Moussa Traoré

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Moussa Traoré
Moussa Traoré in 1989
2nd President of Mali
In office
19 November 1968 – 26 March 1991
DeputyYoro Diakité
Amadou Baba Diarra
Preceded byModibo Keïta
Succeeded byAmadou Toumani Touré
Personal details
Born(1936-09-25)25 September 1936
Kayes, French Sudan (now Mali)
Died15 September 2020(2020-09-15) (aged 83)
Bamako, Mali[1]
Political partyMilitary (later UDPM)
SpouseMariam Traoré
Military service
Allegiance Mali
Branch/serviceMalian Army
Years of service1960–1976
RankMajor General
Battles/warsTuareg rebellion (1990–1995)
Criminal details
ConvictionDeath of an estimated 300 protesters
Targetprotesters to his regime
PenaltyCapital punishment 1993,1999
ImprisonedMarkala Prison

Moussa Traoré (25 September 1936 – 15 September 2020) was a Malian soldier, politician, and dictator who was President of Mali from 1968 to 1991. As a lieutenant, he led the military ousting of President Modibo Keïta in 1968. Thereafter he served as head of state until March 1991, when he was overthrown by popular protests and a military coup.

He was twice condemned to death in the 1990s, but eventually pardoned on both occasions and freed in 2002. He retired from public life and died in 2020.

Early life[edit]

Born in Kayes Region, Traoré studied at Kita and at the military academy in Fréjus, France. He returned to Mali in 1960, after its 1959 independence. He became second lieutenant in 1961, and lieutenant in 1963. He went to Tanganyika (which later together with Zanzibar formed the new state of Tanzania) as military instructor to its liberation movements. He then became instructor at the École militaire interarmes in Kati.

Head of state, 1968–1991[edit]

Traore with Niyazov.

On 19 November 1968 he took part in the coup d'état which deposed President Modibo Keïta. He became president of the Comité militaire de libération nationale, which made him effective Head of state of Mali.[2] All political activity was banned. A police state was run by Captain Tiécoro Bagayoko. Informers monitored academics and teachers, mostly hostile to the military rule. The socialist economic policies of Modibo Keïta were partially dropped. In 1972–1973, a major drought hit Mali.[3]

In 1974, Traoré issued a changed constitution for a Malian Second Republic, which was inaugurated in 1978. The new constitution was purported to move Mali toward civilian rule, the military junta stayed in power. In September 1976, they established the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM), a new ruling political party organised according to a "non-ideological democratic centralism". In June 1979, a single-party general election was held. As general secretary of the UPDM, Traoré was automatically elected to a six-year term as president, and he was confirmed in office with 99 percent of the vote.[4] The UDPM was intended to be the main link between the government and the people.[citation needed] Among its auxiliaries were the Union Nationale des Femmes du Mali and Union Nationale des Jeunes du Mali, compulsory organisations for women and young people.[citation needed]

In 1977 ex-president Modibo Keïta died in detention, in suspicious circumstances. The government reacted strongly, and made violent arrests. On 28 February 1978, Moussa Traoré had arrested both Tiécoro Bagayoko and Kissima Doukara, defense and security minister, on accusations of plotting a coup. In trying to move to more open politics, he appointed the historian Alpha Oumar Konaré as arts minister. In 1980, student demonstrations were broken up, and their leader Abdoul Karim Camara ("Cabral") died from torture. In 1982, he was made commander-in-chief. Traoré was chairman of the Organization of African Unity from May 1988 to July 1989.[citation needed]

Ronald Reagan and Moussa Traore in 1988.

Traoré was reelected in 1985, again as the only candidate. Later that year, the UDPM-controlled legislature amended the constitution to exempt him from the two-term limit.[citation needed]

The political situation stabilized during 1981 and 1982, and remained generally calm throughout the 1980s. The UDPM began attracting additional members as it demonstrated that it could counter an effective voice against the excesses of local administrative authorities. Shifting its attention to Mali's economic difficulties, the government approved plans for cereal marketing liberalization, reform in the state enterprise system, new incentives to private enterprise, and an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, by 1990, there was growing dissatisfaction with the demands for austerity imposed by the IMF's economic reform programs and the perception that the president and his close associates were not themselves adhering to those demands. As in other African countries, demands for multi-party democracy increased. Traoré allowed some reforms, including the establishment of an independent press and independent political associations, but insisted that Mali was not ready for democracy.[4]

Agacher Strip War[edit]

Agacher Strip.

On December 25, 1985 tensions rose between Mali led by Traoré and Burkina Faso led by Thomas Sankara. Traoré's regime struggled to manage social unrest. When officials in Burkina Faso conducted a census in disputed border communities, Malian forces launched an offensive on Christmas Day. Since Mali had more power than Burkina Faso they used guerrilla warfare as the war continued raids were conducted in both countries. Then in early 1986 a peace agreement was made and resulted in Thomas Sankara and Traoré to avoid each other. This would affect Mali negatively but it boosted his popularity.[5][6]

Opposition and overthrow[edit]

Amadou Toumani Touré, leader of the coup, in his official portrait as president.

In 1990, the National Congress for Democratic Initiative (Congrès National d’Initiative démocratique, CNID) was set up by the lawyer Mountaga Tall, and the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Alliance pour la démocratie au Mali, ADEMA) by Abdramane Baba and historian Alpha Oumar Konaré. These with the Association des élèves et étudiants du Mali (AEEM) and the Association Malienne des Droits de l'Homme (AMDH) aimed to contest Moussa Traoré's rule, with a plural political life.

On 22 March 1991 a huge protest march in central Bamako was put down violently, with estimates of those killed reaching 150. Four days later, the commander of Traoré's presidential guard, Col. Amadou Toumani Touré, removed Traoré from office and arrested him.[7][8] A Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People was set up under Touré's chairmanship, which oversaw a transition to democracy a year later.[9]

Trials and pardons[edit]

Imprisoned in Markala local Prison, in February 1993, Traoré was condemned to death for "political crimes", largely focused on the killing of around 300 pro-democracy demonstrators in Bamako,[10] but his sentence was later commuted. In 1999 he was once more condemned to death with his wife Mariam Traoré, for "economic crimes": the embezzling of the equivalent of US$350,000 during his rule. President Alpha Oumar Konaré commuted these sentences to life imprisonment. Shortly before leaving office, on 29 May 2002, he further pardoned the couple, for the sake of national reconciliation, a stance which incoming president Amadou Toumani Touré championed.[11][12]

Traoré's once reviled legacy somewhat softened under Touré, with the former dictator recognised at least informally as a former head of state and many former supporters now rallying around Chogel Maiga's Patriotic Movement for Renewal party (Mouvement Patriotique pour le Renouveau, MPR). Both Traoré and his wife retired from public life, in part due to ill health.[13]


Traoré died on 15 September 2020, in Bamako,Mali just ten days before his 84th birthday.[14] There are no details on his cause of death.


  1. ^ "Mali : l'ancien président Moussa Traoré est décédé" [Mali: Former President Moussa Traoré has died] (in French). Jeune Afrique. 15 September 2020. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Leader of Coup in Mali Takes Over as President". The New York Times. Vol. 118, no. 40495. 7 December 1968.
  3. ^ Johnson, Thomas A. (12 September 1973). "African Leaders at Drought Talks". The New York Times. Vol. 122, no. 42235.
  4. ^ a b Background Note: Mali Archived 12 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Description: Historical, Political and Economic Overviews of the Countries of the World Date: Apr, 15 19934/15/93.
  5. ^ Department of State, United States (14 January 1987). "Sub Saharan Africa Report" (PDF).
  6. ^ "TR_redirect – Defense Technical Information Center". 10 January 2022. Archived from the original on 10 January 2022. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  7. ^ "President of Mali Reported Arrested". The New York Times. Vol. 140, no. 48551. 26 March 1991.
  8. ^ "Mali's Dictator Is Overthrown in Coup". The New York Times. Vol. 140, no. 48552. 27 March 1991.
  9. ^ Manning, Patrick (1999). Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, 1880-1995. Cambridge University Press. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-0-521-64255-2. OCLC 924699152.
  10. ^ "Le procès Moussa Traoré".
  11. ^ "Former Malian president escapes death again", BBC, 22 September 1999.
  12. ^ "New Malian president sworn in", BBC, 8 June 2002.
  13. ^ "Mali ex-ruler rejects pardon", BBC, 30 May 2002.
  14. ^ Mali: l'ancien président Moussa Traoré est mort

Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of Mali
Succeeded by