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To Lead is to Serve

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On May 22nd, 2013, the Parti Pour L’Action Civique et Patriotique ( PACP) held its 1st congress. For this special occasion, more than 240 PACP delegates from the different regions of Mali came to Bamako to represent their individual sections.  The event was held at the CICB in Bamako, a meeting place for many big conventions and events.

This was a great opportunity for the various delegates who are themselves leaders in their own regions to reaffirm their support of their candidate and the party. This event was an essential one. It gave the party the chance to show and explain all the activities that PACP has been involved in since it became a party in 2011 as well as to confirm the goal of the party in achieving stability and growth in Mali.

As we walked through the doors of the CICB, we were surrounded by the youth. Their chant became the theme of the convention: UNIS NOUS GAGNONS TOUS, DIVISES NOUS PERDONS TOUS ( United we all win, Divided we all Lose). The youth support has been growing for the last 2 years and it reached a climax at the event. To see the youth volunteer their time to come support their candidate was heartwarming and encouraging. The youth make up the majority of the voting population and it is essential that we train tomorrow leaders today. We need to include these bright minds in tomorrow’s future plans for Mali. And they sure did make their voice heard as they chanted their support for Yeah Samake.

The conference started with a speech by Yeah. In it he talked about the changing dynamics in Mali. His focus was on PACP as the party of change, growth and development of Mali. Yeah spoke with great passion about all things that the party has accomplished since it was created. He highlighted the actions of the party leaders on the day the country fell to a coup. While all parties were running away from the coup leaders, Yeah was right there condemning the coup and urging Sanogo to return power back to the people. Yeah spoke about the trips he has made to many countries and the meetings with many individuals to help explain the Malian perspective on the crisis in Mali. So many times, countries get caught up the issues in Mali that they forget to include the Malian in the solution. Yeah has consistently tried and succeeded at getting the Malian perspective represented and expressed. The partnerships he has created over the last two years with different governments was evident by the presence of representatives from different embassies, including Burkina Faso, Senegal, Algeria and the US Embassy. Usually, embassies try not to get involved in the political parties, so it was heartening to see the support and respect signified by their presence.

After Yeah’s speech, the secretary general Aboubacar Sidiki Fomba spoke. He stated the facts of what PACP has done in the humanitarian and social arena. Namely the 15 schools that have been built in rural Mali under Yeah’s leadership, the multiple medical missions that continue to come each year, the scholarships Yeah has been able to get for Malian students going to America,  donation of medical supplies and equipment to hospitals and clinics through Bamako, donation of computers to the Ministry and various schools in the country, a donation of food worth about $50,000 to Malian refugees in Burkina and Mopti and a visit to the Army in Tombouctou a month ago to name a few . More recently PACP has been holding multiple health clinics in rural villages where they have been able to utilize the expertise of doctors within the party. Most Saturdays, these doctors will travel to distant villages to give free healthcare and also train fellow doctors.

This is what this party is all about. Yeah’s success today is linked to his ability to serve his countrymen and women. That is one thing I respect the most about Yeah. He is the kind of man who will go out of his way to help if he can. So for him to create a party that replicates and signifies that sense of service is essential and crucial in the process of developing Mali. The party, despite being in its infancy, is at a crucial time. In Mali today, it is very rare and almost impossible to find politicians that serve their people. Most are in it for personal agendas and gain rather than to improve the lives of the Malian people. From day one, Yeah has wanted to make Mali a model of change and success. From day one, the people’s needs have been the priority.

The congress continued with various members from key areas like Tombouctou making statements about the party’s activities in their separate areas. The guiding principles, statutes and rules were read and acknowledged by all leaders present.

The event ended with all delegations reaffirming Yeah Samaké as their candidate in the 2013 Presidential elections. Yeah was touched by their commitment and stated: “I pledge to you that I will spare no effort to carry the torch of the party, for the term that you just trust me.”

This congress was an essential one. It was a reaffirmation not only of the candidate but also of the delegates who vowed to continue to support Yeah and work on his behalf. Many of these delegates traveled from far away, some as far as a 15 hour drive. This speaks volumes about the commitment of the people that join PACP. When I talk with people, they always tell me that they could go join other better know parties. However the reason they have joined Yeah and PACP is because it has demonstrated that it is a party of action, not just talk. This is something so rare among today politicians in Mali. Let’s look at it. Mali has been independent for 52 years. Where is she today? She is the second poorest nation in the world and in the top 5 worse educated countries in the world. Look at the healthcare system. There is 1 doctor to 20000 people in the rural areas that form 80% of Mali’s population. The education system has been riddled with strikes both on the teachers side and the students as well. Even the electricity has been as undependable as Mali’s current and past government leaders.

The time has come for Mali to celebrate the dawning of a new day. A day filled with hope for all Malians. This was an amazing conference. I feel blessed to have participated in it. I feel blessed to be part of this journey. But most of all, we feel blessed by your support that makes this journey possible.

Come join the Mali Moment. Visit us at http://www.samake2013.com (EN) or http://www.pacp-mali.com (FR). The ability to change a country’s destiny lies in our hands.

 

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Helping affect Mali’s future

Since his appointment as Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Mali, Cheick Modibo Diarra, Yeah has indeed been one busy man. Yeah’s main goal as he has met with representatives from Bahrain, the US and Mali has been one and that is to create a common understanding of Mali’s current situation and how the present government is planning on creating political stability.

Yeah met with the Ambassador of Mali to the United States in DC, Al Maamoun Baba Lamine Keita, sharing his insight into the Malian situation and the reasoning for the removal of the previous President ATT. They also discussed the need for increased collaboration and understanding between the U.S. and the new government in Mali in the hope of removing sanctions against Mali, so that aid could once again start flowing to the people that desperately need it.

Yeah also met with two members of the U.S. Senate. First, he met with Senator Michael Lee, a member of the subcommittee on African Affairs. Then, by recommendation of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali, Yeah also met with Gregory Simpkins, a staff member for the U.S. Congress and a prominent journalist in African Affairs.

In August, Yeah visited Bahrain which is home to the US 5th Naval base, where he was received by members of the royal family. His visit allowed him to inform Bahrain of Mali’s situation and the need of investment leading to the creation of a bilateral agreement between Mali and Bahrain. Upon return to Mali, Yeah extended an invitation to former U.S. Ambassador John Price, who has been very engaged in African politics.  Ambassador Price visited Mali from September 6th-12th.

Ambassador Price with Yeah

Ambassador Price’s visit was indeed an important one as it is important for people in the West to actually experience the situation in Mali rather than just read about it. Ambassador Price and Yeah got to meet with many key government officials in the defense, foreign and judicial sectors. Yeah was also able to secure a meeting with the man responsible for the mutiny back in March 2012, Captain Sanogo. You can read more about Ambassador Price’s opinion on this and other meetings on his blog: http://www.ambassadorjohnprice.com/captain-amadou-sanogo-a-hero-or-mutineer/2362/

Yeah and Ambassador Price also had the opportunity to visit the Malian refugee camp in Mentao, Burkina Faso. The visit will allow for a better foreign understanding of Mali’s actual situation and not as perceived by the media.

In Mentao, Burkina where we hope to distribute some aid soon

This past week has seen Mali put in a formal request for foreign troops from ECOWAS to come assist in the North. There seems to be a split opinion among Malians about whether ECOWAS troops are welcome on Malian soil. There has been a report stating that Sanogo and people close to him are against the decision by the President to invite foreign troops. The truth however is far from it, as Sanogo himself, appeared on national TV in an attempt to dispel these rumors. I guess time will show how the situation plays out. For now, there is no way for the Malian refugees to come back unless the North has been ridden of rebels. Each day there are fresh reports coming out that show atrocities in the North. Everyone is too afraid to go to that region and would rather desert everything for safety.

These past two and a half months have been busy as Yeah continues to reinforce the diplomacy and presence of Mali throughout the U.S. and other countries. The work is not over. It has barely begun and will continue until Mali once again is a democratic country.

We need your help. We cannot continue doing the things essential to restoring democracy without expending financial resources. If you can help support our work, then please help at http://www.samake2012.com. Mali deserves its chance at democracy and freedom.  

( Thank you to Liz Jessop for helping me write this post :))

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Interim President of Mali returns to Mali with new plan

As the world was finally starting to sit up and pay attention to Mali’s strife in the North, its interim President, Dioncounda Traore, who had been wounded by pro-coup attackers on May 21st returned to the South after a two month stay in Paris during which he received treatment for head injuries. During his absence the Prime Minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, has attempted to resolve the crisis in the North.

The Northern situation has become worse with Islamic rebels asserting outright Sharia law and almost imprisoning Malians in the North into their way of life. Their crackdown has caused even more Malians to flee the North increasing the refugee count. Just earlier this weekend, a man and woman accused of committing adultery were stoned to death in the northern town of Aguelhok. I wonder, what is the price to pay for murder?

Yeah has been working tirelessly to raise the world’s attention on Mali’s strife and the humanitarian crisis. He has been meeting with leaders at the UN and also those in US that are over Africa’s foreign policy. To shed fresh media coverage on Mali, Yeah assisted CNN’s Erin Burnett and her team with visas, contacts, and travel plans so that they could bring a larger attention on the refugee situation and the human tragedy happening in Mali. You can view Erin’s coverage at: http://outfront.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/24/why-mali-matters-al-qaeda-on-the-rise/. Yeah has remained a supporter of PM Diarra’s government and is adamant that now is not the time to put in a new government and delay any solution for Mali’s unity. As President of PACP, he has cautioned fellow politicians that no further delays should happen to hamper Mali’s return to democracy. It is time for the politicians in Mali to get over self interests and support the government.

The world is finally starting to sit up and notice the struggles in Mali. Most recently the US had staunchly opposed interfering. However on July 26th, Michael Sheehan, the Defense Department’s assistant secretary for special operations, said that they cannot allow Al-Qaeda to exist unchecked.  Even France that had maintained its distance has showed concern over the unchecked Al-Qaeda movements in Northern Mali. It’s amazing it had to come to this for the world to notice Mali. And even then, it’s not even about the lives being destroyed. I understand that each government concerns itself with what will be beneficial to its national interests. However, we might not even be in this position however if the first foreign interference mistakes were not made with Libya.  There is talk about a 3000-strong army made up of mainly Malians and military forces from Niger, with logistical support from the US and France. But if we continue talk, the North as we knew it may not exist. Already monuments have been destroyed, people have fled. What next before something actually gets done?

The attack on Dioncounda worked more in his favor than anything. He was not looked upon favorably as he was believed to be part of the old guard that had allowed ATT to rule unchecked. However the attack on him became to Malians an attack on Malian culture and traditions.  Attacking a 70-year old man, no matter what he has done, is simply not acceptable culturally. In an address to the nation, Dioncounda spoke vehemently of his forgiveness to his attackers. He focused his speech on how Mali must move forward to regain its territory and people.  He urged the Malian people to focus on how Mali can regain its territorial integrity. Dioncounda, spoke with urgency, that partners like the US and France cannot become enemies. This is interesting as many Malians regard former colonizer France with a degree of suspicion and even believe that they may have been responsible for supporting the rebel Tuaregs in the first place. Dioncounda called on all Malians to pay back their debt to Mali and become part of the solution.  And that Mali must move on stronger and unified. He then moved on to propose a transition plan.

The proposed plan outlines the following amendments to the agreement made between the coup leaders and ECOWAS.  In his speech Dioncounda outlined them as follows:

“In order to complete the institutional architecture to better suit the socio-political realities, the tasks of the transition, in the spirit of Article 6 of the Accord-cadre agreement, I propose:

1. High State Council (HCE) composed of the President of the Republic and two Vice-Presidents assist the President in carrying out the tasks of the transition.

— One of the Vice-Presidents represent the forces of defense and security and as such he will chair the Military Committee followed the Reform of the Defense Forces and the Security and take care of all military matters relating to Northern Mali;
–The other Vice-President shall represent the other components of the kinetic energies of the nation.

2. Government of National Unity: where are represented all parts of the Forces Vives.

Consultations leading to its formation will be led by the President of the Republic.

3. National Transition Council (CNT) with an advisory and comprising representatives of political parties present or not in the National Assembly and representatives of civil society.

It will be led by Vice-President representing the military services.

4. National Commission for Negotiations (CNN): meets the wishes of Heads of State of ECOWAS formulated in paragraph 18 of the final communication of the second meeting of the contact group on Mali.

This commission will engage with the armed movements in northern Mali peace talks in connection with the ECOWAS mediator to search through dialogue, negotiated political solutions to the crisis.

5. Motion in the direction of ECOWAS (the African Union and United Nations) based on the findings of the mission which visited recently in Bamako.

The Vice Presidents shall be appointed and the National Council of Transition (CNT) will be established as soon as possible and in any case within two weeks following the implementation of the Government of National Unity.

Furthermore it is understood that neither the President nor the Prime Minister nor the Ministers will participate in the next presidential election.” Will these restrictions also apply to the Vice Presidents, given they will play an important role in the transitional process?

The interesting thing about his address to the nation is the current Prime Minister was not mentioned in it. Why is this interesting? During the entire time from when Dioncounda was attacked to the time he was flown to Paris for treatment, PM Diarra has stood by Dioncounda, calling on people to let the political process play out. In fact, it could probably be attributed to him that Mali did not erupt into a civil war when the attack on Dioncounda happened. So it is interesting that he is not mentioned or acknowledged for the work that he has been doing. There is dissent among some of older political class in Mali that Diarra has been slow in getting the country back on track. Much of the dissent is coming from Dioncounda’s own party, ADEMA, which feels that they should be involved as much as possible in the running of the country. Many believe Diarra to be the coup’s puppet given that he has been appointed by the coup and also 3 major positions are held by the coup leaders.

However, now is not the time to play political games. Every day that these dissenters choose to make it harder for Diarra to operate, what they are doing is not just harming him, but more importantly, they are delaying a resolution to bring Malians much needed relief.  At this time national unity needs to become evident rather than just a song being sung. Even with Dioncounda, it is hard to say what will happen next. Given this address, it is hard to see where the PM will fit in and how all the political forces will indeed coordinate to create a stable, unified front. Without a strong base in the South, it will be hard for the army to follow a steadfast course. What Mali needs now more than ever is a government that sticks together and shows that Mali’s needs surpasses their own partisan interests. Additionally, Mali’s neighbors have given Mali a deadline of July 31st to create a unity government or risk facing sanctions again.  This seems unlikely at this point, but Dioncounda’s plan is a step in the right direction to make that happen. If what Dioncounda says is true, now that he is back, he could be the binding force that is needed as he shows that he is willing to coordinate with the coup leaders choices of leadership.  ECOWAS has been prompt at adding ten more days to the deadline to allow Dioncounda Traoré enough room for negotiations.

Elections have been set for May. Items to be resolved remain: checking out the rebels, restoring order in the North, bring home the refugees and holding elections. At the end of the day, a speech is all well and good, but actions speak louder than words and the question remains, can Dioncounda and Diarra pull it off for the greater good of Mali.  It remains clear, given Dioncounda’s return, that Malians will expect remarkable progress in the near future from these leaders.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Join Yeah Samake at an event in UTAH!

Billy Hesterman, from the Daily Herald in Utah, did a story on the situation in Mali and what Yeah Samake is doing to make a difference. Click on the Link below or read the story posted in the Daily Herald in Utah.

BYU grad’s bid to be president of Mali on hold

The situation in Mali is bleak.

Just this year Mali’s military staged a coup on the national government because they claimed they were not receiving enough support to fight the al-Qaeda supported rebellion in the northern part of the west African country. More than 300,000 Malians have fled from their homes to avoid being ruled by the rebels and the country is losing foreign aid as it goes deeper into conflict.

The country was supposed to hold elections this year in which Brigham Young University graduate Yeah Samake was hoping to take over as the country’s president. But with a major conflict taking place and the government being overthrown by the military, that election has been put off until May 2013 so that the country can get its affairs in order.

Currently an interim government has been established and work is being done to strengthen the army that overthrew the government. But the slow-moving process is leaving people without food and sufficient hygiene supplies while they wait for the military to reclaim areas in the northern part of the country.

Samake though isn’t just waiting for the military to act or for his election to come around, he is trying to do something to bring help to his country. He is in the United States right now giving leaders an insider’s view of the situation. He has met with U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to brief him on the status of the country and also met with state department representatives and United Nations officials to inform them about his country’s struggles.

“There is significant human suffering going on right now in Mali. People are hungry. They can’t provide meat for their families. They sit and watch their kids and worry about providing daily meat to them. As a father and as a mother that hurts,” he said.

In addition to his briefings to leaders about the status of his country, he also has traveled to Utah to raise money to support the refugees that are suffering in Mali. On Monday he will be in Lehi to host an event that is aimed at raising money and awareness about his people’s situation.

“One of the reasons I am here is to help women and children in those situations,” Samake said. “I’ve been in the refugee camps. I’ve met with the people. I’ve talked with the Red Cross and UNHR and have tried to find the needs of the people. Truly food shortage is significant. But tents are lacking, as well as hygiene kits. And the children that are out of school, they also need a playground and toys to play with.”

So far local businesses have stepped forward to support Samake in his efforts. Nu Skin and Overstock.com have offered their support to him and Lehi resident Erin Merkley is organizing the Monday night event that is open to the public to help support those suffering in Mali. Those wishing to attend the event should contact Merkley at erinking875@yahoo.com.

“Utah can make unique contribution to this because of the connections and ties that so many Utahns have with Mali,” Samake said.

Samake remains hopeful for his country’s future. He also remains optimistic about his chance of becoming the country’s next president. He hopes his current efforts will show the Malians that he genuinely cares for his country and that he has the ability to get things done to get his country on the right track.

“People are looking at me. And this struggle is an opportunity for me to rise up as a leader for my people to see what I can do for the country,” he said.

Just more than 14 million people live in Mali. The annual salary of a skilled worker there is about $1,500. The nation is equal in land size to Texas and California combined.

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WANT TO MAKE DIFFERENCE? NOT DOING ANYTHING MONDAY, JULY 16TH? THEN COME JOIN YEAH IN UTAH AS HE SPEAKS ON HIS FIRST EXPERIENCE MEETING THE DISPLACED MALIAN REFUGEES THAT HAVE NOW FLED TO BURKINA FASO.

CAN’T COME? PLEASE TELL 10 FRIENDS IN UTAH ABOUT THIS EVENT. ALSO, IF YOU CAN, PLEASE DONATE ONLINE AT WWW.SAMAKE2012.COM TO SUPPORT THE REFUGEES.

 

Together I believe we can make a difference in the lives of the refugees that have been displaced. I pray that soon our Malian brothers and sisters will come home. I cannot imagine the conditions they are being subjected to. The shelter they have is no match for the hot, humid weather mixed with rain showers. The food cannot meet the constant pains of hunger. Imagine sitting 15-20 hours without doing anything, day in and day out. The supplies are running out soon and we need to help continue the aid till we can bring them home. This is not a life and I would never wish it even on my worse enemy.

Please help if you can today. Donate at http://www.samake2012.com

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Analyzing Mali’s Refugee Crisis

The one thing that is on my mind these days is the current growing Malian refugee situation. It is hard to watch your fellow man suffer. However, it is harder still when you know they had little to begin with and now everything, including their dignity, is being stripped from them. These people did nothing to deserve the conditions they have been subjected to.

On June 10th, Yeah was a man on a mission. His mission was to truly investigate the conditions of the camp and the state of the refugees living in them, so that he could get the international community and the Malian government more involved.

The camp at Soum

Yeah went to visit the Malian refugees in Burkina Faso. UNHCR (High Commission for Refugees UN), reports 180,060 refugees displaced all over Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. 65009 refugees are in Burkina Faso as of June 9th 2012. Of these numbers, almost 60% are children. About 38% are aged 18-59 and about 3% are 60 and older. The situation in these camps is getting more and more desperate. The flow of aid is unable to match the need. Yeah went with Malian journalist Yaya Samaké (not a relative) to document the situation and hear firsthand what the refugees and officials concerned with the crisis were saying.

Yeah met with the officials at the Mali Embassy in Burkina Faso. Mali Ambassador to Burkina, Seydou Traoré, admitted that they had not been to visit the Malian refugees situated in Burkina Faso. They told Yeah that the Malian government had not given any aid to be delivered to the refugees. This seems amazing to me that one’s own government does not care two cents as to the plight of their own people. Yeah was the first Malian from Mali to have visited the refugees in Burkina. What is the use of an embassy in Burkina Faso if it does not even serve its people?

Yeah also had the opportunity to meet with the country’s head of UNHCR, Fata Courouma, to better understand the needs of the camp. Yeah visited the Mentao, Damba and Djibo camps which is in the Soum province, 250 km from Burkina’s capital of Ouagadougou.  This area (as of May 18th 2012) according the UNHCR houses 14,506 individuals and 2,472 households.

With the UNHCR/CR-BKF representatives

The refugees in these areas hail mainly from the Tombouctou area.  Also among the refugees there are people who have served in the armed forces of Mali. Conditions are getting worse because of the rainy season coming in. The tents available are inadequate to deal with the rainy season. The number one need right now is protection from the elements. Even though food is being served, the rations do not meet the nutritional requirement and are lower than what a person would eat on a daily basis. Children that are displaced are not receiving an education. There are limited health services provided by the UNHCR and the CR-BKF. There are no words to describe the situation in these camps. It is unbelievable that it has come to this and that nothing is being done to help these individuals.

These individuals were so happy that a fellow Malian had finally come to hear what was happening to them in these camps. They expressed their gratitude to the Burkina officials and were frustrated with the Malian government because no one had come to help them. To them, it seemed like they had been forgotten by their own government. Yeah said to them, “I am not come to you on behalf of the Malian government. I came to see you as a brother wounded at the situation as you live. Your suffering is our suffering. Your expectations are not met, not because the government does not have the will, but because the country is almost stopped. Let us all pray for the speedy return of peace, so you can find your homeland. We will always be by your side”.  Yeah promised the camp leaders that he would do more to help them and raise awareness to the growing humanitarian situation.

Aghali Ag Hamidou, the teacher that returned to help

Yeah met one camp representative by the name of Aghali Ag Hamidou , who is from the Tombouctou region and was teaching in Bamako when the fighting broke. He left his job in Bamako and returned to Burkina Faso to help his tribe in the refugee camp. Another camp leader Almahil Ag Almouwak of the South camp said “I prefer the Malian tree to another tree”. Despite the harsh conditions the refugees are under, he was quick to say that Mali will always be their home. They want to return home. He cautioned that not all Tuaregs are rebels and vice versa and cautioned the government to stop treating them as such.

Our Malian brothers and sisters still hold on to the hope that Mali will be reunited and that they will then be able to return home and live in peace.  Speaking through Yeah, they call on the Malian authorities to step up to the plate and help them.

I am glad that Yeah took the opportunity to go see what the refugees have to deal with on a daily basis. The conditions are desperate and are worsening. Now I ask you, imagine not having enough to eat. Imagine being unable to sleep because your tent let water through or because you were simply too hungry. Imagine not knowing what to do with yourself all day, because there simply is nothing to do. Imagine being unable to take care of your family.  Imagine a life where death seems preferable to suffering. Conditions are terrible for the Malian refugees and they are about to get worse as we approach the rainy seasons from July to September.

Donate today to organizations like UNHCR that are on the ground and trying to make a dent in the growing numbers with Operation Mali. Or donate to Samake2012 and specify refugee in the comments field and the funds will go towards the collection Yeah is making for the refugees.

Every little bit helps. Will you help today?

Read Yaya Samake’s article here: FRENCH   TRANSLATED IN ENGLISH

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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Calm returns to the South while the North Struggles

This past week has passed in relative calm. The capital has almost gotten back to normal and one would find it hard to believe that a coup ever happened. The junta seems to have backed down completely and it’s probably the sweet deal that Sanogo got for himself that is keeping him quiet. However, I am quite surprised other members of the 500-strong junta have remained quiet, which lends to believe that either Sanogo was really the undisputable leader or the rest of the junta is getting something as well that has been undisclosed. Dioncounda remains in Paris and is supposed to return sometime this week. Life continues in much the same way as it did before. Prime Minister Diarra is attempting to fill his role as leader of the country. He has a great responsibility and many are relying on him to push Mali back on track. Yeah had met with him last week to discuss ideas and solutions on how to get Mali’s issues of leadership addressed as well as the issue in the North. Yeah’s take is that without strong leadership and a plan in the South of the country where the government is based, the North’s issues cannot be resolved.

Last week Yeah also gave an exclusive interview to the well known newspaper L’Independent in Mali where he talked of the struggles in Mali. He advised that Mali should not accept ECOWAS troops on Mali’s soil killing Mali’s people in the North. The solution has to be bred on Mali’s soil. Also Yeah encouraged ECOWAS to work with the political class in Mali. With the issue in the North, Yeah said that it is important to involve well off neighbors like Algeria and Mauritania because ECOWAS does not have the logistics and money to support troops despite them wanting to send troops to Mali. Also the stakes are higher for these countries because if rebels/terrorists overflow across their borders, it could cause instability for them. You can read the entire interview here in English: http://samake2012.com/updates/2012/05/interview-with-malian-newspaper-lindependent/#more-1296 or here in French: http://www.maliweb.net/news/interview/2012/05/28/article,69486.html

For the most part, people are just watching and waiting to see what the non-partisan Diarra will do. As I have said before, as long as their leaders don’t make things worse, Malians will put up with it. Diarra seems to be a calming force amidst the chaos. Malians seem to actually heed his words. For the first time yesterday on National TV, he spoke to Segou soldiers on the issue in the North of the country. “I have always said that I do not support war, because it’s war that makes a child an orphan and it’s war that makes a woman a widow. But if we love our country, we must liberate it even if it’s through war, a war that will end the daily wars. A war that will open the door for peace and security because without peace we cannot have security and without security, there will be no prosperity for this nation,” the PM said. He spoke with the most passion and conviction than I have ever seen him have. He talked of how Mali would not concede any part of its land to the rebels. Talk is all well and good. The thing that is most concerning is that Mali currently does not have an equipped army. The 7000-strong army that is reported by statistics websites like CIA may be correct as far as man count. However, the fact remains that the army lacked the arms before the coup and they continue to lack the arms. To send them into the North without the equipment would be like signing their death sentence. Apparently, Western countries, especially America had given ATT a lot of arms and vehicles to fight off the rebels before the coup. Rumor has it that ATT sold or gifted much of this to the rebels themselves when they initially came over to Mali after Libya’s Gaddhafi fell. There are no reports one way or the other to corroborate the story. Fact remains; the army is defenseless and has the manpower but not the equipment to fight.

What Mali needs immediately is strong leadership in the south that has a plan on how to re-unite the country and ultimately gain back the territories in the North. The Tuaregs are a minority and not even they are in control right now. Control seems to be shared between Ansar Dine, MUJAO, AQIM and MNLA, all terrorist factions. So while the South seems to be gaining some control, the North is struggling with a terrorist problem and a refugee issue.

UNICEF despite increasing the aid it is providing has been warning about the sanitary conditions at the camps as well as the demand outweighing the supply. Ultimately, it will be the women and children that will bear the brunt of this refugee crisis. This refugee crisis started with the drought but has been intensified by the crisis in Mali. The problem has been overlooked long enough as the world’s attentions focused in South Bamako. In addition governments of Mauritania, Algeria, Senegal and Burkina Faso also have to deal with the refugees that fled across the border. One country’s crisis is becoming West Africa’s dilemma. This is just one big mess and it needs the international community to bring light to the growing humanitarian crisis. On the other hand there are terrorist groups operating freely in the North. They are restricting aid and making life very hard for residents by imposing Sharia law. There have also been reports that they are damaging World Heritage sites in Tombouctou that have been around for centuries. Imagine the destruction of the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal. As an Indian, I would be angered if anything happened to a symbol of my culture. Even the youth of the North have mobilized themselves, fed up with the lack of leadership from Bamako.

Finally, given ECOWAS’ failed track record to help bring civilian rule to Mali, ECOWAS has designated a new representative from the country of Benin. Let’s hope the new leadership will not bully Mali and cause more issues.

Strong leadership first will allow Mali to resolve this crisis and attempt to resolve the growing issue in the North. The question remains, will Prime Minister Diarra be that stabilizing force that Mali desperately needs and will ECOWAS finally include all political forces in Mali rather than enforcing their will.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Mali’s Muddle

This past week has been a huge political muddle. May 22nd was to spell the last day of office for interim President Dioncounda Traoré. A deal brokered by the African nation’s body ECOWAS sought to extend his term for 12 months. Now Dioncounda would have limited powers and the main running of the country would fall in the hands of the Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra.

On Monday, protesters unhappy with the forced decision to keep Dioncounda marched on Mali’s palace. There in the heat of the moment, the 70-year old Dioncounda was injured and admitted to the Mali hospital with head injuries. Now people are saying the junta that was supposed to be protecting the President let these protestors in. On the other side, we have also heard that there was a scheduled meeting between Dioncounda and 10 individuals that represented opposing factions. When these 10 individuals came to meet the President and were waved in by the guards, the protesters pushed past as well. Either story while the second may remove the junta’s involvement are hard to corroborate and point to the finer meaning that not even the highest office in the country is safe from protest.

As Bamako watched the news of this attack spread, we were in disbelief. While I am a big believer in democratic process and making your opinion heard, I am also of the belief that human beings need to act like human beings and not animals. In addition, in a society that reveres its elderly, for a 70-year old individual to be assaulted by youth is something that Malians do not take kindly to. That next morning, in secrecy Dioncounda was flown to Paris to be admitted for further testing. That evening, there was another protest held which claimed that Sanogo would be the new President. This protest was only attended by a few 1000 compared to the tens of thousands the previous day. This could mean one of two things. One, many people were shocked that the events of the previous day got so out of hand and also many people felt that Sanogo betrayed them when he took a deal with ECOWAS that bestowed him with an ex-President’s privileges. Sanogo, for his part, other than condemning the violence of the protests, has remained quiet. He as brokered a pretty sweet deal for himself. He would get paid $10000/month (5 million cfa), a house, two cars and a security detail. So the gift he is getting for bringing so much insecurity is very big. In a country so poor, one can only imagine how anyone can get so much money when the average Malian makes less than a $1 a day. The question that also is high on every ones minds is that Sanogo has benefitted but what about the 500+ odd men under the junta. If they feel that Sanogo has betrayed them, then things could get ugly.

This past week Yeah met with the Prime Minister to discuss the ongoing situation. The Prime Minister has condemned the actions of the mob and called on people to be calm using the Bambara word “Sabali” which means “patience” several times in an address to the nation. Yeah also had an opportunity to talk with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux on the issues in Mali. Take a listen at CNN below. You can also find this on http://samake2012.com/updates/

http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/24/amid-chaos-malians-hope-to-get-their-nation-back-on-track/

The North continues to remain in the hands of rebels and the ties that these groups are building are very dangerous to Mali’s stability. Mali’s AZAWAD last week even installed their own President over the North. There has been talk of Mali letting these three regions go. If that happened, I think the outcry in Mali would be huge. These territories not only house the Tuaregs that want their independence but also many other ethnic groups, of which the Tuaregs are a minority. By allowing an independent state to emerge, Mali would be allowing a territory in which groups similar to the Taliban will emerge. In essence Al-Qaeda would be able to get a new playground to harvest various training camps and illegal activities. The entire world will pay the price if the North becomes another Al-Qaeda festering pot. In all this, Malians will pay the heaviest price. With Sharia law already established in Tombouctou, Malians are already being suppressed. Malians in the South need to focus their attentions on the Northern regions. Aid is not the only thing the North needs. It needs freedom from groups attempting to take away civil liberties. If the world wants to get involved it needs to be putting pressure on these groups to pull out. Yeah spoke with CNN’s Erin Burnett about the Northern issue in Mali.

In this entire ruckus, the one thing that remains as forgotten today as it was two months ago is the growing refugee situation. The situation is worse today as the numbers continue to climb. People are living in despicable conditions and while the aid is coming in more now than before, it cannot meet the growing demand. It amazes me that when the earthquake happened in Haiti, the American celebrities put on a great fundraiser and raised a lot of money to benefit Haiti. Probably because Haiti was closer to home. However, the refugee situation has not gained the support of celebrities despite Angelina Jolie being called as a special envoy for the UN High Commission for Refugees. The need is great, the supply is small. Next week, Yeah plans to go to Mopti where some of the refugees are and then later to Burkina Faso. The hope is to assess the growing need and then provide the refugees with some much needed food.

The one thing that never fails to amaze me is the tenacious strength of the Malian people. Through all this, they continue to build their lives, taking in stride the changing forces. As noted before, their faith in their politicians is very low and their belief is as long as the politicians don’t make their lives worse, life will go on. Here it is hard for people to look to the future when their present is so filled with turmoil and hardship. But the Malian people will prevail like they have before. They deserve a much needed break. They definitely deserve better leaders who will give their needs a priority. Mali’s mess cannot be solved by self-serving politicians. It needs honest leadership!

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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