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An example in Citizenship

When Yeah first took office as Mayor in 2009, the city of Ouelessebougou,made of its more than 44000 members, were frustrated with their local government. In fact they were so frustrated that they had stopped paying taxes. In many cases, the money that had been paid in taxes was abused by the then Mayor to build houses and buy cars. The result was a growing discontent with the Mayor’s office and a failing city that was as non-progressive as the whole country. Furthermore, since there was no tax money, that meant teachers at schools and the staff at the Mayor’s office could not get paid and in many cases this led to the heightened corruption among city officials so they could support their families.

When Yeah took office, he ran and was elected on a promise to root out the corruption that was plaguing the city. In June 2009, less than 10% of people were paying their taxes and Ouelessebougou was the 699th out of 703 cities in terms of development. Through gradually displaying to people that taxes linked directly to better services, Yeah was able to encourage the people of Ouelessebougou to begin and continue paying their taxes. Since then, the collected tax money has allowed employees at the Mayors office to be paid on time, paid for repairs on schools in the area, provided school supplies, helped build better facilities in many villages and encouraged a general good will towards Ouelessebougou from many businesses and NGOs. Many NGOs and businesses are knocking on Ouelessebougou’s doors seeing the success, transparency and ease of doing business. By 2011, 68% of people were paying taxes and Ouelessebougou moved to the top ten cities in terms of transparency and economic development.

Fast forward to 2014. This is the last year of Yeah’s first term as Mayor. This year, the Mayor’s office decided to do something different to acknowledge the great work that the different villages in the community of Ouelessebougou were doing to make sure that their taxes were paid on time. The Mayor’s office partnered with a local organization called PACT ( Programme d’Appui aux Collectivités Territoriales/Support Programme for Local Authorities) to publicly acknowledge and celebrate the community’s success at paying their taxes. Part of this Citizenship Day called on a public paying of taxes by all leaders of the community ( village chiefs, Mayor, Deputies, Local Chief of the Police, Chief of Customs in Ouelessebougou etc). It is said that actions speak louder than words and what better way to encourage and support tax payment than to publicly pay one’s taxes. In just one day, the city of Ouelessebougou collected over $3000 just from the community leaders. In addition, independent consultants reported a tax collection rate of 100.74 % ( the number being this high also because some people back paid their taxes from 2009). An additional surprise was the acknowlegement by the Government of Mali who sent their Mininster of Decentralization, Malick Alhoussein, to represent the government at this important event. When the Minister spoke, he publicly acknowledged Yeah’s efforts in truly practicing decentralization and turning Ouelessebougou into an example of a well managed city. He praised the efforts of the different village chiefs and also the people of Ouelessebougou for setting an example for the rest of the country.

These efforts are plain to see in the development that is springing up all over Ouelessebougou. From clean running water to clean energy and from infrastructure like factories, stadium enclosures, a new high school and a new hospital, Ouelessebougou will soon become a dream city for many in Mali. And this all is possible because one man said enough was enough and then showed his people how to manage their money honestly into development. Ouelessebougou is breaking all boundaries on development and showing the rest of Mali how it should be done. I am very proud to be the First Lady of this great city!

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Past Posts

 

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Ségou mayors support decentralization

Team Samaké left for Ségou, Mali early in the morning on February 16th. Their mission: to educate mayors from the region of Ségou about the Samake2012 vision for a stable, prosperous Mali filled with opportunities for its people.

Ségou (Seku, Segu) is a city in south-central Mali, lying 235 kilometers (146 mi) northeast of Bamako on the River Niger, in the region of Ségou. It was founded by the Bozo people, on a site about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the present town. With 100,000 inhabitants, it is the third largest city in Mali.

Yeah central point to creating a prosperous Mali is decentralization. What you might say, does decentralization have to do with a stable, prosperous Mali? In theory decentralization has been around for a long time. In practice, it does not exist.  The time has come for the central government to return power back to the local governments, creating an environment in which the people can hold their own leaders accountable for the actions in the commune. I think of it in this way too. As parents, we struggle sometimes to let our children make their own decisions. Failure to let them “live a little” will make them dependent individuals that cannot manage their own lives/decisions. However, if you teach them everything you can and then let them go, they are held accountable in part by the acquaintances that surround them. Without teaching them, they don’t and can’t differentiate from right and wrong. The same is with decentralization. USAID states in its In-Country report of Mali: “We find that the state has devolved some degree of authority and has made modest efforts in other areas (most notably the prospects for accountability implicit in local elections), but that autonomy and capacity remain generally low at the local level.” The central government needs to let go of power and return it to the local leaders. It is harder to hold a big government organization accountable in a country the size of Texas. By letting people at the local level conduct hold their commune leaders accountable, they will see a lot more return on investment of the taxes they pay. Take Ouelessebougou for example. 3 years ago, it was listed as the 699th commune out of the 703 communes in terms of development and transparency. Only 10% of taxes were being paid and mayor office employees had not been paid in 6 months because the previous mayor had been embezzling money. Look at Ouelessebougou today. Today due to measures instituted to ensure transparency and accountability 80% of taxes are being paid on time, employees are paid without fail on the 25th of every month, and Ouelessebougou is listed in the top ten cities in Mali. There are experts at the mayor’s office in the different sections of land, water and other areas, to allow people to discuss their issue directly with these individuals without waiting for the Mayor to make a decision. Power is distributed so that people within the Mayor’s office are empowered to make decisions and held accountable for the decisions they make by the Mayor and his constituents. Development wise Yeah has been able to lobby and get funds from the central government to build the first ever high school in the region, the biggest hospital in the region and the biggest solar panel field in Mali. If Yeah is elected on April 29th 2012, he could spread the success of decentralization to the rest of Mali.

That was the message of hope that Yeah wanted to share with these mayors of Ségou. About 100 mayors crowded into the room. Many had been drawn to the free lunch that Yeah was offering. The leading Mayor of Ségou introduced Yeah to his colleagues. Saying: “I am not here for myself, I am not here for Americans or for the French, I am here for the Malians”, Yeah seized their attention. He started telling about all the things he had been able to accomplish for his fellow-Malians. There is not one Malian candidate running today that has served his people without benefitting like Yeah has. Yeah’s words were solidified by a video showing evidence of the schools built, the water system in Ouelessebougou, the new school and hospital and the solar panel field. The skepticism vanished as the video ended. Yeah had instilled a new sense of hope in these mayors as he spoke about the power of decentralization and how it could better serve them as mayors and help them better serve their own people. The room filled with raised hands to ask questions. The questions continued with a passion and the gusto with which they were asked would have kept Team Samake there for a long time. The question surrounded topics like education, electricity, water, healthcare and decentralization. At one point, one of the mayors stood up to dispute Yeah’s policy of decentralization. Yeah did not even have to answer as seven mayors stood up to defend him and re-explain how things could only be beneficial for the mayors to better serve their communes. This was the take away point. Yeah Samake was the candidate that could best represent mayors and better support them so they could in turn support their people’s needs.

This was a successful trip for the Samake2012 campaign. The support just keeps growing day after day. It will be important to capitalize on these connections that we are making. This is Mali’s time. Decentralization is the key to creating a country that is stable and empowering people to stand up for the things that truly affect their daily lives. Please support us at www.samake2012.com. We cannot do this without you. Together, let’s welcome a new day in Mali and a new sense of hope for the Malian people. Are you in?

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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