So you’ve seen the headlines and heard the reports about Mali. If you are visiting Africa.com, we assume you care about the situation, but may still need a brush up on Mali and what is currently happening there. It’s Friday, so here are 10 facts and figures about Mali that’ll get you through any dinner party.
1) Meet and Greet: Mali is a country in western Africa. Not in the Middle East. There, you’ve done better than Mitt Romney already.
2) Cheese plate: A former French colony, Mali gained its independence in 1960.
3) Stuffed Olive: The population is roughly 13 million. 90% of which is Muslim.
4) Aperitif: The official language is French, but more than 40 languages are used widely by various ethnic groups. The marketplace language is Bambara.
5) First Course: In March of 2012, there was a military coup. During that time, one of the separatist rebel groups in the north declared independence from Mali.
6) Second Course: Taking advantage of the chaos that ensued after the coup in the capital city of Bamako, the rebels captured Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu in the north.
7) Sit and Digest: Chaos ensues in Bamako as the government and the military disagree over how to fight the rebels. Meanwhile, in the north, there is a power struggle between the secularist MNLA (National Movement of the Liberation of Azawad), and Islamist groups. Yes, there are multiple Islamist groups in the region. Click here for our guide to all the key players in the region.
Take a breather, and sip some millet beer–a Malian specialty–before starting on the next dish.
8) Third Course: Military Intervention and the Islamists. Fearing Islamist terrorist activities abroad, French has been a vocal proponent of international intervention in Mali. Starting in January, it has supported the Malian government with air strikes, and on-the-ground troops. U.S. intervention seems unlikely at this point, however.
9) Sobering Fourth Course: After Algeria permitted France to use its airspace to take on insurgents, militants took over hostages working in a gas field, and the hostage crisis is ongoing.
10) Dessert: Mali is one of 16 countries participating in the African Cup of Nations, which starts tomorrow, January 19th. Tune in and cheer on the Eagles.