Team Samaké left for Ségou, Mali early in the morning on February 16th. Their mission: to educate mayors from the region of Ségou about the Samake2012 vision for a stable, prosperous Mali filled with opportunities for its people.
Ségou (Seku, Segu) is a city in south-central Mali, lying 235 kilometers (146 mi) northeast of Bamako on the River Niger, in the region of Ségou. It was founded by the Bozo people, on a site about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the present town. With 100,000 inhabitants, it is the third largest city in Mali.
Yeah central point to creating a prosperous Mali is decentralization. What you might say, does decentralization have to do with a stable, prosperous Mali? In theory decentralization has been around for a long time. In practice, it does not exist. The time has come for the central government to return power back to the local governments, creating an environment in which the people can hold their own leaders accountable for the actions in the commune. I think of it in this way too. As parents, we struggle sometimes to let our children make their own decisions. Failure to let them “live a little” will make them dependent individuals that cannot manage their own lives/decisions. However, if you teach them everything you can and then let them go, they are held accountable in part by the acquaintances that surround them. Without teaching them, they don’t and can’t differentiate from right and wrong. The same is with decentralization. USAID states in its In-Country report of Mali: “We find that the state has devolved some degree of authority and has made modest efforts in other areas (most notably the prospects for accountability implicit in local elections), but that autonomy and capacity remain generally low at the local level.” The central government needs to let go of power and return it to the local leaders. It is harder to hold a big government organization accountable in a country the size of Texas. By letting people at the local level conduct hold their commune leaders accountable, they will see a lot more return on investment of the taxes they pay. Take Ouelessebougou for example. 3 years ago, it was listed as the 699th commune out of the 703 communes in terms of development and transparency. Only 10% of taxes were being paid and mayor office employees had not been paid in 6 months because the previous mayor had been embezzling money. Look at Ouelessebougou today. Today due to measures instituted to ensure transparency and accountability 80% of taxes are being paid on time, employees are paid without fail on the 25th of every month, and Ouelessebougou is listed in the top ten cities in Mali. There are experts at the mayor’s office in the different sections of land, water and other areas, to allow people to discuss their issue directly with these individuals without waiting for the Mayor to make a decision. Power is distributed so that people within the Mayor’s office are empowered to make decisions and held accountable for the decisions they make by the Mayor and his constituents. Development wise Yeah has been able to lobby and get funds from the central government to build the first ever high school in the region, the biggest hospital in the region and the biggest solar panel field in Mali. If Yeah is elected on April 29th 2012, he could spread the success of decentralization to the rest of Mali.
That was the message of hope that Yeah wanted to share with these mayors of Ségou. About 100 mayors crowded into the room. Many had been drawn to the free lunch that Yeah was offering. The leading Mayor of Ségou introduced Yeah to his colleagues. Saying: “I am not here for myself, I am not here for Americans or for the French, I am here for the Malians”, Yeah seized their attention. He started telling about all the things he had been able to accomplish for his fellow-Malians. There is not one Malian candidate running today that has served his people without benefitting like Yeah has. Yeah’s words were solidified by a video showing evidence of the schools built, the water system in Ouelessebougou, the new school and hospital and the solar panel field. The skepticism vanished as the video ended. Yeah had instilled a new sense of hope in these mayors as he spoke about the power of decentralization and how it could better serve them as mayors and help them better serve their own people. The room filled with raised hands to ask questions. The questions continued with a passion and the gusto with which they were asked would have kept Team Samake there for a long time. The question surrounded topics like education, electricity, water, healthcare and decentralization. At one point, one of the mayors stood up to dispute Yeah’s policy of decentralization. Yeah did not even have to answer as seven mayors stood up to defend him and re-explain how things could only be beneficial for the mayors to better serve their communes. This was the take away point. Yeah Samake was the candidate that could best represent mayors and better support them so they could in turn support their people’s needs.
This was a successful trip for the Samake2012 campaign. The support just keeps growing day after day. It will be important to capitalize on these connections that we are making. This is Mali’s time. Decentralization is the key to creating a country that is stable and empowering people to stand up for the things that truly affect their daily lives. Please support us at www.samake2012.com. We cannot do this without you. Together, let’s welcome a new day in Mali and a new sense of hope for the Malian people. Are you in?