Did You Know the First President of Mali, Modibo Keita, Was Born on This Day?

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This Day In History: June 4th

The first President of Mali, Modibo Keita, became a leading voice for the liberation of African nations, particularly French Sudan during the 1940s. Keita served as the President of Mali from its inception as an independent nation in 1960 until 1968.

Modibo Keita was born on June 4, 1915, in  Bamako, Mali. After completing primary school in Bamako, Keita continued his education in Senegal and graduated at the top of his class. He returned back to Bamako and began his career as a teacher. During his time teaching, Keita developed his interest in the freedom of African people. Keita sought independence for his country and separation from French colonialism.

This newfound passion led to the creation of the Union of French West African Teachers. By the age of 30, Keita was a notable candidate for the Constituent Assembly of the Fourth Republic. Keita also founded the Bloc Soudanis, alongside acclaimed photographer Mamadou Konaté. In 1946, was elected secretary-general of the African Democratic Rally and two years later he was elected for the first time to the first territorial assembly of French Sudan. During this time, Keita also served as mayor of Bamako, his hometown. 

Keita continued his political pursuits and was elected deputy for French Sudan to the French National Assembly. He was also a two-term Secretary of State to the government of French Sudan in Paris. In 1959, Sudan joined with Senegal, Upper Volta and Dahomey to form the Mali Federation. Keita was elected as the constituent assembly president of the Mali Federation and the federation later evolved into the States of Western Africa. However, both factions were short-lived. 

In 1960, the Mali Federation proclaimed its independence and Keita became the first President of the newly declared independent nation. Keita positioned himself as a President in support of freedom from colonial masters and peace between African countries. While leading the independent nation, Keita was able to mediate conflict between Morocco and Algeria, and he helped to strengthen ties with Senegal, Upper Volta and Ivory Coast.

After eight years of leading the people of Mali and rising opposition to his presidency, Keita was taken out of power in a coup d’etat in 1968. He spent the remainder of his life as a prisoner and died in Bamako on May 16, 1977.

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