PACP held its first major leadership conference February 4th 2012. The aim of the conference was to educate community leaders in the communes of Bamako about the potential of Yeah Samake as the future President of Mali. About 20 journalists and the major TV network ORTM covered this event.
At 10am, Yeah, I and the rest of PACP leadership walked into an auditorium housing about 200 people. This was a little different from the dancing and music that usually greets us at the rallies. The hushed silence erupted into clapping as we walked down the aisle to the stage. The room felt like it had a heavy air of skepticism. Many of these community leaders are educated and it was essential that this town hall style meeting be held to get them on board.
The meeting started with a 5 minute video about Yeah’s achievements in Mali to date. It showed the schools that were built, water pumps installed, children that came to the US and the computers that were donated. It showed the medical teams that came every year to treat people from as far as Mopti and Sikasso. The highlight of the video was the solar panel installation in Ouelessebougou. I say this was the highlight because it was during his welcome speech at this function that Yeah challenged the President to allow decentralization to happen more completely. Yeah’s central policy is decentralization of the central government’s power so that the local government can function effectively and address corruption more effectively. When the people can hold their government accountable, the government will be more effective and be less prone to corrupt leaders. In a big country like Mali, this is more important than ever. The video also showed the President’s speech at this event in which he is almost endorsing Yeah by saying he wished there were more Malians that gave back to their people like Yeah did. The video was punctuated by clapping but the end gave way to a standing ovation.
When the video ended, we took the stage again. The difference between Yeah and the other candidates is that Yeah has a story to tell. His humble beginnings resound clearly with other Malians that share it. However his aspirations and his education are a lesson to many that if you push hard enough, even the poorest person will prevail. He is also the statement of the end product of education that shows Malians what one can become with a good, sound education. Yeah spoke very eloquently in French to his audience. He spoke of his life early on, his father who was the visionary and his mother who was the silent supporter. Yeah’s mother was an amazing woman, from what I have heard. Her silent agony as her children suffered was evident in her actions. During the days when the family would usually go hungry, Yeah’s mother would also go to the families in the neighbor collecting the chaff of the millet. She would bring this back, salt it and give it to her kids so that they would have something in their stomachs as they headed to school. In my opinion, she was as much a visionary and supporter as Tiecourafing Samaké. My daughter Carmen carries her name Sanamba as her middle name and I hope that Sanamba’s strength and spirit will guide her through life. Yeah spoke also of how he had the opportunity to gain an education and how he came back with the Mali Rising Foundation through generous donors to give the gift of education to villages that otherwise would have seen decades more of illiteracy. He introduced his brother Drissa, who now has a PhD and his brother Daouda who has a Bachelors as products of the same success story. When he was done, he opened the forum to questions.
The questions came in huge numbers and addressed everything from Yeah’s plans for education, the issues in the North of Mali and electricity. This part of the forum was in a mixture of Bambara and French. Yeah advised that many of the issues in Mali today are based on a lack of education and employment opportunities. He spoke about the issues in the North highlighting that it was not a Northern problem but a Malian problem. He spoke of how if the ways existed for people to make money through honest work, there would be no need to join the terrorists in the North. He advised that Malians should support the army to fight the problem in the North instead of just saying it was the North’s problem to fight it. The army needs to secure the borders so militants cannot cross with arms. Currently, there is fighting in the North region and strikes in the south as people protest the government’s lack of response to the fighting as well as the government sending few soldiers with limited arms to fight them. On the issue of electricity, Yeah used Ouelessebougou as a prime example of affordable energy. The solar panels in Ouelessebougou currently provide electricity to the residents. If elected, many more installations of this kind would go up to create clean, affordable energy. Yeah during the Q&A round also introduced my background. He said he believed in Mali so much and that I had the same convictions. He asked why else would I uproot my family from the comfortable, opportunity filled life of the US to come to Mali. Why else would I enroll my children in the Malian education system? He spoke of my faith and my hope for Mali under a strong leader. Another question raised was about women and opportunities for them. Yeah spoke about how the woman is an essential part of society and the educational opportunities need to be given to them as well so that they may become equal partners in the workforce. Yet another question focused on corruption and how Yeah would combat it. Yeah used his term in Ouelessebougou as a prime example of combating corruption. When he became mayor in 2009, people refused to pay taxes because the taxes were going into the mayor’s pocket. By introducing an open line of communication and accountability, Yeah was able to ensure that the taxes were collected and people shown where their tax money went. Today Ouelessebougou boasts a 68% tax collection rate. When Yeah first became mayor, all the salaries were months behind. Yeah paid all the salaries and since he has been in office, the salary is paid without fail on the 25th of every month. This would not be possible if corruption continued to seize the funds that people were paying in tax money. The questions went on and on. Even as we approached the final minutes when we had to end, people still wanted continue.
This was an excellent meeting and more town hall meetings of this kind are planned in other electoral districts. The people need to hear Yeah’s message. When we left that room, even the biggest skeptics became supporters. No one can deny Yeah’s amazing story or what he has done for his people. There is not one candidate that has given back to the Malian people like Yeah has. There is not one candidate that has the background that Yeah has which allows him to understand his people’s current suffering.
Yeah Samake is the candidate if Mali wants change. He is the candidate if Mali desires to get out of the hole 52 years of corrupt, bad leadership has thrown it into. He is the candidate of hope for a better education system that ensures Malian graduates can compete against foreign graduates. He is the candidate if Malians want a role model that can show what honest, open leadership is. He is the candidate who can bring Mali as an equal to discussions at the UN and African summits instead of the country asking for handouts. Mali is not a poor country. The actions of its leaders have made it poor. The time has come for Mali to raise itself out of the misery its former leaders have condemned it to. Yeah is the candidate that can reform Mali and make it a symbol of opportunity and change. The time is now. If you can help, the time has come to help. The elections are 3 months away. Support us at Samake2012.com. We need all the help we can to help Mali become the country where opportunities are in abundance and dreams become a reality. Vive PACP! Vive Yeah Samake! But most of all Vive Mali! May the hopes and dreams of all Malians be answered with Yeah Samake as President.
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