Mali ( ( listen); French pronunciation: [mali]), officially the Republic of Mali (French: République du Mali), is a landlocked country in West Africa, a region geologically identified with the West African Craton. Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, with an area of just over 1,240,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi). The population of Mali is 18 million. Its capital is Bamako. Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert, while the country's southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country's economy centers on agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali's prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent, and salt. A majority of the population (90%) are Muslims.
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. During its golden age, there was a flourishing of mathematics, astronomy, literature, and art. At its peak in 1300, the Mali Empire covered an area about twice the size of modern-day France and stretched to the west coast of Africa. 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.
Bamakó, population 1,690,471 (2006), is the capital and largest city of Mali, and currently estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa (6th fastest in the world). It is located on the Niger River, near the rapids that divide the Upper and Middle Niger Valleys, in the southwestern part of the country. Bamako is the nation's administrative center, with a river port located in nearby Koulikoro, and a major regional trade and conference center. Bamako is the 7th largest West African urban center after Lagos, Abidjan, Kano, Ibadan, Dakar and Accra. Manufactures include textiles, processed meat and metal goods. There is commercial fishing on the Niger River. Bamako is located at 12°39′N 8°0′W / 12.650°N 8.000°W. The name Bamako comes from the Bambara word meaning "crocodile's back".
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Samori Toure (c. 1830 - 1900) was the founder of the Wassoulou Empire, an Islamic state that resisted French rule in West Africa from 1882 to his capture in 1898. Born in Manyambaladugu, the son of Dyula traders, Samori grew up in a West Africa being transformed by growing contacts with the Europeans. European trade made some African trading states rich, while growing access to firearms changed traditional West African patterns of warfare. Early in his life, Ture converted to Islam.
In 1848, Samori's mother was captured in the course of war by Séré-Burlay, of the Cissé clan. After arranging his mother's freedom, Samori engaged himself to the service of the Cissés where he learned the handling of arms. According to tradition, he remained "seven years, seven months, seven days" before fleeing with his mother. He then joined the Bérété army, the enemies of the Cissé, for two years before rejoining his people, the Kamara. Named Kélétigui ("war chief") at Dyala in 1861, Samori took an oath to protect his people against both the Bérété and the Cissé. He created a professional army and placed close relations, notably his brothers and his childhood friends, in positions of command.
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