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He was born on February 2, 1946, in Kayes (Mali), where he completed his elementary education. Later, he moved to Bamako and Dakar, returning to Mali to complete his advanced studies at the University of Bamako (1965-1969) and then studying at the University of Warsaw (Poland) between 1971 and 1975, where he earned a doctorate in History and Archaeology with a dissertation on agricultural development in the upper basin of the Niger River between the 13th and 17th centuries (a prosperous period for the Mali empire).
He was a political leader from a young age, and in 1967, he was elected Secretary General of Youth for US-RDA (Sudanese Union-African Democratic Rally), Modibo Keïta´s party of the École Normale Supérieure of Bamako.
He returned to Bamako where he worked as a history professor hired by the Ministry of Culture, and was also President of the Museum Council until May 1978. At that time, he was appointed by the military government´s leader, General Moussa Traoré, as Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts, and Culture. In August 1980, Konaré resigned from his position in the government in a display of his disagreement with the perpetuation of power in Traoré, who had been named as the constitutional president in single-candidate elections the year before. Konaré returned to his academic activities and focused on promoting cultural events.
In the following years, he also focused on journalism, and he was the editor of Jamana magazine and the independent journal titled Les Echos, which he founded in 1984. He was also a UNESCO consultant in the United Nations Programme for Development (UNPD) and the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation. Additionally, he was President of the West African Archaeological Association.
In 1986, he returned to his political activities, founding the National Democratic and Popular Front which was coordinated clandestinely with other opposition organisations given that the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPN), Traoré´s party, was the only legal party at the time.
Within the regime´s legal framework, Konaré presided over the Mutuelle des Travailleurs de l'Education et de la Culture (MUTEC) in 1987, and once again over the Museum Council as of 1989.
In 1990, he participated in creating the ADEMA Alliance for Democracy in Mali, a centre-left party that adhered to the campaign of strikes and non-violent protests against Traoré´s regime.
On March 26, 1991, Lieutenant Colonel Toumani Touré carried out a coup d'état and created, along with the military junta, a timeline for the creation and start-up of a plural constitutional framework, promising to hold elections at the end of that year. ADEMA was established as a party on May 26, 1991, and Konaré participated in the National Conference, which between July and August designed the legal instruments for the future democratic regime. That same year, he founded "Radio Bamakan3," Mali´s first associative radio.
In the legislative elections of February 23 and in the ballotage (held on March 8, 1992), Konaré´s party (ADEMA) obtained 76 of the 116 seats in the National Assembly. In the presidential elections that were held April 12-26, Konaré faced Tieoulé Mamadou Konaté, his immediate opposition from the Sudanese Union-African Democratic Rally (US-RDA), with 69% of the votes. On June 8, Touré´s junta ceded power to Konaré, who with a five-year term of office, became the first Malian president elected democratically since the nation´s independence from France in 1960.
Throughout his ten years of government, Konaré projected himself as one of the African leaders that was most committed to his country´s development, which is one of the ten nations with the weakest human development indexes in the world, focusing on sustainability, but also with a balance in the regional scheme. Various socio-economic development programmes were jointly funded by the European Union and France, while the International Monetary Fund, relying on the austerity of Konaré´s financial management and despite serious deficiencies in Mali´s tax system, financed a structural adjustment programme, of which the first stage was to introduce a standard consumer tax in 1993.
In March 1996, the government was able to establish stability in the region with the pacification in the northern part of the country and the acceptance of the three Unified Movements and Fronts of Azawad (MFUA), bringing together three armed Tuareg and Songhai fighter associations from the Ghanda Koy movement. These had fought fiercely against the Army since 1994. The government´s offer of disarmament and reinsertion in the Mali army was accepted.
Despite the nation´s favourable economic growth during the 1990s, there were many union protests due to the privatisation of certain public companies. The legislative elections of July 20 and August 3, 1997, which were held in a relatively tense atmosphere due to acts of violence, police detentions of the opposition, and the boycott of 18 parties, resulted with an absolute majority for ADEMA with 128 seats.
During the presidential elections on May 11 of that same year, Konaré obtained the unextendible re-election until 2002 with 95.5% of votes against Mamadou Maribatourou Diaby of the Party for Unity, Development and Progress (PUDP), the only opposing party after the removal of eight candidates from the process (they had assumed power with unclear election commissions).
In regards to foreign policy, Konaré played an important role on several occasions. He was a mediator in the 1997 crisis of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire). Mali troops formed part of the Inter-African Mission to Monitor the Implementation of the Bangui Agreements (MISAB) and the subsequent one in 1998, the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA), as well as in the peacekeeping forces (Ecomog) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau.
In 1999, he was elected the annual President of ECOWAS, which obtained its first parliament in 2000 (with headquarters in Bamako). He impeded the coup d'état attempts carried out by military personnel in Niger in April of 1999 and in the Ivory Coast in December of that same year. With Konaré, Mali was the first country to ratify the African Union Treaty (OUA) held in Lomé in July 2000.
During those years, the economy progressed, while fighting against corruption, and requests were made to international credit organisations to cancel or restructure part of the foreign debt (approximately $3 billion). However, Konaré´s party encountered a crisis due to the internal clashes between Prime Minister Ibrahima Boubacar and the Minister of Finances, Soumaïla Cissé. In 2000, Keita ceased his functions in the Government, and in December, Cissé´s group obtained the party´s leadership and the presidential nomination to succeed Konaré in the 2002 elections.
These elections were held from April 28 through May 12, 2002. The former military president, Amadou Toumani Touré, and the governmental candidate, Soumaila Cissé, reached the second ballot. Amadou Toumani Touré won the ballotage with 64.35% of votes.
Konaré´s last action in the government was to grant a presidential pardon to the former dictator Traoré, who rejected it and remained imprisoned until completing his sentence.