The Republic of Mali is a landlocked sovereign state in western Africa with a constitutional democracy and a population of approximately 14.5 million. The country has faced numerous problems with regards to health, poverty and sanitation. The average life expectancy is estimated at 53 years, and it has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion and expression. However there has been a general decline in respect for human rights since the 2012 violence.

The constitution defines the country as a secular state and allows for religious practices that do not pose a threat to social stability and peace. However, Mali’s High Islamic Council has a significant influence over government in the predominantly Muslim nation.

Passports and national identity documents do not designate religious identity.

Education and children’s rights

State schools do not offer religious instruction. There are many private, parochial, and other religious educational institutions, both Muslim and Christian.

Family, community and society

According to US Government estimates, Muslims make up around 95 percent of the population, the majority of whom are Sunni and follow Sufism. Christians, groups with indigenous religious beliefs and the non-religious make up the remaining five percent. While historically Islam in Mali has been moderate and pluralistic, the fundamentalist Wahhabi strain of Islam imported by groups such as the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa, and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has grown in the past decade, particularly in the north of the country.

In 2012 a rebellion by Tuareg tribesmen and an Islamist takeover of the north, followed by a military coup by officers seeking a more militant response to the uprising, led to a drastic deterioration in the human rights situation in Mali. In the north during 2012, Islamist militants brutally imposed Sharia (Islamic law) and destroyed Sufi Muslim shrines and other sacred sites that they deemed un-Islamic. Following a French military intervention and peace-building efforts, Mali held successful presidential elections in August 2013 and parliamentary elections at the end of November 2013.

However, the Jihadists returned to northern Mali in March 2014, and continue to trouble the region. Some Islamist’s have sworn allegiance to ISIS. The various groups are financially supported by smuggling drugs such as cocaine bound for Europe. The destabilization caused by these groups diminishes the Malian states ability to regulate and intervene in religious affairs on behalf of secular interests.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Mali’s media were considered among the freest in Africa before the conflict and coup. Criminal libel laws had not been invoked by authorities since 2007, and there were no reports of harassment or intimidation of journalists in 2011. During 2012, however, an unprecedented number of journalists were illegally detained and tortured by the military and Islamist militants.

Freedoms of assembly and association were respected prior to the coup, but were violently suppressed during the civil war.

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