Present-day Mali is named after the Mali Empire that ruled the region between the 13th and 16th centuries. At its peak in the 14th century, it was the largest and wealthiest empire in West Africa and controlled an area about twice the size of modern-day France. Primarily a trading empire, Mali derived its wealth from gold and maintained several goldfields and trade routes in the Sahel. The empire also influenced West African culture through the spread of its language, laws, and customs, but by the 16th century it fragmented into mostly small chiefdoms. The Songhai Empire, previously a Mali dependency centered in Timbuktu, gained prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries. Under Songhai rule, Timbuktu became a large commercial center and well-known for its scholarship and religious teaching. Timbuktu remains a center of culture in West Africa today. In the late 16th century, the Songhai Empire fell to Moroccan invaders and disintegrated into independent sultanates and kingdoms. France, expanding from Senegal, seized control of the area in the 1890s and incorporated it into French West Africa as French Sudan. In 1960, French Sudan gained independence from France and became the Mali Federation. When Senegal withdrew after only a few months, the remaining area was renamed the Republic of Mali. Mali saw 31 years of dictatorship until 1991, when a military coup led by Amadou Toumani TOURE ousted the government, established a new constitution, and instituted a multi-party democracy. President Alpha Oumar KONARE won Mali’s first two democratic presidential elections in 1992 and 1997. In keeping with Mali’s two-term constitutional limit, he stepped down in 2002 and was succeeded by Amadou Toumani TOURE, who won a second term in 2007. In 2012, rising ethnic tensions and an influx of fighters – some linked to Al-Qa’ida – from Libya led to a rebellion and military coup. Following the coup, rebels expelled the military from the country’s three northern regions, allowing terrorist organizations to develop strongholds in the area. With French military intervention, the Malian Government managed to retake most of the north. However, the government’s grasp in the region remains weak with local militias, terrorists, and insurgent groups continuously trying to expand control. In 2015, the Malian Government and northern rebels signed an internationally mediated peace accord. Despite a June 2017 target for implementation of the agreement, the signatories have made little progress. Extremist groups were left out of the peace process, and terrorist attacks remain common. Ibrahim Boubacar KEITA won the Malian presidential elections in 2013 and 2018. Aside from security and logistic shortfalls, international observers deemed these elections credible. Terrorism, banditry, ethnic-based violence, and extra-judicial military killings plagued the country during KEITA’s second term. In August 2020, the military arrested KEITA, his prime minister, and other senior members of the government and established a military junta called the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). In September 2020, the junta established a transition government and appointed Bah N’DAW, a retired army officer and former defense minister, as interim president and Colonel Assimi GOITA, the coup leader and chairman of the CNSP, as interim vice president. The transition government’s charter allows it to rule for up to 18 months before calling a general election. In May 2021, Colonel Assimi GOITA arrested the interim president in a second coup in an effort to slow election preparations, claiming that the transition government needed to prioritize improving security before elections occur. In June 2021, Mali’s military transitional leaders appointed Choguel Kokalla MAIGA as Prime Minister.