Thursday, October 1, 2020

Bah Ndaw has become the President of Mali ~ a country that was once so rich !!

 

There are rich people and poor people – and there are rich countries and poor ones.  By some accounts, Mali, in Africa is the 12th poorest country.  It   has remained poverty-stricken for many years. Malnutrition issues, lack of education and conflict are the main causes of poverty in Mali. The average wage in Mali is $1.25 per day, and more than half of the population currently lives below the international poverty line.  .. .. astonished to read that at some point of time its King was the richest person in the World and that he spent gold so lavishly !! 

The Mali Empire (  Manden Kurufaba) was an empire in West Africa from c. 1235 to 1670. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita (c. 1214 – c. 1255) and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Musa Keita. The Manding languages were spoken in the empire. The Mali Empire was the largest empire in West Africa and profoundly influenced the culture of West Africa through the spread of its language, laws and customs.  The empire began as a small Mandinka kingdom at the upper reaches of the Niger River, centered around the town of Niani (the empire's namesake in Manding). During the 11th and 12th centuries, it began to develop as an empire following the decline of the Ghana Empire to the north. During this period, trade routes shifted southward to the savanna, stimulating the growth of states such as Bonoman.  

Mali  is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, with an area of just over 1,240,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi).  Its capital is Bamako. The sovereign state of 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 mining. Some of Mali's prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent, and salt. Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire (for which Ghana is named), 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 January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, in which Tuareg rebels took control of a territory in the north, and in April declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. The conflict was complicated by a military coup that took place in March and later fighting between Tuareg and other rebel factions. In response to territorial gains, the French military launched Opération Serval in  2013.  It is in state of turmoil and is in news for the coup d’etat that is currently taking place in Mali. On 18 Aug 2020, the nation's president and prime minister were arrested by the military following a mutiny spurred by protests over continuing economic woes and a worsening national security situation, and the following day both resigned.


Bah Ndaw  has become the  President of Mali since 25 Sept 2020. Between May 2014 and January 2015, he was Minister of Defense. Mali's new president has been sworn into office, five weeks after the overthrow of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.  The former Defence minister   was picked by the coup leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, to head a transitional government until elections, which are expected in 18 months. The appointment of a civilian president was a condition for the West African regional group, Ecowas, to lift the sanctions it imposed after the coup. But after Mr Ndaw's inauguration, Ecowas officials said they would only lift the embargo after a civilian prime minister was also appointed. One thing that is unclear is how far Bah Ndaw will be able to call the shots after he's sworn in. He was chosen because he was well respected, both in the military and by the general public. He's also said to get on well with Col Assimi Goita. Portraying a unified front will be central to the success of the tenure of Mr Ndaw and his vice-president. Any perception that the interim president is not really in charge could lead to renewed international pressure on the junta.

West African heads of state are afraid the coup in Mali may lead to other uprisings in a region that is facing several elections in the coming months. The next 18 months will be crucial in determining how close or far Mali steers from democracy.  A Soviet-trained helicopter pilot who rose through the ranks of Mali's air force, Mr Ndaw most recently served as defence minister for the ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. He left in 2015 after less than a year, prompting speculation in the national press of a fallout over reintegrating deserters into the military. During his brief stint as minister Mr Ndaw signed a defence deal in 2014 with former colonial power France, whose troops had intervened a year earlier to fight Islamist rebels.

Now looking back at History, Musa I (c. 1280 – c. 1337),  was the tenth Mansa (which translates to "sultan", "conqueror" or "emperor" of the Mali Empire,  described as the wealthiest individual of the Middle Ages. At the time of Musa's ascension to the throne, Mali in large part consisted of the territory of the former Ghana Empire, which Mali had conquered. The Mali Empire consisted of land that is now part of Mauritania and the modern state of Mali.  Musa conquered 24 cities, along with their surrounding districts.  During Musa's reign, Mali may have been the largest producer of gold in the world, and Musa has been considered one of the wealthiest historical figures. However, modern commentators such as Time magazine have concluded that there is no accurate way to quantify Musa's wealth.



Musa   empire flourished culturally during his reign – with such a large land mass came great resources such as gold and salt.  His gold reserves probably accounted   for almost half of the Old World's gold, according to the British Museum. The king reportedly left Mali on a pilgrimage with a caravan of 60,000 men. He took his entire royal court and officials, soldiers, griots (entertainers), merchants, camel drivers and 12,000 slaves, as well as a long train of goats and sheep for food. It was a city moving through the desert. A city whose inhabitants, all the way down to the slaves, were clad in gold brocade and finest Persian silk. A hundred camels were in tow, each camel carrying hundreds of pounds of pure gold.   So lavishly did he hand out gold in Cairo that his three-month stay caused the price of gold to plummet in the region for 10 years, wrecking the economy. US-based technology company SmartAsset.com estimates that due to the depreciation of gold, Mansa Musa's pilgrimage led to about $1.5bn (£1.1bn) of economic losses across the Middle East.  On his way back home, Mansa Musa passed through Egypt again, and according to some, tried to help the country's economy by removing some of the gold from circulation by borrowing it back at extortionate interest rates from Egyptian lenders. Others say he spent so much that he ran out of gold.

Rise and fall of empires are attributed to many things, mostly lust for women, land and wars – perhaps this was a story of gold .. losing its sheen.  Now Mali despite gold mines, is no longer a rich country !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

27.09.2020.

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