|République du Mali|
|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|President||Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta|
|Prime minister||Modibo Keita|
|Area||474,764 sq. mi.|
|GDP 2008||$15.045 billion|
|GDP per capita||$1,126|
|Currency||West African CFA franc|
The Republic of Mali is a largely-Muslim country located in West Africa. The legendary city of Timbuktu (or Tombouktou) was once a center of trade and education. Ibn Battuta, a Muslim traveler who toured the Islamic regions of the world around 1352, wrote of his admiration of Mali. It thrived under strong rulers and the very active gold-salt trade across the Sahara. Trade was based on leopard skins, slaves, pepper, ivory, bronze, brass and copper.
Mali has three distinct natural regions. The southern region consists of a tropical savannah, while the central region, or Sahel, is semi-arid; both of these regions have the Niger River flowing through towards the west. The remaining region, the Sahara Desert, occupies more than half the country to the north.
- Area: 1,240,278 km2. (474,764 sq. mi.); about the size of Texas and California combined.
- Cities: Capital—Bamako (pop. 1 million). Other cities—Segou (200,000), Sikasso (120,000), Mopti (90,000), Gao (65,000), Kayes (65,000), Timbuktu (38,000).
- Terrain: Savannah and desert.
- Climate: Semitropical in the south; arid in the north.
Mali's population consists of diverse Sub-Saharan ethnic groups, sharing similar historic, cultural, and religious traditions. Exceptions are the Tuaregs and Maurs, desert nomads, related to the North African Berbers. The Tuaregs traditionally have opposed the central government. Starting in June 1990, armed attacks in the north by Tuaregs seeking greater autonomy led to clashes with the military. In April 1992, the government and most opposing factions signed a pact to end the fighting and restore stability in the north. Its major aims are to allow greater autonomy to the north and increase government resource allocation to what has been a traditionally impoverished region. The peace agreement was celebrated in 1996 in Timbuktu during an official and highly publicized ceremony called Flamme de la Paix ("peace flame").
Historically, good inter-ethnic relations throughout the rest of the country were facilitated by easy mobility on the Niger River and across the country's vast savannahs. Each ethnic group was traditionally tied to a specific occupation, all working within close proximity. The Bambara, Malinke, and Dogon are farmers; the Fulani, Maur, and Tuareg are herders; the Soninkés or Saracolés are traders; while the Bozo are fishers. In recent years, this linkage has shifted as ethnic groups seek diverse, nontraditional sources of income.
Although each ethnic group speaks a separate language, nearly 80% of Malians communicate in Bambara, the common language of the marketplace. Malians enjoy a relative harmony rare in African states.
- Nationality: Noun and adjective—Malian(s).
- Population (2007 est.): 11,995,402.
- Annual growth rate: 2.4%.
- Ethnic groups: Manding (Bambara or Bamana, Malinke) 52%, Fulani 11%, Saracolé 7%, Mianka 4%, Songhai 7%, Tuareg and Maur 5%, other 14%.
- Religions: Islam 90%, indigenous 6%, Christian 4%.
- Languages: French (official) and Bambara (spoken by about 80% of the population).
- Education: Attendance—64.3% (primary). Literacy—31%.
- Health: Infant mortality rate—121/1,000. Life expectancy—47 yrs.
- Work force (4 million): Agriculture—70%; services—15%; industry and commerce—15%.
Government and Political Conditions
Under Mali's 1992 constitution, the president is chief of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The president is elected to a 5-year term, with a limit of two terms. The president appoints the prime minister as head of government. The president chairs the Council of Ministers (the prime minister and currently 28 other ministers, including 5 women), which adopts proposals for laws submitted to the National Assembly for approval.
The National Assembly is the sole legislative arm of the government. It currently consists of 147 members. Representation is apportioned according to the population of administrative districts. Election is direct and by party or independent list. The term of office is 5 years. The Assembly meets for two regular sessions each year. It debates and votes on legislation proposed either by one of its members or by the government and has the right to question government ministers about government actions and policies. Sixteen political parties, aggregated into five parliamentary groups, are represented in the Assembly. In legislative elections held in July 2007, the ADEMA Party regained the majority it lost in 2002, winning 51 seats, ahead of another party aligned with President Toure, the Union for Republic and Democracy (URD), which won 36. The former majority party at the National Assembly, the Rassemblement Pour le Mali (RPM) of former Prime Minister Ibrahim B. Keita, won 11 seats. Other than the RPM, President Toure has the support of most of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.
Mali's constitution provides for a multiparty democracy, with the only restriction being a prohibition against parties based on ethnic, religious, regional, or gender lines. In addition to those political parties represented in the National Assembly, others are active in municipal councils.
Administratively, Mali is divided into eight regions and the capital district of Bamako, each under the authority of an appointed governor. Each region consists of five to nine districts (or cercles), administered by prefets (commandants). Cercles are divided into communes, which, in turn, are divided into villages or quarters. The decentralization process has started with the establishment of 702 elected municipal councils, headed by elected mayors. Election of local officials took place; greater local control over finances and the reduction of administrative control by the central government are being implemented.
Mali's legal system is based on codes inherited at independence from France. New laws have been enacted to make the system conform to Malian life, but French colonial laws not abrogated still have the force of law. The constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary. However, the Ministry of Justice appoints judges and supervises both law enforcement and judicial functions. The Supreme Court has both judicial and administrative powers. Under the constitution, there is a separate constitutional court and a high court of justice with the power to try senior government officials in cases of treason.
Principal Government Officials
- President—Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta
- Prime Minister—Modibo Keita
- Minister of Foreign Affairs—Moctar Ouane
- Minister of Economy and Finance—Sanoussi Toure
- Minister of Industry, Investment, and Commerce—Ahmadou Abdoulaye Diallo
- Minister of Defense—Natie Plea
Since independence in 1960, Malian governments have shifted from an ideological commitment to socialism and a policy alignment with communist states to pragmatism that judges issues and their merits, welcomes assistance from all sources, and encourages private investment. The present government, which assumed office in 2002, is committed to democracy, economic reform, free market policies, regional integration, and international cooperation on peacekeeping and counter-terrorism activities.
Mali is a member of the UN and many of its specialized agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank; the International Labor Organization (ILO); the International Telecommunications Union (ITU); and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). It also belongs to the African Union (AU); the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); and the African Development Bank (ADB). Mali also is an associate member of the European Union (EU).
Mali is active in regional organizations. It participates in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic Monetary Union (UEMOA) for regional economic integration; Liptako-Gourma Authority, which seeks to develop the contiguous areas of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso; the Niger River Commission; the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS); and the Senegal River Valley Development Organization (OMVS).
Mali's armed forces number some 7,000 and are under the control of the Minister of Defense and Veterans, as is the National Guard. The Gendarmerie and local police forces are under the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection. The police and gendarmes share responsibility for internal security; the police are in charge of urban areas only. In the 1960s and 1970s, Mali's Army and Air Force relied primarily on the Soviet Union for materiel and training. A few Malians receive military training in the United States, France, and Germany. Under the Pan Sahel Initiative, more troops got training and equipment in 2003-2004 and in subsequent years. Military expenditures total about 13% of the national budget.
Mali's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $470 (2006 est.) places it among the world's 10 poorest nations. Its potential wealth lies in mining and the production of agricultural commodities, livestock, and fish. Agricultural activities occupy 70% of Mali's labor force and provide 36% of the GDP. Cotton, gold, and livestock made up 80%-90% of total export earnings in Mali in 2006. Small-scale traditional farming dominates the agricultural sector, with subsistence farming—of cereals, primarily sorghum, millet, and maize—on about 90% of the 1.4 million hectares (3.4 million acres) under cultivation. The high cost of petroleum products, the fall in the world market price for cotton and gold, and corresponding loss of customs revenues put pressure on the economy and led the government to be very tight on cash disbursements in recent years. In addition, the 2002-2003 closure of the main import/export route to the port of Abidjan increased the pressure on the fragile Malian economy. Nonetheless, a focus on quality cotton production and double-digit increases in cereal and gold production boosted real GDP growth from 2.2% in 2004 to 5.1% in 2005.
- GDP (2008 est.): $15.045 billion.
- Avg. annual growth rate (2006 est.): 5.1%.
- Per capita income (2008 est.): $1,126.
- Annual skilled worker's salary: $1,560.
- Avg. inflation rate (2005): -1.1%.
- Natural resources: Gold, phosphate, kaolin, salt, and limestone currently mined; deposits of oil, bauxite, iron ore, manganese, lithium, and uranium are known or suspected.
- Agriculture, livestock, and fishery (36% of GDP): Products—millet, sorghum, corn, rice, livestock, sugar, cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), and tobacco.
- Industry (24% of GDP): Types—food processing, textiles, cigarettes, fish processing, metalworking, light manufacturing, plastics, and beverage bottling.
- Services (40% of GDP): Telecommunications, construction.
- Trade (2004): Exports--$1,078 million: cotton and cotton products, animals, fish, tannery products, groundnuts, diamonds, and gold. Major markets—France, Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, Côte d'Ivoire, and Algeria. Imports--$1,084 million: food, machinery and spare parts, vehicles, petroleum products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles. Major suppliers—France, Côte d'Ivoire, Belgium, Luxembourg, U.S. ($43 million), Germany, and Japan.
The most productive agricultural area lies along the banks of the Niger River between Bamako and Mopti and extends south to the borders of Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso. Average rainfall varies in this region from 50 centimeters per year (20 in.) around Mopti to 140 centimeters (55 in.) in the south near Sikasso. This area is most important for the production of cotton, rice, millet, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and tree crops.
Rice is grown extensively along the banks of the Niger between Ségou and Mopti, with the most important rice-producing area at the Office du Niger, located north of Ségou toward the Mauritanian border. Using water diverted from the Niger, the Office du Niger irrigates about 80,000 hectares of land for rice and sugarcane production. About one-third of Mali's paddy rice is produced at the Office du Niger.
The Niger River also is an important source of fish, providing food for riverside communities; the surplus—smoked, salted, and dried—is exported. Due to drought and diversion of river water for agriculture, fish production has steadily declined since the early 1980s. The government has started plans to develop fish breeding, mainly in the Niger delta, in order to boost fish production.
Sorghum is planted extensively in the drier parts of the country and along the banks of the Niger in eastern Mali, as well as in the lakebeds in the Niger delta region. During the dry season, farmers near the town of Diré have cultivated wheat on irrigated fields for hundreds of years. Peanuts are grown throughout the country but are concentrated in the area around Kita, west of Bamako.
Mali's resource in livestock consists of millions of cattle, sheep, and goats. Approximately 40% of Mali's herds were lost during the great drought in 1972-74. The level was gradually restored, but the herds were again decimated in the 1983-85 drought. The overall size of Mali's herds is not expected to reach pre-drought levels in the north of the country, where encroachment of the desert has forced many nomadic herders to abandon pastoral activities and turn instead to farming. The largest concentrations of cattle are in the areas north of Bamako and Ségou extending into the Niger delta, but herding activity is gradually shifting southward, due to the effects of previous droughts.
With the technical support of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded projects, private cooperatives developed a regional border market in the southern city of Sikasso. Livestock professionals contributed to a steady increase in cattle exports. Sheep, goats, and camels are raised to the exclusion of cattle in the dry areas north and east of Timbuktu.
Until the mid-1960s, Mali was self-sufficient in grains—millet, sorghum, rice, and corn. Diminished harvests during bad years, a growing population, changing dietary habits, and, most importantly, policy constraints on agricultural production resulted in grain deficits almost every year from 1965 to 1986. Production has rebounded since 1987, however, thanks to agricultural policy reforms undertaken by the government and supported by the Western donor nations. Liberalization of producer prices and an open cereals market have created incentives to production. These reforms, combined with adequate rainfall, successful integrated rural agriculture programs in the south, and improved management of the Office du Niger, have led to surplus cereal production over the past 5 years. Except for 2002 and 2004, annual rainfall, critical for Mali's agriculture, has been at or above average since 1993. Cereal production, including rice, grew annually until 2002, when the country experienced a food production deficit, alleviated by donors' massive contributions to food security stocks. Locust infestation during the 2004 agricultural campaign prompted the government to seek assistance from the donor community in order to fill the gap in the regions that had a significant production deficit. The government anticipated a record harvest of 3.4 million tons in 2006/2007 due to abundant rainfall, 16% more than the average production of the previous 5 years. Mali’s cotton production grew from 500,000 tons in 1997 to a record 620,000 tons in 2003-2004, making Mali the largest cotton producer on the African continent. In 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, cotton production retreated respectively to 590,000 and 500,000 tons as the parastatal cotton company CMDT focused on quality of harvested cotton rather than quantity.
Mining is still a growing industry in Mali, with gold accounting for some 80% of mining activity. There are considerable proven reserves of other minerals not currently exploited. In 2002, gold briefly became Mali's number one export, before cotton and livestock. There are two large private investments in gold mining: Anglo-American ($250 million) and Randgold ($140 million), both multinational South African companies located respectively in the western and southern part of the country.
During the colonial period, private capital investment was virtually nonexistent, and public investment was devoted largely to the Office du Niger irrigation scheme and to administrative expenses. Following independence, Mali built some light industries with the help of various donors. Manufacturing, consisting principally of processed agricultural products, accounted for about 24% of the GDP in 2005.
Tourism remains a small part of Mali's economy; it is a sector with significant potential. Mali's national parks, its ancient cities and archeological sites, Niger River cruises, cultural festivals, and magnificent desert landscapes are major attractions. Mali also is home to a rare herd of elephants that continues its unique annual migration to the edges of the Sahara Desert in the northern part of the country.
With the encouragement of the major donors and international financial institutions, the Government of Mali initiated a series of adjustment and stabilization programs beginning in 1982. Measures were introduced to reduce budgetary deficits, public enterprise operating losses, and public sector arrears.
Under the economic reform program signed with the World Bank and the IMF in 1988, the government has taken a number of steps to liberalize the regulatory environment and thereby attract private investment. For example, applications for the establishment of business enterprises now enjoy "one window"—guichet unique—processing through a single ministry, allowing a business to be established in a matter of days. In addition, price controls on consumer goods have been progressively eliminated; the last price control, on petroleum products, was removed on July 1, 1992. Import quotas were eliminated in 1988, and export taxes were dropped in 1991. The Commerce Code was revised in 1991 to remove impediments to commercial activity. The investment and the mining codes also were revised in the early 1990s in order to present a good investment climate. Also in 1991, a system of commercial and administrative courts was established to handle private trade complaints and claims against the government.
During the period 1988-96, the government implemented a large reform program of the public enterprise sector, including the privatization of 16 enterprises, the partial privatization of 12, and the liquidation of 20; others were restructured. Among the 20 enterprises left, eight were privatized, including the largest—the electricity and water company (Energie du Mali, or EDM), and the textile company (Industry Textile du Mali, or ITEMA). The privatization of EDM was initially considered as a success, but the company returned to the government portfolio in mid-2005 when the French concessionaire SAUR and the Government of Mali agreed to end the 20-year concession. The government completed the concession of the railroad company to the Salt Lake City-based Savage Corporation in 2005. The privatization process for the cotton seed oil factory (Huilerie Cotonniere du Mali, or Huicoma), was completed in June 2005. The privatization completion date for two major companies—Societé de Telecommunications du Mali (SOTELMA) and the Cotton Ginning Company (CMDT)--was still uncertain as of 2008.
In 1999, the executive board of the IMF approved a 3-year loan for Mali under the enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF) to support the government's economic reform program, for a total of $63 million. For the third ESAF covering the period April 1999-March 2002, the IMF board of directors urged the Malian authorities to persevere with their policy of fiscal consolidation, including the modernizing of the tax system, and to deepen and accelerate structural reforms and rehabilitate the judicial system. Mali was selected in 1999 as an eligible country to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program and has been benefiting from the program since FY 2000 as a budgetary support. In April 2003, Mali reached the HIPC completion point with the result that former debt payments will now be used to fund poverty alleviation programs. Total debt relief under the original and the enhanced HIPC initiative will amount to about $539 million, representing a 37% reduction. As one of 14 African nations that have reached the HIPC completion point, Mali will benefit from multilateral debt forgiveness under the G8 Gleneagles debt forgiveness agreement.
Mali is a major recipient of foreign aid from many sources, including multilateral organizations (most significantly the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and Arab Funds), and bilateral programs funded by the European Union, France, United States, Canada, Netherlands, and Germany. Before 1991, the former Soviet Union had been a major source of economic and military aid, including construction of a cement plant and the Kalana gold mine. Currently, aid from Russia is restricted mainly to training and provision of spare parts. Chinese aid remains high, and Chinese-Malian joint venture companies became more numerous during the period 1999-2002, leading to the opening of a Chinese investment center. The Chinese are major participants in the textile and the sugar refinery industries and in large-scale construction projects, including irrigation infrastructures in the Niger Valley Authority (Office du Niger), a bridge across the Niger, a conference center, an expressway in Bamako, a new national stadium in Bamako, four regional stadiums completed for the Africa Cup competition in 2002, and three regional stadiums that were to be completed by June 2007.
In 2003, U.S. assistance reached $44.2 million: This included $40.7 million in sector support made available through U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs; a Peace Corps program budget of $2.8 million for 190 volunteers serving in Mali; Self-Help and the Democracy Funds of $153,000; and State Department Public Diplomacy Funds of $300,000 for educational opportunities and local projects. Military assistance includes $100,000 for the International Military Education Training (IMET) program, and $200,000 for the Regional Defense Counter Terrorism Fellowship (RDCTF) program. The Department of State dedicated $1.05 million to train militaries of the Pan Sahel countries, including Mali. Mali was granted eligibility for funding from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) in 2004 and 2005. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Mali signed a compact in October 2006 for a U.S. $460 million grant to support Mali’s proposal for an agro-business development, airport modernization and extension, and an industrial zone development. Mali was also granted eligibility for funding from the President’s Malaria Initiative for about U.S. $75 million.
Malians express great pride in their ancestry. Mali is the cultural heir to the succession of ancient African empires—Ghana, Malinké, and Songhai—that occupied the West African savannah. These empires controlled Saharan trade and were in touch with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern centers of civilization.
The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke or Saracolé people and centered in the area along the Malian-Mauritanian frontier, was a powerful trading state from about A.D. 700 to 1075. The Malinke Kingdom of Mali had its origins on the upper Niger River in the 11th century. Expanding rapidly in the 13th century under the leadership of Soundiata Keita, it reached its height about 1325, when it conquered Timbuktu and Gao. Thereafter, the kingdom began to decline, and by the 15th century, it controlled only a small fraction of its former domain.
The Songhai Empire expanded its power from its center in Gao during the period 1465-1530. At its peak under Askia Mohammad I, it encompassed the Hausa states as far as Kano (in present-day Nigeria) and much of the territory that had belonged to the Mali Empire in the west. It was destroyed by a Moroccan invasion in 1591. Timbuktu was a center of commerce and of the Islamic faith throughout this period, and priceless manuscripts from this epoch are still preserved in Timbuktu. The United States and other donors are making efforts to help preserve these priceless manuscripts as part of Mali's cultural heritage.
French military penetration of the Soudan (the French name for the area) began around 1880. Ten years later, the French made a concerted effort to occupy the interior. The timing and resident military governors determined methods of their advances. A French civilian governor of Soudan was appointed in 1893, but resistance to French control did not end until 1898, when the Malinké warrior Samory Touré was defeated after 7 years of war. The French attempted to rule indirectly, but in many areas they disregarded traditional authorities and governed through appointed chiefs. As the colony of French Soudan, Mali was administered with other French colonial territories as the Federation of French West Africa.
In 1956, with the passing of France's Fundamental Law (Loi Cadre), the Territorial Assembly obtained extensive powers over internal affairs and was permitted to form a cabinet with executive authority over matters within the Assembly's competence. After the 1958 French constitutional referendum, the Republique Soudanaise became a member of the French Community and enjoyed complete internal autonomy.
In January 1959, Soudan joined Senegal to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent within the French Community on June 20, 1960. The federation collapsed on August 20, 1960, when Senegal seceded. On September 22, Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew from the French Community.
President Modibo Keita—whose party Union Soudanaise du Rassemblement Democratique Africain (US/RDA) had dominated preindependence politics—moved quickly to declare a single-party state and to pursue a socialist policy based on extensive nationalization. A continuously deteriorating economy led to a decision to rejoin the Franc Zone in 1967 and modify some of the economic excesses.
On November 19, 1968, a group of young officers staged a bloodless coup and set up a 14-member Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN), with Lt. Moussa Traore as President. The military leaders attempted to pursue economic reforms but for several years faced debilitating internal political struggles and the disastrous Sahelian drought.
A new constitution, approved in 1974, created a one-party state and was designed to move Mali toward civilian rule. However, the military leaders remained in power. In September 1976, a new political party was established, the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM), based on the concept of democratic centralism. Single-party presidential and legislative elections were held in June 1979, and Gen. Moussa Traore received 99% of the votes. His efforts at consolidating the single-party government were challenged in 1980 by student-led, anti-government demonstrations, which were brutally put down, and by three coup attempts.
The political situation stabilized during 1981 and 1982 and remained generally calm throughout the 1980s. The UDPM spread its structure to cercles and arrondissements (administrative subdivisions) across the land. Shifting its attention to Mali's economic difficulties, the government approved plans for cereal marketing liberalization, reform in the state enterprise system, and new incentives to private enterprise, and worked out a new structural adjustment agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, by 1990, there was growing dissatisfaction with the demands for austerity imposed by the IMF's economic reform programs and the perception that the President and his close associates were not themselves adhering to those demands.
As in other African countries, demands for multiparty democracy increased. The Traore government allowed some opening of the system, including the establishment of an independent press and independent political associations, but insisted that Mali was not ready for democracy. In early 1991, student-led, anti-government rioting broke out again, but this time government workers and others supported it. On March 26, 1991, after 4 days of intense anti-government rioting, a group of 17 military officers arrested President Traore and suspended the constitution. Within days, these officers joined with the Coordinating Committee of Democratic Associations to form a predominantly civilian, 25-member ruling body, the Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People (CTSP). The CTSP then appointed a civilian-led government. A national conference held in August 1991 produced a draft constitution (approved in a referendum January 12, 1992), a charter for political parties, and an electoral code. Political parties were allowed to form freely. Between January and April 1992, a president, National Assembly, and municipal councils were elected. On June 8, 1992, Alpha Oumar Konare, the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), was inaugurated as the President of Mali's Third Republic.
In 1997, attempts to renew national institutions through democratic elections ran into administrative difficulties, resulting in a court-ordered annulment of the legislative elections held in April 1997. The exercise, nonetheless, demonstrated the overwhelming strength of President Konare's ADEMA Party, causing some other historic parties to boycott subsequent elections. President Konare won the presidential election against scant opposition on May 11. In the two-round legislative elections conducted on July 21 and August 3, 1997, ADEMA secured more than 80% of the National Assembly seats.
General elections were organized in June and July 2002. President Konare did not seek reelection since he was serving his second and last term as required by the constitution. All political parties participated in the elections. In preparation for the elections, the government completed a new voter's list after a general census was administered a few months earlier with the support of all political parties. Retired General Amadou Toumani Toure, former head of state during Mali's transition (1991-1992) became the country's second democratically elected President as an independent candidate in 2002, and was reelected to a second 5-year term in 2007.
In 2012 Islamist terror organization Ansar Dine took power in the northern Mali. The government of Mali and French soldiers are currently fighting against the terrorists. The army got the most control under the cities back. On September 4, 2014 Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was elected as president of Mali.
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