. ^ State Department,
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b, French troops for anti-terrorist training in Mali, 13 April 2010.
  22. ^ "Saharan states to open joint military headquarters". BBC. 21 April 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2010. . See also - 09ALGIERS0048, on Tamanrassat committee
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Jones, Richard D. Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009/2010. Jane's Information Group; 35 edition (January 27, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Malian army regains central town from militants". 2016-09-03. Retrieved 2016-10-23. 
  26. ^ "Mali Military". 2013-08-08. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 2015-06-28. 
  27. ^ a b Africa Contemporary Record: Annual Survey and Documents. Africana Publishing Company, 1998, Volume 23 p. B90.
  28. ^ "Mali Fact Files". Institute for Security Studies Africa. 2001. Archived from the original on 27 November 2006. Retrieved 2014-12-01. 
  29. ^ Retrieved September 2011
  30. ^ Retrieved February 2015
  31. ^ World Aircraft Information Files. Brightstar Publishing, London. Files 337, Sheet 04.
  32. ^ a b c d e Sands, Glenn (February 2018). "Mali's Air Force". Air Forces Monthly (359): 84–86. 
  33. ^ Hoyle, Craig (June 15, 2015). "T"PARIS: Mali to boost defences with Super Tucano"". Flightglobal. Retrieved June 20, 2015. 
  34. ^ a b c d e "World Air Forces 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Retrieved 14 January 2018. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2003 edition".

Further reading[edit]

  • 'Insurgency, disarmament, and insecurity in Northern Mali 1990-2004,' in Nicolas Florquin and Eric G. Berman (eds.) Armed and Aimless Armed Groups, Guns, and Human Security in the ECOWAS Region, Small Arms Survey, ISBN 2-8288-0063-6, May 2005
  • Mahamadou Nimaga, 'Mali', in Alan Bryden, Boubacar N'Diaye, 'Security Sector Governance in Francophone West Africa: Realities and Opportunities,' DCAF/Lit Verlag, 2011.
  • Jared Rudacille, "Security Sector Reform's Utility in Conflict Prevention," Monograph written as part of a degree requirement at the US School of Advanced Military Studies, November 2013. (Includes case study of US aid to security sector reform in Mali, 2004-2012.)

External links[edit]