University of Bamako
| National Museum of Mali, Grand Mosque of Bamako, Bozo Village|
Bamako is the capital and largest city of Mali, with a population of 1.8 million (2009 census, provisional). In 2006, it was estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa and sixth-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 nations administrative center. The city proper is a cercle in its own right. Bamakos river port is located in nearby Koulikoro, along with a major regional trade and conference center. Bamako is the seventh-largest West African urban center after Lagos, Abidjan, Kano, Ibadan, Dakar, and Accra. Locally manufactured goods include textiles, processed meat, and metal goods. Commercial fishing occurs on the Niger River.
The name Bamako (Bàmak?? in Bambara) comes from the Bambara word meaning "crocodile river".
The area of the city has been continuously inhabited since the Palaeolithic era for more than 150,000 years. The fertile lands of the Niger River Valley provided the people with an abundant food supply and early kingdoms in the area grew wealthy as they established trade routes linking across west Africa, the Sahara, and leading to northern Africa and Europe. The early inhabitants traded gold, ivory, kola nuts, and salt. By the 11th century, the Empire of Ghana became the first kingdom to dominate the area. Bamako had become a major market town, and a centre for Islamic scholars, with the establishment of two universities and numerous mosques in medieval times.
The Mali Empire grew during the early Middle Ages and replaced Ghana as the dominant kingdom in west Africa, dominating Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, and Mauritania. In the 14th century, the Mali Empire became increasingly wealthy because of the trade of cotton and salt. This was eventually succeeded by the Songhai Empire and in the 16th century Berber invaders from Morocco destroyed what remained of the kingdoms in Mali and trans-Saharan trade was taken over by sailors.
By the late 19th century, the French dominated much of western Africa, and in 1883, present-day Mali became part of the colony of French Sudan, and was its capital in 1908. Cotton and rice farming was encouraged through large irrigation projects and a new railroad connected Mali to Dakar on the Atlantic coast. Mali was annexed then into French West Africa, a federation which lasted from 1895 to 1959.
Mali gained independence from France in April 1960, and the Republic of Mali was later established. At this time, Bamako had a population of around 160,000. During the 1960s, the country became socialist and Bamako was subject to Soviet investment and influence. However, the economy declined as state enterprises collapsed and unrest was widespread. Eventually, Moussa Traoré led a successful coup and ruled Mali 23 years. However his rule was characterised by severe droughts and poor government management and problems of food shortages.
In the late 1980s the people of Bamako and Mali campaigned for a free-market economy and multiparty democracy. In 1990, the National Congress for Democratic Initiative (Congrès National dInitiative 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 lHomme (AMDH) aimed to oust Moussa Traoré. Under the old constitution, all labor unions had to belong to one confederation, the National Union of Malian Workers (UNTM). When the leadership of the UNTM broke from the government in 1990, the opposition grew. Groups were driven by paycuts and layoffs in the government sector, and the Malian government acceding to pressure from international donors to privatise large swathes of the economy that had remained in public hands even after the overthrow of the socialist government in 1968. Students, even children, played an increasing role in the protest marches in Bamako, and homes and businesses of those associated with the regime were ransacked by crowds.
On 22 March 1991, a large-scale protest march in central Bamako was violently suppressed, with estimates of those killed reaching 300. Four days later, a military coup deposed Traoré. The Comité de Transition pour le Salut du Peuple was set up, headed by General Amadou Toumani Touré. Alpha Oumar Konari officially became president on 26 April 1992.
Bamako is situated on the Niger River floodplain, which hampers development along the riverfront and the Nigers tributaries. Bamako is relatively flat, except to the immediate north where an escarpment is found, being what remains of an extinct volcano. The Presidential Palace and main hospital are located here.
Originally, the city developed on the northern side of the river, but as it grew, bridges were developed to connect the north with the south. The first of these was the Pont des Martyrs (2-lane with two pedestrian sections) and the King Fahd Bridge (four-lane with two motorcycle and two pedestrian sections). Additionally, a seasonal causeway between the eastern neighborhoods of Sotuba and Misabugu was inherited from colonial times (alternated traffic on one lane with five crossing sections). The Sotuba Causeway ( Chaussée submersible de Sotuba in French, and Babilikoroni in Bamanankan) is typically under water from July to January. A third bridge (1.4 km long, 24 m wide, four-lane with two motorcycle and two pedestrian sections) is being built at the same location to reduce downtown congestion, notably by trucks.
The traditional commercial center of Bamako was located to the north of the river, and contained within a triangle bounded by Avenue du Fleuve, Rue Baba Diarra, and Boulevard du Peuple. This area contains the Marché Rose and Street Market.
Bamako has provided the backdrop or been the subject of books and films such as Bamako, directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. The film depicts a trial taking place in Bamako, amid the daily life that is going on in the city. In the midst of that trial, two sides argue whether the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, or perhaps corruption, are guilty of the current financial state of many poverty-stricken African countries. The film was first released at the Cannes Film Festival on 21 May 2006 and in Manhattan by New Yorker Films on 14 February 2007 and was the recipient of the first Film Award of the Council of Europe given at the Istanbul International Film Festival in April 2007.