Mali Religion

Religious freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution and respected in practice. Between 80 and 90 percent of the Malays are Sunni Muslims. Traditionally, a tolerant form of Islam has been practiced in Mali, unlike the fundamentalist form represented by Islamist movements in the 2000s and 2010s.

Islam has existed in the country since the 11th century and the old mosques in Djenné, Mopti and Timbuktu are world famous. When extremist Islamists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they destroyed many Muslim cultural treasures (see Modern History).

Among the dogas, bambara and some other people’s groups, traditional indigenous religions remain to some extent. They are characterized by animism (apostasy) and ancestral worship. The data is disjointed, but somewhere between 10 and 18 percent of Malians are considered followers of traditional religions. According to the latest census of 2009, only 2 percent of the population professes to indigenous traditional religions.

It is estimated that just over a few percent of the population is Christian. They are mainly found in cities in the south, while followers of traditional religions usually live in the countryside.

Mali Population Pyramid 2020

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Mali, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.



The protest movement is ready for talks with the government

July 1st

The protest movement on June 5 says it is now willing to begin talks with the government side about the political situation in the country without President Keïta resigning first. Keïta’s departure has previously been a requirement for Fifth June to start the talks. However, the movement emphasizes that it is adamant that Keïta must give up power, but it must not happen before the dialogue starts.


Minusma’s mandate is extended

June 29

The UN Security Council votes unanimously to extend Minusma’s peacekeeping force’s mandate to June 30, 2021. The UN mission’s size of 13,289 soldiers and 1,920 police officers is not reduced despite the fact that the United States has criticized Minusma for not being fit for its mission. The armed uprisings in the Sahel have escalated over the past year instead of being squandered. Minusma costs $ 1.2 billion annually.

Regime-critical mass demonstrations

June 19

Tens of thousands of people gather again on the streets of Bamako in protest of President Keïta and his government’s inability to end domestic violence. This is the second time in a month that a similar mass demonstration is being held. Behind the protest actions lies a newly formed opposition alliance of religious leaders, politicians and representatives of civil society. The Alliance calls itself “June 5” (actually the Fifth June Movement – Patriotic Forces Collection) after the date the first demonstration was held. The movement is led by the charismatic imam Mahmoud Dicko and faces both the jihadistviolence like that between different groups of people. A widespread dissatisfaction with failed political reforms, a poor economy, widespread corruption and lack of community service are also behind the demonstrations. Keita’s proposal to launch a “national dialogue” was rejected by June 5, as was his promise of a unifying government.

Mass protest against President Keita

June 5

Tens of thousands of people attend a demonstration in Bamako demanding the resignation of President Keïta. The protesters are dissatisfied with what they consider to be the government’s failure to respond to jihadist insurgency and widespread ethnic violence. The demonstration is led by Imam Mahmoud Dicko, a former ally of Keïta, and is organized by a number of opposition politicians, religious leaders and civil society representatives.

French troops kill terrorist leaders in Mali

June 5

French Defense Minister Florence Parly announces that the supreme leader of the al-Qaeda terror network in Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) has been killed by French soldiers. Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel was killed in northern Mali near the border with Algeria along with several high-ranking leaders within Aqim. According to Parly, one of the leaders of the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) was also arrested in May. Hundreds of suspected terrorists have been captured or killed by French troops over the past year, according to French media.


Deferral on loans

June 19

Mali is granted as the first African nation to postpone loan repayments to the Paris Club in 2020, a group of countries that provide bilateral loans. Already in April, the Paris Club and the G20 countries agreed to let the world’s poorest countries avoid paying off the loans in 2020 due to the economic downturn caused by the corona pandemic. A further 76 countries are expected to postpone loan repayments.

New President of the Dogon People

May 11

Moussa Timbine, close ally of President Keïta, is elected President of Parliament. Parliament’s election of President is controversial as Timbine lost as a seat in the Legislative Assembly in the first round of elections in March, but later gained a seat after the Constitutional Court granted his party RPM another ten seats. Timbine, which belongs to the dogon group, hopes to be able to help reduce ethnic violence in central Mali, where many dogon militias operate, among other things.

The curfew is lifted

May 9

The government repeals the national curfew that was introduced to try to curb the spread of the corona virus. At the same time, it becomes mandatory to wear mouthguards in public places. Prime Minister Cissé says that the virus is now found in all Mali regions and that the epicenter for the spread of infection in the country is the capital Bamako. Schools remain closed, as do the country’s borders. At the time, Mali 668 confirmed coronavirus cases and 35 deaths in covid-19.


Crisis loan from the IMF

April 30th

The IMF grants $ 200 million in loans to Mali to help the country fight the corona pandemic better. The money is a kind of Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), which means that the IMF rounds off the usually lengthy process preceding the approval of a crisis loan.

Minusma accuses soldiers of abuse

April 30th

UN mission Minusma accuses Malian and Nigerian government soldiers of having committed extrajudicial killings during the period January to March 2020. According to Minusma’s quarterly report, Malian forces performed 101 illegal executions during the period and Nigerian forces executed 34. Malian soldiers were also behind 32 disappearances, 32 cases of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and 115 arbitrary arrests during the same period. In most cases, the abuses were committed in central Mali, where the jihadist insurgency is ongoing and ethnic groups are attacking each other. According to Minusma’s report, jihadists killed dozens of people during the same period and carried away 46 people, leaving behind at least 18 cases of torture.

RPM is assigned more mandates

April 30th

The ruling party RPM is awarded an additional 10 seats by the Constitutional Court, winning the parliamentary elections by 53 out of 147 seats and becoming the largest party of the legislative assembly. Accusations by the opposition on election fraud lead to violent protests in southern Mali, particularly in Sikasso, where protesters clash with riot police.

Messy second round of elections

April 19

The second round of parliamentary elections is conducted with a series of reported disruptions. Armed men must have driven away the electorate from at least one polling station, and at another venue, the voting must have been canceled following threats from jihadists. Equipment is being destroyed in some polling stations in northern Mali and from many directions come accusations of extensive voting. The final result gives a fragmented picture: of the total 147 seats in Parliament, RPM receives 43 seats, Alliance for Democracy in Mali receives 22 seats, URD receives 19 seats, Movement for Mali wins 11 seats, Alliance for Solidarity in Mali receives 9 seats, Democratic Alliance for peace Mali receives 8 seats and Collection for Mali’s development wins 6 seats. The remaining mandate goes to small parties and independents. The turnout is 35.3 percent.

Support packages for the poor and companies

April 10

President Keïta presents a support package totaling $ 832 million to the households and businesses most affected by the effects of the corona pandemic. For the poorest households, it can be food aid, reduced fuel and electricity costs or free livestock feed. For the companies it is about tax relief. Keïta warns that Mali’s war-affected economy is now facing a shock. The government has previously imposed a nightly curfew across the country and closed its borders. Mali has 87 confirmed cases of covid-19 at the time, with seven deaths.

Cissé’s employees are released

April 3

The eight people who were kidnapped in central Mali together with URD leader Cissé are released. The kidnappers retain only Cissé (see March 2020).

Very low turnout

April 3

In the first round of the parliamentary elections, the ruling RPM receives 8 of the 17 seats allocated (see March 2020). Opposition URD wins 3 seats, Democratic Alliance for Peace-Mali gets 3 seats and three seats go to small parties. The remaining 130 of the total 147 seats in Parliament will be distributed in a second round of elections on 19 April. The turnout is 35.7 percent. The low turnout is described by the government as a democratic challenge for the country. The reasons why so few Malays choose to vote is believed to be the threat from the corona pandemic in combination with the jihadist insurgency.


Worried when Mali is holding elections

March 29th

The much-delayed parliamentary elections are being held, despite the opposition party URD leader Soumaïla Cissé having disappeared and the country receiving its first confirmed death in the corona pandemic on the same day. Voter participation is feared to be extremely low due to the pandemic and the violent conflict. From central and northern Mali, a number of reports are received of abducted village leaders, election workers and at least one election observer. Dozens of people are killed when their vehicles drive on a land mine. Several polling stations are reported to be vandalized and looted.

New European strength

March 28

Malis and Niger’s defense ministers agree with eleven EU countries to set up a joint military operation, Operation Takouba, to be merged with the French forces in the Sahel in the fight against militant Islamists. Sweden will contribute helicopters and up to 150 soldiers. Other countries participating in different ways are, for example, Belgium, the Netherlands, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Denmark.

The opposition leader is kidnapped

March 25th

Opposition party URD leader Soumaïla Cissé is kidnapped in central Mali, where al-Qaeda-jihadist groups are active. Cissé and his staff conduct an election campaign in the area when the party leader disappears under unclear conditions. Eight employees are kidnapped at the same time.

Measures against coronary pandemic

March 25th

Mali is taking a series of steps to try to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, sars-cov-2, which has caused a pandemic. Nightly curfews are introduced and land borders are closed. However, freight traffic may continue as before. The March 29 parliamentary elections will be held as planned, President Keita announces.

Jihadists demand calls

March 8th

Two jihadist leaders, Amadou Koufa and Iyad ag Ghaly, announce that they may want to talk to the government about a solution to the conflict in the country, but that requires that all French soldiers and the UN force leave the country first. Koufa leads the Front de libération du Macina group and Ghlay leads the Harakat Ansar al-Din group, both of which are local branches of al-Qaeda faithful Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslim (JNIM). It is unlikely that the government will agree to this requirement.


The army sends troops north

February 18

An army battalion of about 300 Malian government soldiers and former rebels marches into Timbuktu. In the past, similar troops have been dispatched to Kidal in the north. The same should be done in the cities of Menaka and Gao in the north. The deployment of troops is included in the 2015 peace plan.

Contact with jihadists

February 10

President Keita admits for the first time that his government has some contacts with jihadist leaders in the hope of launching peace talks. The statement is made in connection with the government sending a battalion of Malian government soldiers and former rebels to the city of Kidal in the north. The troop relocation is part of the peace agreement of 2015. The government lost control of the northern country end of 2012 in the fight against Tuaregrebeller.

More French soldiers

February 2

France increases its military response force in the Sahel region by 600 soldiers to a total of 5 100 men. Most of the soldiers will be deployed in the border areas between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger where the Islamist attacks have increased significantly in recent times. At the same time, France sends about 100 military vehicles to the area. The reinforcement will be in place by the end of February. France has lost 41 soldiers in the fight against the armed Islamists in the Sahel.


The army is to be strengthened

30th of January

In 2020, Mali will hire 10,000 soldiers from outside to strengthen its own army in the fight against jihadist violence. This means an increase of the army by around 50 percent.

The cupmaker is released

January 28

Military commander and coup-maker Amadou Sanogo released from prison where he served six years pending trial for his role in a coup against President Amadou Toumani Tour 2012. The coup was carried out after rebels took control of northern Mali, but international pressure made Sanogo and his junta stepped back (see Modern History). He is charged with murdering 21 elite soldiers who opposed the coup. Twelve other members of Saogo’s old junta are released the same day. According to analysts, the government wants to unite all forces against the jihadists who are gaining ground in the north. A continued trial against Sanogo could divide the army. Formally, however, the trial is not closed.

Militaries will secure lawless region

January 12

The two militant groupings The Platform and the CMA enter into an agreement to jointly fight to increase security in the lawless region of Menaka in central Mali. Both the government and foreign forces have failed to stabilize Menaka. Both groups were part of and signed the peace agreement with the government in 2015. The platform consists of government-loyal militias, while the CMA is an organization that collects mainly former Tuaregbelbel. The groups will jointly patrol the region and collect weapons that are in circulation, help refugees return, and assist relief organizations willing to work in Menaka.

Mali Religion