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Small steps in the right direction

ADPS members Nouhoum Sa and Fomba watch on as Yeah exchanges a few words with Pres. Campaore

The meetings of this past weekend were a step in the right direction. Yeah and his team ADPS made sure that preserving Mali’s sovereignty was foremost as they headed to a weekend full of conferences with President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Campaoré, who has been appointed the official mediator by ECOWAS. Since the first part of the ECOWAS agreement had been honored by instituting interim President of Mali Diacounda Traoré, it was essential to discuss how Mali would now move forward. Diacounda’s primary responsibility is to reunite the country by regaining Mali’s 3 lost regions. The conference was filled with 78 members representing the different stakeholders in Mali. The conference provided a stage for political parties and representatives of the civil society to discuss their views on a number of topics including the territorial integrity of Mali, the transitional authorities, the duration of the interim presidency, and the authority that will make the choice of the Prime Minister to lead that the transitional government.

I am not going to lie and say that everyone had the same expectations.  Some of the participants were under the impression that the conference would designate the PM and members of the transitional government. However, it was more important to decide logistics before suggesting and appointing people. It was honestly a nice change to see somewhat of a democracy in action as leaders discussed what would best serve Mali in terms of leadership.

Yeah advised that the current interim President should not be able to name the next Prime Minister. If given that ability, Diacounda would have the power to put someone affiliated to his political party and potentially cause unneeded bias, especially at this sensitive time. It will be important for a non-partisan body to choose the Prime Minister. The only non-partisan body at this time is the junta. Hence, that role was given them and they will be tasked with choosing the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister in turn will be responsible to lead his transitional government before elections takes place.

So who is the new PM? The new PM announced just 30 minutes ago is Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft’s Africa Corporation chairman and a former NASA astrophysicist. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheick_Modibo_Diarra). He was also a Presidential candidate for the 2012 elections. This could be either good for the country or really bad. Diarra lacks the political experience having no role in the political circle but might be what is needed to bind the differing political parties and views together in a strong transitional government that can lead the country till elections.

The agenda in Burkina contain essential promises and decisions that will affect the future of Mali. I can’t believe this all started less than a month ago. Mali has seen three different Presidents (ATT, Sanogo and now Diacounda) in a matter of 27 days. Now more than ever, Mali and Malians need to feel some stability return to the country. The country looks like it’s getting back on the track of democracy. And that is the right direction!

For those interested, the agreement (translated) made and acknowledged by all parties in Burkina Faso is as follows:

SOLEMN DECLARATION PROJECT BY THE VITAL FORCES OF MALI

The Conference of Active Forces of the Republic of Mali met in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, under the auspices of His Excellency Blaise Campaoré, President of Burkina Faso, and the mediator of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Malian crisis.

Welcoming the Framework Agreement of 6 April 2012 on the implementation of the solemn declaration of the President of the National Committee for the relief of Democracy and Restoration of the State (CNRDRE) from 1 April 2012 on the return to constitutional order;

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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Personal thoughts

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.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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On the agenda for Mali’s new Interim President

Today at 9am GMT, Malians around the country tuned in to their TV sets to watch the Malian government become legitimized at least in the world’s eyes. The roller-coaster of events that derailed a 20 year democracy saw a crest as an interim President Diacounda Traoré was sworn in.

So what does this mean for Mali? Diacounda’s task is by no means a small one. Plan of action during the next 40 days: reunite the country and set up elections. With Islamist forces taking over the North and calling for the independence of Azawad, Mali is in essence being divided. There is no clear indication as to which groups are involved in the takeover of the North. Initially, while it was thought that MNLA and AQIM were the only forces, it is becoming more and more apparent that many smaller factions may be involved like MUJWA, MUJAO, GSPC and GIA (http://thewasat.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/the-black-flag-flies-in-mali/). The latest report points at Boko Haram members in Gao. This is the same group that takes credit for its violence in Nigeria. If it is true that all these groups are operating in the North, the Northern regions of Mali are already proving to be a dangerous breeding ground which if not contained and eliminated could spread to the rest of Mali and even West Africa. More and more this takeover is becoming more about just having the land and free range to do as they please versus trying to create a better equal environment for the Tuaregs. This is best shown by the degree of looting and destruction of property as well as the harm of individuals. If one truly wanted to take over land for the end purpose of freeing one’s “oppressed” people, then one would not scare its residents or destroy hospitals, pharmacies, stores etc that are the proof of a civilized community. No! No one is trying to free the Tuaregs. What is happening is a personal agenda of terrorist organizations to take over a territory that can be best used to facilitate their drug and trafficking activities and serve as a breeding ground for training camps. What we have is a pre-9/11 Afghanistan being created.

The Rebels in the North

The Black Flag flies in Tombouctou signifying Ansar-Al Dine presence.

Furthermore, in the region of Tombouctou, there is the imposition of Sharia law, which essentially the leader of Ansar Al-Dine wants for the whole of Mali. What would Sharia mean for Mali? Well for one, the wearing of veils would become mandatory as it is now for our sisters in Tombouctou. Women are a very fashion oriented gender in Mali and would not appreciate being told how to dress or how to look. More serious however, would be the strict observance of Islam, which would seem out of place in this moderately Muslim country. Also, Muslim law follows a very strict punishment policy with thieves/vandals having their hands cut off and adulterers being stoned.

So how are we to restore territorial integrity? Initially, when the three territories had fallen, the junta had asked the African Union to provide help. The African Union stands ready to provide a 3000 strong army, but the junta have said, we don’t need boots just give us arms. The Malian army is a 7000 strong army and has been trained for many years by foreign forces to battle these problems in the North. However, not even the bravest of soldiers will run into battle without arms. Arms are a necessary evil but plans need to be carefully drawn and dialogue needs to happen before war. Waging a war without assessing future impacts could be dangerous. We do not want to harm more innocent lives. Plus the Malian army is capable( if equipped) and are more familiar with the desert regions. For all their mistakes, the junta, only 500 strong does not speak for Mali’s army and did not create the Northern problem; they exacerbated it by causing a moment of weakness for the country.

A forgotten people

In addition with the drought of the region, the refugee crisis worsens with each passing day. My heart aches to think of mothers that watch their children die and cannot do a thing about it. My heart aches as the number of people fleeing their homes grows each day. In this day and age, to watch one part of the world flourish and another continue to suffer seems unimaginable. But it exists. It gives individuals like me an opportunity to share my blessings and make a difference to someone in need. Yeah has been working with various organizations to make this possible. Hopefully soon, we will see these organizations shipping containers bringing much needed food. We have also set up a trust to accept anonymous donations if you can help: Friends of Mali Trust, 472 East 4380, North Provo, Utah 84604 or you may donate online at www.samake2012.com and put the keyword “refugee” in the comment field. If you today, could make a difference, please do. Even $1 will feed a child for a day in Mali. Imagine what $10 could do? Imagine what $100 could do? And if you cannot help financially, use the blessing of your voice and spread the word to your network. Let this not become another “African” problem or “not my problem”.

Given these issues, can Diacounda truly set up elections within the next 40 days? The answer is one riddled with ifs. If Diacounda truly embodies the things his party ADEMA says about him like “very keen on working toward consensus” and “a man of the people” (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/04/20124917549965212.html), then maybe a united Mali is possible. Diacounda cannot do this alone. He has to work with other political parties whose leaders are not contaminated with embezzlement and bad governance. “We will never negotiate the partition of Mali,” Traoré said in his inauguration speech in which he promised to organize “free and transparent elections over the whole of the national territory”. Time will tell. The only solution now is for Diacounda to surround himself with “true” leaders who view Mali’s unity and integrity and the Malian peoples safety as their personal goal.

Tomorrow, Yeah will fly out with other members of ADPS to Burkina Faso. Why Burkina? The ECOWAS team has assigned President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Campaoré, as their mediator for the Mali crisis. Yeah and his team will present to the President of Burkina, their joint solution to saving Mali from further casualties and loss of territory. This is an important meeting and dialogue is the key to breeding a Mali solution rather than an international plan to restore Mali to its former self.

We will not rest till Mali is whole again. We will not rest till democracy is restored. We will not rest till every refugee returns home. That is the Samake2012 fight! Are you in? Make your voice heard today at http://www.samake2012.com

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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A Deal reached ending Sanctions: political aftermath

As yesterday night passed, so did a deal between ECOWAS and the junta. The consensus concurred with the old constitution that the head of the National Assembly would be named as Mali’s next President. The deal came amidst mounting pressure placed on the junta by economic sanctions.

Within two weeks Mali has not only been further weakened but the number of regions it presides over has been reduced by three. AQIM (an Al-Qaeda branch) and the MNLA have taken over the main regions of Gao, Kidal and Tombouctou. The Tuareg claim is one that has been consistent for the past 50 years going back to when this ethnic group requested their French colonizers to grant them an independent territory. With the return of Gaddhafi’s fallen soldiers that originally hail from Mali, arms have made their demands more attainable. Confusion in the South allowed these groups to take over these three regions in a period of 3 days.

Our Mali divided

This agreement that installs the head of the National Assembly, 70-year old Diacounda, has been received with a mixture of feelings. Diacounda is himself a Presidential candidate and had been pursued by the junta for his alliance with ATT.  Malians in general, while they would not want him as a leader, I think, are glad that the sanctions have been lifted. Two weeks after it started and 1 month before elections were set to happen, one could say that the coup seems almost pointless. My concern however is that coups do not happen for “no” reason. They happen because there is an issue within the government. By installing an “old guard”-one from ATT’s regime that allowed many of ATT’s law to pass the legislative body unquestioned, the issue is not being resolved, merely being brushed over because the world says it’s time for the coup to be over. By not resolving the very reason that the coup happened, which is the government’s inabilities and shortcomings in dealing with corruption and the lack of a well-prepared army, we are setting ourselves up for failure. However all Mali can do at this point is to move forward. Yeah will continue to work with his team ADPS to ensure that the voice of the people is heard in the transitional government and that individuals are instituted in the interim that have Mali’s best interest.

So what does this new deal mean for Mali? The good things are that Mali will get the international help it desperately needs right now. Humanitarian conditions are worsening and in the regions captured Malians are being forced under a rule of terror and religious law. We are thankful that our African neighbors are willing to provide boots on the ground to fight the rebels of the North and free our people that are being oppressed. Another good thing is sanctions are being lifted and the economy once again will breathe a sigh of relief as the flow of goods is restored. On the other hand, no time line has been set in place, on when the change of power will happen. The junta promise that it will be soon. Also, the agreement hints it might be impossible to hold elections within 21-40 days as dictated by the constitution because of the attacks on Mali’s territorial integrity. Before elections can be held, territories need to be regained or let go. To clarify, the regions of Tombouctou, Gao and Kidal do not just hold a Tuareg population. These regions hold a higher percentage of Songhai and Peul. So to allow these territories to just “go” as some countries are suggesting would be to deny citizenship to certain ethnicities that have been part of Mali for centuries.

Mali's various ethnicities

All in all there are some steps in the right direction. It is a hope that the humanitarian crisis will end soon and our brothers and sisters in Gao, Kidal and Tombouctou may once again be free. Within the weeks to come the date of the election will be established as a transitional government is put in place.

The election will go forward. Please continue to show your support at www.samake2012.com. We need you with us as we continue this historic journey. Spread the word, the campaign continues! The spirit of democracy in Mali that is Samake2012 lives on!

For those interested, the agreement (translated into English) reads as:

Whereas a return to constitutional normality requires compliance with the constitution of 25 February 1992 which, in Article 36 organizes the Acting President of the Republic in case of vacancy or incapacity.

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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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ADPS: A solution from within

Mali as it stands today, finds itself slapped with sanctions, its refugee crisis worsening and with the North declaring their independence. I have always maintained that sanctions do not affect governments but individuals. It would take a lot of individual suffering to get Malians on the street protesting against the junta that believe they have just saved Mali from a bigger evil. So why were sanctions issued? Ecowas, pressured by the international community, felt the need to apply sanctions so that the junta would return the country to democracy and the former constitution.

Democracy is one thing, but the former constitution might be a tall order for a number of reasons. Particularly Article 36 of the former constitution.

Article 36 states: When the President of the Republic is temporarily unable to fulfill his duties, his powers shall be provisionally exercised by the Prime Minister.

In case of a vacancy of the Presidency of Republic for some unforeseen, disruptive cause that is an absolute or unavoidable obstacle, noted by the Constitutional Court, and the President of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister, the functions of the President of the Republic shall be carried out by the President of the National Assembly.

A new process for election of a new president for a new period of five years shall then commence. The election of the new President shall take place between twenty-one and forty days after the official recognition of the vacancy or preventative obstacle.

Diacounda Traoré, leader of Adema-PASJ and a Presidential candidate himself, was the President of the National Assembly, before the junta abandoned the constitution. He was also one of the individuals sought to be arrested by the junta. The junta has been wildly popular for the very reason that Malians believe that ATT and top politicians did nothing to serve the common Malian. By putting back the very individuals that have caused harm (in the people’s eyes) would serve little purpose. In addition, Diacounda’s term expires in July. With three electoral regions fallen, it will be impossible for him to hold elections within the 40 days. First the territorial integrity of Mali needs to be restored. Then, Mali can start to plan elections so the people’s voice can be heard.

Yeah and his team, consisting of 10 other political parties and 3 other presidential candidates have formed the Alliance of Democrats for the Patriots out of the crisis (ADPS) or (l’Alliance des Démocrates Patriotes pour la Sortie de crise (ADPS) in French).

ADPS has been working hard to find a solution that is the most compatible with the previous Constitution.

Yeah has been in consistent meetings for the last two weeks trying to come up with a plan politically that can save Mali from further sanctions and loss of territorial integrity. ADPS stance is that there is no way to restore the constitutional order, as it formerly existed because there would be a political deadlock. ADPS maintains that it is impossible for Diacounda to hold free and fair elections before his term expires as per the constitution.

Article 85 states: “The Constitutional Court is the judge of the constitutionality of the laws and it shall guarantee the fundamental laws of the individual and public liberties. It is the regulating body of the functioning of the institutions and the activity of the Public Powers.”

By instituting article 85 instead, ADPS calls on the constitutional court to organize a national forum with the purpose of legitimizing a transitional authority, an intermediate body that is not party bound and that can oversee the return to democracy.

Here are the governing principles of ADPS:

  1. Pass the state power to a body acceptable to all parties subject to validation by the Constitutional Court under Article 85 of the Constitution;
  2. Restore public confidence in the state and strengthen social peace and national harmony;
  3. Strengthen security measures for people and goods, restart and re-deploy the Administration, the economic and commercial activities;
  4. Ensure freedom of speech and press as well as equal access to all state media;
  5. Obtain immediate ceasefire in northern Mali for the total liberation of the country, the return of refugees and tranquility of the people in the northern part of our country;
  6. Avoid isolation of Mali at the regional and international levels and get support from the international community to implement the program of the Transition;
  7.  Fight against all illicit trafficking, terrorism and all forms of insecurity in the country;
  8. Reform and re-mobilize the armed forces and security by providing them with adequate means to defend the territorial integrity and national unity;
  9. Preserve the physical and moral integrity of all those arrested during the recent events, release those against whom there would be no charge, guarantee respect for human rights and a fair justice for all Malian;
  10. Democratic elections, free, credible and transparent within a realistic timeframe;
  11. Restore the authority of the State.

ADPS has met with embassies (American, French, and Algerian to name a few) and organizations hoping spread their message. To install Diacounda in power would be almost as if the coup was pointless. The coup was an expression of what every Malian has been feeling for the past few years. The feeling of being marginalized by the powers in office. By installing a transitional authority by the constitutional court as the intermediary body, ADPS is suggesting a fresh start while attaining an end goal of restoring the territorial integrity and also organizing elections in which all of Mali can participate. The regions of Gao, Kidal and Tombouctou need to be won back. Mali cannot do this alone. It needs the help of its neighbors to fight the better armed armies of MNLA and AQIM.

The solution has to come from within. In the countries where the international community has come up with the solution, those countries still struggle with the concept of democracy. Democratic rule of law that fits with the culture of its people are very essential to its success. ADPS hopes that while the international community will help with gaining back territories, but ultimately, the political solution to Mali’s crisis needs to be born on Mali soil and in the hearts of Malians.

ADPS hopes to invite all political leaders to a national forum. The Forum hopes to outline what ADPS espouses but more importantly, hopes that all political parties will put aside their partisan differences and will have one goal only and that is the good of Mali and the Malian people. It is also hoped at the Forum that Malians can together agree on how the transition can be managed, the period of transition and the President of the transition government. Also it will be essential to decide how the three lost territories can be won back effectively and without the loss of lives.

This national Forum is a crucial step in the restoration of national unity, territorial integrity and peace throughout Mali.

Once order is restored, then fair elections must be held. Fair elections are the very heart of democracy. Without free and fair elections, the leader that gets selected becomes a farce to be put up with.

My two cents. I hope that Mali, my adoptive country, will come together and build some consensus on how to resolve the power vacuum and how democracy can be successfully restored. We cannot blindly assume that things should return to the way they were two weeks ago. Things happen for a reason. The coup happened for a reason. That means something was not working. Now is Mali’s chance to rectify the thing that wasn’t working. To go back to the same situation would be to repeat the mistake that was made. If we do this, in 20 more years we will find ourselves at the same crossroads and no closer to a solution. Let’s get this right so that Mali as a whole can truly once again become the beacon of democracy it should be.

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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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A Double Whammy: The North Falls and the Refugee Count Rises

As the weekend passed, the new work week invited new changes in Mali. Over the weekend, MNLA and AQIM made advances in the North and as Mali watched, the three biggest regions of Gao, Kidal and Tombouctou fell. This could have been possibly the worst thing that could have happened at this critical time. As soldiers found themselves ill-prepared and distracted, these rebels took over the North and the count of captured territories increased.

These takeovers further cement how inadequate this new regime is to handle the various issues of Mali. The very issue of the North that caused them to revolt is now biting again. In addition, we are starting to hear residents in those areas report that the Islamists are ordering Western pictures to be taken down and Sharia law is already being implemented in Timbuktu. As the reports of change came out of the North, last night the countries around Mali followed through on their promise of sanctions locked down their borders. Under the sanctions, the five neighboring ECOWAS members will close their borders with landlocked Mali except for humanitarian purposes. Its member states are to deny Mali access to their ports, freeze Mali’s accounts in regional banks and suspend Mali’s participation in cultural and sporting events. Also in the works, is the possible deployment of 2000 military soldiers from the neighboring countries. It is still confusing as to whether these soldiers will attempt to take down the military leadership or be deployed to fight rebels in the North.

Sanctions could be disastrous for Mai that relies on imports for most of its goods. The biggest one is fuel as Mali imports all its fuel from neighboring Ivory Coast. No fuel could spell trouble for gas stations and residents. Yesterday night, when the embargo was announced, people rushed to gas stations to fill up afraid that fuel would run out. Also with the banks being cut of the money supply, residents that rely on banks could be very affected. Most Malians however do not bank and so this might not be a thing that affects them. Rising food prices and things like cement and fuel being in short supply are more likely to happen as Malians adjust to the sanctions.

Sanogo, continues to say he will hand back power and in the face of sanctions, he continues to make these promises without attaching a deadline. Yeah continues to work with other political parties to make leaps and bounds that hopefully will see results. The hope is for Sanogo to cede power peacefully. Already Yeah and his team are in talks with the different embassies and also different organizations that can help facilitate this process. Now is the time for peace talks, not sanctions and threats. Now is also the time to start backing our army with better prepared and equipped outside forces so that the rebels do not decide to consider taking their offensive further south.  It certainly will back fire to have a radicalized violent extremist movement well rooted in Northern Mali.  This is bound to threaten regional stability.

If the sanctions continue, it could be disastrous. Already the Northern regions are experiencing deteriorating conditions. In addition to a drought and extremely hot weather, almost 200000 refugees are displaced by the fighting in the region. These individuals need help now. There are children that are dying every day because of inability to get food and water. The heat is unbearable and makes conditions even worse. April is the hottest month for Mali and here temperatures in the North easily reach 120F. Now more than ever, our Malian brothers and sisters need your help. We need funds that can not only handle the immediate concern of improving their living conditions. Once we have answered that need, a need to stabilize them in society becomes essential.

A rising count. 2000 in the last 5 days!!

I have said it before, but I am compelled to say it again. People in the world need to realize that the refugee issue is not just a Mali issue; it is a human rights issue. We have refugees that are living in despicable conditions with little to no resources. Our teams have been attempting to raise refugee aid to help our displaced Malian brothers and sisters while the issue in the North plays out. We are calling on the international community to step up aid to these displaced people so that basic necessities like food, water and shelter are given them so that we don’t have a similar issue like that in Sudan and Somalia. Those interested in doing so through the Samake 2012 campaign may make anonymous donations to a trust that has been set up:

Friends of Mali Trust

472 East 4380

North Provo, Utah 84604

As soon as the current violence ends in the north, a new need will arise: Helping those who have been displaced to return and resettle into productive lives.  In East Africa, many displaced populations have suffered for years – prohibited from finding local employment near their shantytowns, they have become dependent upon western aid organizations. In some cases, these camps have witnessed second and even third generations growing up in these conditions.

Mali must be different. The people of Mali are strong and independent.   Beyond the immediate aid needed to sustain life, we also seek just enough aid to help families return to their formerly productive lives.

If you can help today, help make a difference. Every little bit helps.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Getting Democracy back on Track

UN PEUPLE, UN BUT, UNE FOI ( ONE PEOPLE, ONE GOAL, ONE FAITH) IN OUR COUNTRY MALI

The past week has been an eye opener to not take things for granted. A democracy that had become the beacon and lesson for other countries in Africa was pulled to its feet. As the world watched, a coup led by junior army officers brought down the soldier of democracy himself, Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT).

Much of the Western world has responded in addition to the surrounding African countries requesting a swift return to democracy. The US, EU and ECOWAS have issued sanctions and in some cases threatened them if democracy does not return. So why is democracy so important? Democracy is a relatively fresh concept for many Africans and even at that those countries that have democracies and have elected leaders, eventually find themselves distanced from the very leaders that they put in power. Democracy which entails the formation of policies and determination of state’s role becomes a hard sell in general for so called young African democracies that do not see an exchange of this sort at the local level. In order for democracy to succeed and truly be embraced, leaders need to involve their constituents in running the government. Constituents need to see how laws passed affect them at a local level. For democracy to succeed, local participation should not only be hoped for, it is essential.

Mali had been a democracy for 20 years. The one thing that weakens a democracy like no other is when there is a vast difference between the elite that make the rules and the majority of Malians. Mali has been independent for 52 years, but has seen little improvement in healthcare, education and the poverty standards. Despite an influx of NGOs, unless the Malian government takes a personal stance literacy will stagnate at 46%. 1 doctor will continue to serve 20000 people. The average life expectancy will remain 52 years—almost 30 years shorter than the average Westerner. A huge percentage of the population will continue to live below the international poverty line of 1.25USD a day. The biggest challenge remains the institutions that have been created to resolve these issues. In addition, while great foreign investments have happened in terms of infrastructure, Mali has seen little investment to enhance its primary strength in the agricultural field. 70% of Malians work in agriculture; however, changing climate and the demand on food has made Mali very dependent on importing a majority of its food. More investments need to be made to make Mali self-sustainable and profitable in the agricultural arena.

The new leader will have a plateful of challenges.

  1. Teaching a man to fish: Education needs to be an important part of a new Mali. Today with 46% of the population literate, Mali has very few Bachelor degree holders and even fewer Master degree holders. Very few PhD holders will ever return to Mali because of the lack of opportunity. The new leader will need to increase the number of schools in the rural areas; pay teachers better and make education mandatory. Today, children are favored to work in the fields rather than in the classroom because the first option yields an income for the family. By providing incentives to children and their parents to enroll in school as well as making schools accessible, education can become a reality for many Malian students. Yeah hopes to build 1000s more schools as soon as he comes into office as well as hiring more teachers. He hopes that each region will have its own university and that the strikes that have ravaged the educational systems since 2009 can be resolved with better pay and more investment in the student’s future.
  2. The healthcare situation in Mali is despicable. The average Malian finds healthcare unaffordable and unreachable. With the life expectancy very low and the death from preventable diseases very high, Yeah hopes to build hospitals in every region. Ouelessebougou will have its first hospital in the area that will house a maternity center, pharmacy and eye/dental center. In addition, it will be important to make Mali a safe haven for medical expeditions that come to serve the people of Mali. Through our years we have been blessed to meet many giving hearts and hands and we hope that they will continue to come and bless the people that need it most in Mali.
  3. Jobs: Malian people are not asking for a handout. No one likes to beg and Malians are no exception. However, circumstances currently do not give much choice and it is hard to pass a street without seeing a hoard of hungry children or a mother with a baby on her back and another two in her hands. An important task will be to create jobs for the individuals graduating and also those in the unemployed middle class. Mali’s unemployment is gauged around 30% and is evident in the streets where young men sit hoping that opportunity knocks. Yeah has been able to create jobs with the hospital, school and solar panel field. Also with the cotton plant reopening in Ouelessebougou, 100 more individuals have a paycheck.
  4. A security issue: The north is becoming more and more an Al-Qaeda battle ground. The issue of sovereignty has existed for a few centuries with the Tuareg feeling unappreciated and unaccounted for in a government they elected. The only reason Al Qaeda stands a chance in Mali is that our youth are desperate for opportunities. Normally our people are not prone to radicalization. The Tuaregs in the North believe they have been marginalized—that the government is not serving them.
  5. All these things can only be instituted if you have a government that is not riddled by corruption and institutions that are run effectively and efficiently. Many current government institutions are riddled with inefficiencies and bureaucracy.

Democracy is not lost. This is evident in the opinion polls where 74.5 % prefer democracy to any other regime type. However it has been hit hard in Mali. More than half of Malians feel that government has not served its purpose. Malians for the most part believe government is there to make their lives better. Lives have not gotten better.

Once the immediate security threat of MNLA is crushed, it will be important to start creating stability for our Northern brothers and sisters and also creating opportunities in the North for the refugees displaced by all the fighting. Then it will be important to return to the democratic process and allow Malians to truly choose their candidate unbiased by money and favors.

I truly believe that Malians need a leader with a vision. I truly believe that they need young blood that has been untainted by lives lost and the people’s money stolen. I believe the people of Mali will find a leader who cares in Yeah Samake. Yeah has been distraught over the current crisis that has gripped Mali. Today he told me:” My heart is crying for my country”. I hope that the leaders that are running the country today will work with the international community to end the Northern rampage of MNLA. I hope that international organizations will not forget my people suffering the North. I hope and pray that democracy will be restored temporarily with an interim government and then with free and fair elections. But most of all, I hope Mali will get the leader it so desperately needs that can show his people that there is hope and that Mali can be a great country not made great by foreign aid but by Malians themselves.

Democracy can be and will be restored. Make your voice heard at www.samake2012.com. Support Samake for Democracy!

SAMAKE FOR DEMOCRACY!

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Kidal Falls

A landlocked country, sanctions could mean devastating economic trouble

Today we find ourselves in the first 24 hours of the threatened economic sanctions that will be imposed in 48 more hours by ECOWAS if Mali’s junta does not hand over power to the people. To be vigilant, we decided to stock up on things like water, drink cases, rice, potatoes and sugar. If ECOWAS does impose sanctions it will cause great harm to the Malian individual. It strikes me as ridiculous that the UN would actually make a statement saying that they hoped the individual would not be harmed by these sanctions. Sanctions do not harm governments, they harm individuals. The junta has apologized for the protestors that rushed onto the tarmac, causing a security scare to the oncoming ECOWAS plane. They have asked that ECOWAS leaders not to be hasty in their decision but rather to understand the circumstances of the coup and how the junta leaders are attempting to resolve Mali’s economic concerns and the security issues in the North.  The old constitution of Mali stated that if the President resigned, power would be handed over to the head of the National Assembly. In this case the head of the old Assembly is Diacounda, a presidential candidate and one of the very leaders that the junta has accused of stealing from the country and showing ineffective leadership. In addition, Diacounda is not liked by a majority of Malian people. However ECOWAS is asking that they would accept a resolution with Diacounda being placed as the interim President.

If the junta does allow this to happen, Diacounda would be taken out of the running in any elections held for the Presidency. If ECOWAS continues to push its agenda, it will find itself hated by Malians who will see it as bullying tactics pure and simple. A bigger, more complex issue would be to deal with the dissatisfaction of the people. The Malian people are very supportive of the junta currently. Not because they believe in the coup and the end of democracy, but because of their frustration with the old government. Malians do not believe their government has served them. They see corruption and nepotism rampant and when the coup happened, it seemed the answer they were looking for to end the situation of an inept government. This explains the sentiment that runs high in the protests in the streets.

However, this sentiment may soon find itself conflicted. Today, the Northern town of Kidal, which has about 25,000 Malians, came under attack by MNLA and was taken over by the rebels. Kidal is a major town and in all disputes it has never been taken over so this takeover could be disastrous. The reason behind the coup was the military’s dissatisfaction with ATT sending them into battle unprepared and uncared for. Now with Kidal falling to rebel control, it begs the question, what is the military doing so we don’t lose more territories in the North and cause a bigger humanitarian crisis with the refugees. The refugee crisis is worsening with each passing day and as each town falls, more and more escape into neighboring areas and countries.

Wall Street Journal: The displaced and fleeing numbers

The military this afternoon, called on the international community to provide them with assistance with the rebels in the North. This is a large favor to ask, given that in the world’s eyes, this junta isn’t even considered a legitimate leader.

At this point in time the junta looks like it’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. If it does not give in to ECOWAS it will have sanctions imposed which could cause an economic crisis. If it does not stop more towns like Gao and Tombouctou from falling to the rebels, the Malian people might turn against the soldiers that a week ago were saviors. The next week will spell the junta’s fate and that of 15 million people.

Please continue to keep the people of Mali in your prayers. They are the ones that are suffering with each passing day. May a quick resolution be sought so democracy may be restored in a peaceful manner. May the international community support Malians so that no more lives are lost or families displaced in the North. May peace once again be returned to Mali.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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The crisis deepens

The last 24 hours have seen a string of events.

Yesterday, Yeah was interviewed by PRI The World (http://www.theworld.org/2012/03/mali-junta-constitution/) on his thoughts on how Mali should move forward after the coup. Take a listen:

The junta introduced the new constitution on National TV. They had disbanded a 20-year old constitution when they took power a week ago. The 69-article constitution includes many of the guarantees of the former law, including the guarantees of free speech, liberty of movement and freedom of thought. New measures include the creation of a military-led council headed by Sanogo. It says that the new head of state is simultaneously the head of the army, the head of the government and the head of the judiciary. The middle and final sections set out the role of the military committee now controlling the country, which calls itself the National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State. The new constitution says that the committee will be made up of 26 soldiers or police and 15 civilians. Those asked to serve on the committee will receive immunity and cannot be tried at a later time. This leads to concerns of some of the “old guards” (those that have embezzled money), could be asked to serve on the committee and never be tried for stealing from Mali. (http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-03/D9TPJIJG0.htm) Also there was no talk of when a new election would be held in this constitution.

Also, this morning, there was a press conference to introduce the Alliance des Démocrates Patriotes pour la Sortie de la Crise (ADPS) or Democratic Patriots for the end of the Crisis. Yeah had organized 12 other political parties that hold 5 other presidential candidates into a unified front, which condemned the coup, and called for the restoration of democracy. The plan which was unveiled on National TV today, calls for an interim civilian government whose main duties will be to restore the constitutional democracy of Mali, a resolution of the Northern crisis and the organization of the elections. Also this body will work with international organizations to remove all sanctions against Mali. The body which will be composed of 30 members will have 7 members from the military, 18 members from the political parties and 5 from civil society.  The plan takes into account the legitimate concerns of restoring democracy and addressing the core concerns of the rebellion. The hope is that Sanogo will keep good on his promise to restore democracy.Details of the proposition can be found in French at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/ADPSMali/doc/282460618498541/

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It was interesting to watch the developments of several protests that were organized. There were clashes between protesters that supported the junta and those that are against the junta. Tires were burned and rocks thrown between the two sides. These protests in part show that the democratic will of the people is still alive and well. However there is the hope that these clashes will not get out of hand.

Ecowas Protest ( Reuters)

At one point, these protesters stormed into the airport and ran on the tarmac causing security concerns to the plane of Presidential leaders of ECOWAS, and preventing them from landing. ECOWAS leaders were on their way to meet the leaders of the military coup and discuss ways on which democracy could be restored. For the past week, this same group has condemned the coup and threatened Mali with economic sanctions and locking up the borders it shares thereby preventing the transfer of goods. To be honest, if this group of African leaders had not rushed in this situation hot headed and trying to strong arm a country, I feel they would have received a better reception. Its third grade playground tactics. No one likes the bully and in this case the Malian people were saying they did not appreciate the bullying and to back off. If these leaders had invested some time in studying the situation at hand and reaching out to these leaders to see how a diplomatic solution could be reached, such a situation might not have happened. The result is Mali has now had economic sanctions placed on her and all her neighbor’s borders will been locked down in 72 hours if power is not relinquished. So what does this mean for Mali if these sanctions do go through? In actuality, this could be very bad for the 15 million Malians. Mali imports almost all of its gas from neighboring Ivory Coast. In addition, all of its banks would be on lock down as the central government will not transfer money to any Malian commercial accounts making it impossible to withdraw money. Also Mali that imports much of its food will find food prices shoot up as demand goes up and the supply reduces food stores present within the country. The devastating thing is that this will cause a lot more harm on the individual level before it even makes an impact on the government in place. Sanctions don’t effect governments, they affect individuals. The next 72 hours will help spell Mali’s fate. The refugees that find themselves in already desperate situations down north will only be pushed into a further desperation as remaining food sources become inaccessible.

While the issues in the South play out, in the North, MNLA is making its own advances. Now the town of Kidal finds itself surrounded by MNLA. Kidal is an essential town and if lost would mean a huge defeat for the Malian army where confidence is already low. The situation is dire as MNLA is attacking from the north while fighters from an allied Islamist group, Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), were leading an offensive from the south. Once this town is taken, Gao and Tombouctou seem next on the agenda. Once MNLA has access to the Northern region, it will not be long before the area is turned into pre-9/11 Afghanistan.

Currently, Malian citizens do not feel that their government served them.  They have felt helpless and marginalized by previous administrations and so now they find themselves turning to the junta that have removed the very government that has taken so much from them. The Malian people have been led by bad governance for so long. Suddenly, here is a leader that came in and overthrew a bad ruler. Not to romanticize it, but in the mind of some Malians, the junta are seen as Saviors and these Malians want them to remain in power to resolve the corruption and Northern issues that plague the country. From where I am, I feel like these young military soldiers did not mean the country harm and the coup was far from a planned event. Sanogo has started to grow into his role as the new President, but his inexperience shows. How can you not secure an airport when you know a delegation of Presidents is entering your airspace? How can MNLA continue their advance when the issues of the North were one of the very things that caused the coup? How can Sanogo allow the number of refugees to grow while he traverses the country visiting imams and individuals that strengthen his image as the caring leader?

Support the prompt return to democracy in Mali. Support our leaders as they attempt to work with current leaders to propose a long-term solution to the problem. The solution needs to come from within.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Coup d’état in Mali: What comes next?

SAMAKE FOR DEMOCRACY! MALI IS STRONG. MAY OUR VOICE BE HEARD.

This past week has been a testament of how nothing should be taken for granted and how quickly things can change in a blink of an eye. This past week has seen the fall of a stable democracy, the removal of a President, the institution of a military government, pandemonium, a return to calm and restored stability. For me on a personal level, I have witnessed firsthand changes. For one, the goal that we have worked so hard to achieve for the last year has been pushed. April 29th was supposed to be Election Day in Mali, when the voice of the people would be heard. That has now been pushed and there is no date set when the elections will happen. It was comforting to see the outpouring of love we received from the four corners of the globe and we were touched by the kind words of faith and encouragement. So what does these events that crash landed mean for the fate of Mali and that of the Samake2012 campaign?

Mali is at a critical time in its history. While the coup is said and done, now is not the time to go back. For one, to contemplate the scenario, what would be achieved by restoring the power to Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) that the EU, AU and the US have called for? To give back power to ATT would mean showing support for the irresponsible handling of the Northern war and the way that our troops have been treated. There is no doubt among the Malian people who ATT has handled the security situation in the North poorly. Nothing has been done to stop the atrocities happening in the Northern regions of Tombouctou, Kidal and Gao. In fact these regions have seen an increase in the illegal trafficking – including drugs, weapons, migrants, cigarettes and Western hostages. We could have stopped the remnants of Gaddafi’s army long before lives were lost. However, nothing was done to stop them from crossing our borders and bringing in firepower that has made them extremely hard to defeat. They joined a pre-existing Tuareg protest movement, the National Movement of Azawad (MNA), a group of young activists which denounced the regime’s management of northern Mali allegedly based on its alliances with corrupt local political elites and a racketeering arrangement with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). MNA leaders elaborated the political platform of what would become the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA). To give back power to ATT means to allow this terrible management of a crisis to go on. What do we do about the 175,000+ people who are displaced? What had ATT done to help them or make sure no additional harm came to them? What continues to happen that will help them? “Up to now aid agencies have not had great access to these areas… It’s hard to sell this crisis, it’s quite forgotten,” says Helen Caux, West Africa communications head at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Really? How can we allow an inhumane crisis like this to continue?

We now need to move forward. Do the leaders of the National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State have a solution? Patriotism and dissolution of a non functioning government only takes you so far. Do they have a way to resolve the issues in the North? How do they propose to restore the government and end corruption? These are questions for the political leaders as military leaders do not have the political know how or training to answer them.  We need to form a unified front of leaders that can appeal to the military leaders and provide them with a proposal on how a government can be instituted temporarily until free and fair elections can be held. In addition, now is not the time for sanctions or aid to be withdrawn. A country whose GDP is so heavily dependent on foreign aid cannot withstand such a hit. And who does it hit most? Not Sanogo sitting comfortably at the top. No, it is the men and women that live below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. Let’s not make their life even more miserable than it already is. At this point in time, they are not worried about what policy the government passes next, all they see is the immediate harm in terms of feeding themselves and their families.

Mali at this time needs friends and not foes. They need the international community to work with the military leaders currently in power and encourage them to work with political leaders in Mali on how a peaceful transfer of power can be made. There is not a day that goes by where Sanogo does not reaffirm that power will be handed back. It can be seen one of two ways. Either, he is trying to convince the outside world or he is trying to convince himself. Either way, great strides have been made by the military rule to ensure the safety of our Malian brothers and sisters. The Malian way of life has for the most part been restored with the borders reopening and airports functional. In addition government buildings and banks are open. There are security measures in place at the banks which are controlled by the Central Bank of Africa so that huge withdrawals are not made. All in all, calm is restored in the capital. Now, it will be important for political leaders to work together with the military leaders and provide solutions to get out of the current situation with the least casualties.

Now more than ever, the campaign must go on. I could take my family and return to the safety and security of America. However, my heart is compelling me at this moment that my and Yeah’s efforts are needed here in Mali. I have the firm belief that things happen for a reason and they are a test to man as to how we can make the best of what life throws at us. It is at times like these true leaders will emerge that have only one duty and that is to serve our people. We must now focus on the situation at hand and decide what is best for Mali.

Please continue to support our campaign. I know you probably are saying, well why would we support something when we don’t even know when the elections will be. In a way I can understand that. However, this has never been about the goal of winning the elections. This campaign has been about an awakening of the hearts and minds of Mali to a new way of government which actually cares and furthers the wellbeing of their people. I implore you to think of it as not just an election that has been delayed; now we are in the fight to restore democracy. We are in this to bring relief to the 175K+ refugees stuck without recourse.

You know how we all say, well that is history. Well here is your chance to help make history and restore to Mali the stability and the voice of the people who are struggling to be heard.

Make your voice heard today at http://www.samake2012.com

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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