March 21st 2012 meant a lot of things for our family. As we celebrated my son Keanen’s 6th birthday, we awaited news about what was happening in the middle of Bamako. What was happening was a coup that would spell the end for a 20-year-old democracy.
As we watched and waited, we were hit with every sensation you would get when you lose something/someone dear. The disbelief, the shock, the dread, the pain that this can’t be true, the anger at the why and finally a gradual acceptance of what cannot be changed.
As soon as dawn broke, Yeah was in different mode. From campaign mode he switched to firefighter and the diplomat. Now was not the time to be threatening action, now was the time to talk and make a plan on how to proceed. However Yeah was not going to just bow down to the coup. He condemned it on National TV and it was never played. He met with Sanogo and told him where he stood but how the country must move forward. As I watched Yeah go through his private struggle, it hit me how much he really did love his country. Inside, he was seething at what had been taken away but the surface was calm and realistic. During the two weeks that followed, I saw him lead a difficult schedule. Sleep was the last thing on his mind and there were not enough hours in the day. As the rebels gained hold of first Gao, Kidal and then historic Tombouctou, it felt like the nightmare kept getting worse. What could be done? So Yeah did what he knows best? He became the mediator, the connection, the glue between political parties. His country suffering and divided became his own personal hell. You might think I am exaggerating. There is not one person I know that loves his country more than Yeah does. Every dream or task he has ever pursued ultimately lands up in Mali. Some may see it as carefully planning a political future, but what it really is, is the vision that Mali and Malians everywhere deserve better.
As Yeah became more and more tied up with meetings, to me it seemed like what we had been working towards was blown up. It did not seem like we would have elections. Worse still was the constant fear that something bad would happen. With Yeah so heavily involved with politics and the news spreading like wildfire that politicians were being “detained”, we only had to leave our wild imaginations to wonder why and when our turn would come. Secretly, I had packed a small bag and was ready during the first days to hightail with our kids to Ouelessebougou. Yeah kept asking me to go telling me the kids and I needed to be safe but listening never was one of my better qualities. It’s not that I wasn’t scared for the kids, but it terrified me more to see Mali in essence falling apart. Yeah wasn’t going and neither was I. We were in this together. I wasn’t going anywhere! Soon my attentions got fixed on other things. Making sure the world knew what was going on became important. As reports spread and continued to spread of looting, raping and random acts of violence, I continued to write because I felt that my adopted homeland was under fire for things some of which were not true. As people came out of the woodwork claiming atrocities, my heart was angered because I knew that they were doing it to get their two minutes of fame. As sanctions were threatened, I was angered because no person should have to suffer for the actions of someone else. Sanctions were not the answer, but it did get the intended impact and I understand that. I guess I would never be a good politician. As Azawad was claimed by the rebels, my people in the North went hungry. With every day that passed, 500 more refugees were displaced or escaped across the border. More and more the news became about the coup and people lost sight of the mothers, children, fathers and families that died or became another statistic. That continues to be a fight till today. As things in Bamako got better, a light seemed to shine that democracy would indeed we restored.
On Thursday, an interim President was assigned the job. Optimism is returning that politicians will meet around the table to discuss the situation and how best to get out of the crisis that has gripped Mali. This weekend is testament of that as Yeah meets with Burkina Faso President Blaise Campaoré with 70 other politicians from Mali. The aim is one. To unite Malians in an undivided Mali.
Let us not fail Mali now. Mali, now more than ever, needs good leadership. It needs diplomacy. It needs patriotism. It needs, in my humble opinion, Yeah.