Every 20 January is Armed Forces Day in the West African nation of Mali. This holiday, also called Army Day, is reserved for honouring the country’s current soldiers, national police, and veterans who have now retired. Since Mali’s armed forces were first organised in 1960, they have played a key role in defending Mali and in peacekeeping operations in other parts of Africa.
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Mali’s army has faced many challenges in the past. In 2012, they were severely strained in putting down the Tuareg Rebellion, which sought to create a separate state for the Tuareg people, called Azawad, out of northern Mali. In days gone by, they counted on support from the Soviet Union, but that failed following the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. More recently, Islamic rebels in eastern Mali have been opposed by Mali’s armed forces.
From its small beginnings in 1960, Mali’s army has grown to rank in Africa’s top ten. They have a small air force, two tank battalions, and a small riverboat force for a navy – aside from infantry. On Armed Forces Day, the country gives them a day-long salute and celebrates all the victories they have achieved and all the sacrifices they have made.
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