The Republic of Mali is a completely landlocked, enormous country in West Africa. It has an area of 1.2 million square kilometers and is surrounded by Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The population is 10.67 million, who live mostly in the south. It is mostly desert or semi-desert. The climate is subtropical and arid in the north. Most of the north of the country is desert and only nomadic groups live there. The principal ethnic groups are the Bambara, Peul, and Tuareg. French is the official language, but there are over 35 indigenous languages.
Mali is one of the most democratic of African states. People are encouraged to take their part in the political process. It's even part of the constitution. On one day each year, anyone in the country can come to parliament and ask questions direct of the prime minister and the ministers. The whole event is televised. The questioning is not gentle either ... tough talk from the 'little people'.