Modibo Keïta

Modibo Keïta (4 June 1915 – 16 May 1977) was the first President of Mali (1960–1968) and the Prime Minister of the Mali Federation. He espoused a form of African socialism.

Modibo Keita
Modibo Keita 1961-09-13
Keïta in 1961
1st President of Mali
In office
July 20, 1960 – November 19, 1968
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byMoussa Traoré
Personal details
BornJune 4, 1915
Bamako Coura, Upper Senegal and Niger
DiedMay 16, 1977 (aged 61)
Bamako, Mali
NationalityFrench[1], since 1960: Malian
Political partySudanese Union-African Democratic Rally
Spouse(s)Mariam Travélé


He was born in Bamako-Coura, a neighborhood of Bamako, which was at the time the capital of French Sudan. His family were Malian Muslims who claimed direct descent from the founders of the Mali Empire. He was educated in Bamako and at the école normale William-Ponty in Dakar, where he was top of his class. Beginning in 1936, he worked as a teacher in Bamako, Sikasso and Tombouctou. His nickname after primary schooling was Modo.

Entering politics

Modibo Keïta was involved in various associations. In 1937, he was the coordinator of the art and theater group. Along with Ouezzin Coulibaly, he helped found the Union of French West African Teachers.

Keïta joined the Communist Study Groups (GEC) cell in Bamako.

In 1943, he founded the L'oeil de Kénédougou, a magazine critical of colonial rule. This led to his imprisonment for three weeks in 1946 at the Prison de la Santé in Paris.

In 1945 Keïta was a candidate for the Constituent Assembly of the French Fourth Republic, supported by GEC and the Sudanese Democratic Party. Later the same year, he and Mamadou Konaté founded the Bloc soudanais, which developed into the Sudanese Union.

Political life

In October 1946, the African Democratic Rally (RDA) was created at a conference in Bamako of delegates from across French Africa. While the coalition was led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Keïta assumed the post of RDA Secretary-General in French Sudan, and head of the Soudanese affiliate: the US-RDA. In 1948, he was elected general councilor of French Sudan. In 1956, he was elected mayor of Bamako and became a member of the National Assembly of France. He twice served as secretary of state in the governments of Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury and Félix Gaillard. Modibo Keïta was elected constituent assembly president of the Mali Federation on July 20, 1960, which consisted of French Sudan and Senegal. Senegal would later leave the federation.

President of Mali

Keita 001
1960s commemorative wraps with Keïta's portrait

After the collapse of the federation, the US-RDA proclaimed the Soudanese Republic's complete independence as the Republic of Mali. Keïta became its first president, and soon afterward declared the US-RDA to be the only legal party.

As a socialist, he led his country towards the progressive socialization of the economy; at first starting with agriculture and trade, then on October 1960 creating the SOMIEX (Malian Import and Export Company), which had a monopoly over the exports of the products of Mali, as well as manufactured and food imports (e.g. sugar, tea, powdered milk) and their distribution inside the country. The establishment of the Malian franc in 1962, and the difficulties of provisioning, resulted in a severe inflation and dissatisfaction of the population, particularly the peasants and the businessmen.

In June 1961, he paid a state visit to the United Kingdom, where Queen Elizabeth II invested him as an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.[2] Although Keïta was initially viewed with some wariness by the United States because of his socialist views, he made it clear that he sought good relations with Washington. In September 1961, he travelled to America in the company of Sukarno and met with President John F. Kennedy. Keïta, afterward, felt that he had a friend in Kennedy.

JFKWHP-KN-C18793 (cropped)
Modibo Keïta meeting with President Kennedy at the White House in 1961

On the political level, Modibo Keïta quickly imprisoned opponents like Fily Dabo Sissoko. The first post-independence elections, in 1964, saw a single list of 80 US-RDA candidates returned to the National Assembly, and Keïta was duly reelected to another term as president by the legislature. From 1967, he started the "revolution active" and suspended the constitution by creating the National Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CNDR). The exactions of the "milice populaire" (the US-RDA militia) and the devaluation of the Malian franc in 1967 brought general unrest.

On November 19, 1968, General Moussa Traoré overthrew Modibo Keïta in a coup d'état, and sent him to prison in the northern Malian town of Kidal.

After being transferred back to the capital Bamako in February 1977 in what was claimed to be an action by the government towards national reconciliation in preparation for his release,[3] Modibo Keïta died, still a prisoner, on May 16, 1977.[4] His reputation was rehabilitated in 1992 following the overthrow of Moussa Traoré and subsequent elections of president Alpha Oumar Konaré. A monument to Modibo Keïta was dedicated in Bamako on June 6, 1999.

As a Pan-Africanist

Keita and Nasser, 1966
Keita and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (right) in Addis Ababa for the Organisation of African Unity conference, November 1966

Modibo Keïta devoted his entire life to African unity. He first played a part in the creation of the Federation of Mali with Léopold Sédar Senghor. After its collapse, he moved away from Léopold Sédar Senghor, but with Sékou Touré, the president of Guinea, and Kwame Nkrumah, the President of Ghana, he formed the Union of the States of Western Africa. In 1963, he played an important role in drafting the charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

In 1963, he invited the king of Morocco and the president of Algeria to Bamako, in the hope of ending the Sand War, a frontier conflict between the two nations. Along with Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Keïta was successful in negotiating the Bamako Accords, which brought an end to the conflict. As a result, he won the Lenin Peace Prize that year.

From 1963 to 1966, he normalized relations with the countries of Senegal, Upper Volta and Côte d'Ivoire. An advocate of the Non-Aligned Movement, Modibo defended the nationalist movements like the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN).

In literature

Malian author Massa Makan Diabaté satirizes Keïta's presidency in his novel The Butcher of Kouta, which features a socialist, dictatorial president named "Bagabaga Daba" (literally, "ant with a big mouth"), who is later removed by a military coup.[5]


  1. ^ The fact that Keïta was deputy in the French National Assembly, then member of the French government, implies that he was not only a French colonial subject, but even that he legally benefited of full French citizenship.
  2. ^ The Times, June 8, 1961, p. 16; Issue 55102; col. B
  3. ^ P. J. Imperato, Mali: a search for direction, p. 69
  4. ^ P. Diarra, Cent ans de catholicisme au Mali, p. 273
  5. ^ Sangare, Mamadou. L'histoire et le roman dans la trilogie Kouta de Massa Makan Diabate. Paris: Septentrion, 1999. p. 128.


Modibo Kéita: MALI. Francis Kpatindé, Jeune Afrique, 25 April 2000.

External links

1956 French legislative election in French Sudan

Elections to the French National Assembly were held in French Sudan on 2 January 1956 as part of the wider French parliamentary elections. Four members were elected, with the Sudanese Progressive Party (PSS) and the Sudanese Union – African Democratic Rally (US–RDA) winning two each. Mamadou Konaté and Modibo Keïta were elected on the US–RDA list, whilst Fily Dabo Sissoko and Hamadoun Dicko were elected for the PSS.

1968 Malian coup d'état

The 1968 Malian coup d'état was a bloodless military coup in Mali staged on 19 November 1968 against the government of President Modibo Keïta. The coup was led by Lieutenant (later Major General) Moussa Traoré, who then became the head of state as Chairman of the Military Committee for National Liberation (and President in 1979) and ruled the country until he was deposed in the 1991 coup d'état. The immediate causes for the coup were overwhelming financial and economic problems, made worse by an especially poor harvest in 1968.

1979 Malian general election

General elections were held in Mali on 19 June 1979. They followed a 1974 referendum that approved a new constitution allowing for the direct election of the President for the first time. The country was a one-party state at the time, with the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM) as the sole legal party. Its leader, Moussa Traoré, who had overthrown Modibo Keïta in 1968, was the only presidential candidate, and was elected unopposed. In the National Assembly elections several UDPM candidates were able to contest each seat, with 44% of the incumbent MPs defeated. Voter turnout was reported to be 97%.

1991 Malian coup d'état

The 26 March 1991 Malian coup d'état resulted in the overthrow of President Moussa Traoré after over two decades of dictatorship and eventually led to multi-party elections.

In 1968, Traoré had himself led a military coup d'état, ousting the first president of Mali, Modibo Keïta, and making himself the second. On 25 October 1990, opposition to his decades-long rule coalesced into the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), an umbrella organization for opposition groups. Unrest grew as the people blamed the regime's corruption and mismanagement for the economic troubles they faced. Further, Traoré had to institute austerity programs to satisfy the International Monetary Fund, causing increased hardship for all but the rich.

ADEMA and other pro-democracy groups demanded the end of the one-party state. On 22 March, tens of thousands of students and others marched through the streets of Bamako, the nation's capital. Government soldiers fired on the peaceful demonstrators, killing 28 and setting off days of rioting. Sources vary as to the toll: the opposition claimed 148 killed and hundreds wounded, while Traoré said there were 27 deaths. Traoré declared a state of emergency and met with opposition leaders. He offered concessions, but refused to step down as they demanded. A general strike was called for 25 March. This time, the soldiers had had enough and did nothing to stop it.

Lieutenant Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré launched a coup that deposed Traoré. As news spread, hospital sources reported at least another 59 dead and 200 wounded, including revenge killings. Education Minister Bakary Traore and Mamadou Diarra, the former leader's brother-in-law, were burned to death.The Transitional Committee for the salvation of the people of the Republic of Mali, chaired by Touré, was set up to run the country temporarily. After a constitutional referendum, presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 1992.

Former President Moussa Traoré was imprisoned in 1992 and sentenced to death. However, President Alpha Oumar Konaré first commuted his sentence to life imprisonment, then pardoned him and his wife in May 2002 as Konaré's term in office came to an end.

2002 Africa Cup of Nations

The 2002 Africa Cup of Nations was the 23rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the association football championship of Africa (CAF). It was hosted by Mali. Just like in 2000, the field of sixteen teams was split into four groups of four. Cameroon won its fourth championship (repeating as champions), beating Senegal on penalty kicks 3−2 after a goalless draw.

2008 UEMOA Tournament

Following are the results of the 2008 UEMOA Tournament, the soccer tournament held among member nations of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). The tournament is also called Coupe de l'intégration ouest africaine. All games were played in Bamako, Mali at the Stade Modibo Keita.

2009 World Taekwondo Championships – Men's heavyweight

The Men's Heavyweight competition was a class featured at the 2009 World Taekwondo Championships, and was held at the Ballerup Super Arena in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 14. Heavyweights were over of 87 kilograms in body mass.

AS Korofina

AS Korofina is a Malian football club. The team is based in the city of Bamako, in the Commune I neighborhood. Their home ground is Stade Modibo Keïta. They are also known by the acronym ASKO.

AS Real Bamako

AS Real Bamako is a Malian football club based in Bamako. They play in the Malien Première Division the top division in Malian football. Their home stadium is Stade Modibo Keïta.Among Real Bamako's most successful players was Salif "Domingo" Keïta (1963–67), who went on to win three Championships and the Ballon d'Or Africain (1970) at Saint-Étienne in France.

African Photography Encounters

African Photography Encounters (French: Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie) is a biennial exhibition in Bamako, Mali held since 1994. The exhibition, featuring exhibits by contemporary African photographers, is spread over several Bamako cultural centers, including the National Museum, the National Library, the Modibo Keïta memorial, and the District Museum. The exhibition also features colloquia and film showings. The most recent biennial took place in 2017.

It is jointly run by the government of Mali and the Institut Français. It has exhibited work by William Kentridge, Samuel Fosso, Pieter Hugo and Zanele Muholi.

Aya Nakamura

Aya Danioko, known as Aya Nakamura (born 10 May 1995), is a French pop singer of Malian origin. Nakamura was born in Bamako but immigrated to France with her family and grew up in Aulnay-sous-Bois. Coming from a family of griots (West African storytellers, praise singers / poets of oral tradition), she is the oldest of five siblings. She studied fashion at La Courneuve. She later launched into music with the stage name Aya Nakamura, after the character Hiro Nakamura of the NBC Heroes science fiction drama series.Nakamura published her music online, gaining a following with "Karma" and "J'ai mal." Dembo Camara, a long-time friend, became her producer and manager. Notably, her song "Brisé," composed by Christopher Ghenda, garnered 13 million views on YouTube, and a duo with rapper Fababy "Love d'un voyou" resulted in her charting in France. She released her debut album with a number of collaborations. She also had a big concert at the Modibo-Keïta stadium in Bamako, where she opened for the Nigerian star Davido. She is best known for her number one song "Djadja" that has more than 300 million views on YouTube.

Daba Modibo Keïta

Daba Modibo Keïta (born 5 April 1981) is a Malian taekwondo athlete. Keïta has competed in international competitions since 1996, and in 2007 became the heavyweight (+84 kg) division 2007 World Taekwondo Champion in Beijing, and competed in both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics in the +80 kg class.

List of ambassadors of China to Mali

The Chinese ambassador in Bamako is the official representative of the government in Beijing to the Government of Mali.

List of ambassadors of Mali to China

The Malian ambassador in Beijing is the official representative of the Government in Bamako to the Government of the People's Republic of China.

List of ambassadors of Mali to the United States

The Malian ambassador in Washington, D. C. is the official representative of the Government in Bamako to the Government of the United States.

List of heads of state of Mali

This is a list of heads of state of Mali since the country gained independence from France in 1960 to the present day.

A total of six people have served as head of state of Mali (not counting one Acting President). Additionally, one person, Amadou Toumani Touré, has served on two non-consecutive occasions.

The current head of state of Mali is the President of the Republic Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, since 4 September 2013.

Mali Federation

The Mali Federation (French: Fédération du Mali) was a federation in West Africa linking the French colonies of Senegal and the Sudanese Republic (or French Sudan) for a period of only two months in 1960. It was founded on 4 April 1959 as a territory with self-rule within the French Community and became independent after negotiations with France on 20 June 1960. Two months later, on 19 August 1960, the Sudanese Republic leaders in the Mali Federation mobilized the army and Senegal leaders in the federation retaliated by mobilizing the gendarmerie (national police) which resulted in a tense stand-off and the withdrawal from the federation by Senegal the next day. The Sudanese Republic officials resisted this dissolution, cut off diplomatic relations with Senegal, and defiantly changed the name of their country to Mali. For the brief existence of the Mali Federation, the premier was Modibo Keïta, who would become the first President of the Republic of Mali after the Mali Federation dissolved, and its government was based in Dakar, Senegal.

Moussa Traoré

Moussa Traoré (born 25 September 1936) is a Malian soldier and politician who was President of Mali from 1968 to 1991. As a Lieutenant, he led the military ousting of President Modibo Keïta in 1968. Thereafter he served as head of state until March 1991, when he was overthrown by popular protests and a military coup. He was twice condemned to death in the 1990s, but eventually pardoned on both occasions and freed in 2002. He has since retired from political life.

Stade Modibo Kéïta

Stade Modibo Keïta is a multi-purpose stadium in Bamako, Mali. It is currently used mostly for football matches, serving as a home ground for AS Real Bamako and, occasionally, the national team. The stadium holds 35,000 people and is named after President Modibo Keïta.

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