A country in western Africa, east of MAURITANIA and north of SUDAN. Its capital is Bamako. Its earlier names give a clue to its African and overseas connections: 1904-1920 it was known as Upper Senegal-Niger; prior to 1958, as French Sudan; 1958-1960 as the Sudanese Republic and 1959-1960 it joined Senegal in the Mali Federation. It became an independent republic in 1960 but the government is at present in transition. Mali was the name of a former empire, extinct from the 17th century. It may be derived from Malinke, an indigenous people of this region or from a Mandingo word meaning hippopotamus. (From Webster’s New Geographical Dictionary, p717 & Room, Brewer’s Dictionary of Names, 1992, p329).