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Progress for Mali: A unity government is formed

These past few months has seen Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra’s government struggle to gain the support of other parties and political leaders who felt that they could do a better job. There has been a general feeling among the political class in Mali that Diarra is incompetent. The crisis that Diarra gained is one that cannot easily be solved. He may, however, be the one reason that this country has not collapsed further and seen more internal damage after the President was attacked by pro-coup supporters. Interim President Dioncounda reaffirmed his faith in the Prime Minister by calling on him to present his suggestions for the unity government.

Two days ago, in a step towards returning Mali to democracy, the new unity government was announced. The new government still includes PM Cheick Modibo Diarra but has been expanded to include 31 ministers, four of whom are women and five that are Captain Amadou Sanogo loyalists. The goal of this new unity government remains the same as before. First to regain the lost Northern territory and second to organize elections. The government formed is a mixture of different political parties and members of civil society. While there was an interim government in place led by PM Diarra, the political parties’ infighting caused much harm to possible progress. It is hoped that the unity government which will be accepted by the African Union will work towards regaining Mali’s North. Already talks are underway with ECOWAS to deploy a 3000-strong army to the Northern regions.

What does this mean for Mali? The one thing that stands clear through this whole occurrence starting with the coup, has been the Malian people’s desire for democracy to be restored. Just last week, there was a 50000 strong rally as people called for the unity government to be formed. The unity government is a positive step in the right direction. Let’s hope that they will be the force needed to regain the North.

Meanwhile, Yeah remains committed to continuing the fight to return Mali to democracy. Each week, his party PACP holds meetings. Attendance has grown since the coup. The meetings are a reinforcement that Malians want to be part of the political process and they want a leader that will not abuse power. PACP was called upon to offer its suggestions for ministers to serve in the unity government. Mali is on the right track. Now more than ever, we ask for your support

If you can support us as we continue this fight, please do so at http://www.samake2012.com. Every little bit helps us continue the meetings and rallies to keep the Malian people informed of their rights.

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Posted by on August 22, 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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Analyzing Mali’s strife

Mali currently stands on the cusp of a big decision to be made. On one side, a deal favored by ECOWAS would be to allow interim President Dioncounda Traoré to serve the next 12 months as President of the transitional government. On the other side, would be to choose a new president during the transition. Mali remains divided on this decision. Many would prefer Dioncounda to leave office on May 22nd as per the Malian constitution. To many, Dioncounda is a reminder of the “old guard” that allowed things to get so bad in Mali, a reminder that Malians would soon like to put behind them.

On May 21st, in response to a forced decision by ECOWAS to have Dioncounda serve as a transitional President, tens of thousands of protesters marched on the palace and brought harm to Dioncounda, who had to be admitted to hospital for head injuries.

Analysis from Presidential Candidate: N. Yeah Samaké

Yeah has always maintained that the solution to Mali needs to come from inside the country. In a Voice of America interview, he said: “Mali needs its partners, but we need to make sure that this is a Malian solution. We cannot make this solution outside of Mali [because] that will be an imposition. We don’t want that and it is not going to be a lasting solution”.

In response to today’s violence, Yeah stated: “These acts are condemnable. However may it serve as a lesson that there needs to be a concerted effort at a solution that is acceptable to all Malians, who believe the act of choosing a President is a sovereign decision.  After the violent reactions to the decision made by ECOWAS, we can anticipate a number of outcomes:

1) Follow the status quo decision keeping Dioncounda as the president of the transitional government as his term as interim President ends today. This means that ECOWAS will choose the interim President who will ultimately honor all agreements during the transitional power. The advantage of this decision will save Mali and ECOWAS from the daunting task of bringing Malians together to have a consensual President. It is also conducive to a quick return to an acceptable, seemingly acceptable constitutional order that is a pre-requisite for involvement of the international community. The drawback of the decision would be the sustainability of the solution beyond the 12 months transition. This decision excludes the participation of political leaders who are ultimately going to become the decision makers to upload the agreements made during the next 12 months.

2) The consensual decision. This implies the organization of a national convention that Sanogo and several political players have called for. This will allow for a consensual transitional body that will be accepted by all involved parties. This alternative will ensure a more stable transition supported by all the stakeholders. As a drawback this option may not be warmly received by the international community. As a result, Mali may continue to receive sanctions imposed by bilateral and multilateral partners such as ECOWAS, US, France, World Bank and the IMF. Ultimately the withdrawal of this support would cripple the country from the capacity to resolve the rebellion in Northern Mali.

3) An elected transition President as suggested by ADPS. ADPS is formed with 14 other political parties and their solution would allow Malian political leaders, civil society, and the junta soldiers to be proportionally represented in a 30-person body. Seven representatives of the military, 18 represented from the political parties and five from civil society. This 30-person body will elect the transitional president in their midst excluding the military representatives. This alternative would take the longest to achieve. It may also not receive the blessings of the international community. However the outcome would be the most compatible with the constitutional order. This alternative will offer the most legitimate form of leadership, where the president is actually elected and the remaining 29 members form the legislative body. The legislative body will replace the current Assembly that is reaching the end of its term. This option will resolve the unpopular decision to prolong the term limits of the Assembly which violates the constitution.

So which one is the best option for the Malian people? At the end of the day, Mali as a whole represented by leaders of civil and political society need to come together and decide. Mali’s future cannot be planned by other leaders and countries who are driven by foreign agendas. This solution has to be about the best for Mali and Mali alone.

Yeah would certainly love to hear your comments on which alternative would be your pick.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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The clock is ticking

On April 12th when Diacounda Traoré was sworn in as Mali’s interim President, the clock started ticking on his 40-day term. His responsibility was to plan when elections would be held and to help resolve the issues of the Northern region in terms of security and the refugees. Diacounda’s inauguration speech was punctuated with severe rhetoric against the rebels of the North, going so far as to even threaten war against them. 30 days into his term, one can clearly see that talk is cheap and that Diacounda has fulfilled very few of the promises that he stated when he was sworn in. This is another reason for Malians to continue to distrust the old guard that has watched over the politics of Mali for the last 20 years.

To be fair, I should say that his task is no easy task. The task remains difficult to reunite a country in which not only the North remains separated by the South, but where different political parties have been reaching out in different tangents. The situation has not been helped by a counter coup attempt by the ex-President’s loyalist forces. Nor has it been helped by threats from ECOWAS on deployment of an army of 3000 foreign soldiers on Mali’s soil to help gain the territory back but more importantly make sure the junta returns to the barracks. These threats have in effect gone against the April 6th agreement between the junta and ECOWAS and have caused great anger among the junta, who see the constitution of Mali being changed by foreigners and power quickly slipping away. By extending Diacounda’s 40-day mandate, the constitution that was quoted when the coup first happened, will in effect be violated. After the whole rigmarole about violating the constitution initially, it seems like a farce for it to now be violated to serve external preferences.

I have seen Diacounda do little in these 40 days other than meet with individuals that cannot influence the course of Mali’s future. The important task of gaining back Mali’s northern territories seem pushed to the back burner. Even more crucial, the refugee numbers have now swelled to 235,000+ with numbers getting higher each day. The US State Department has in effect stated that they hold the junta directly responsible for the mounting suffering of the Malian people.  While the junta has contributed to the issue, to blame them whole heartedly seems unfair. There have been many players who could be blamed for the situation in Mali: the old guard ATT, the politicians that have been on the scene for 20-30 years, the junta, the flip-flopping young politicians that go where the power is and also foreign interests.

Now, the one thing that might explain Diacounda’s relative lack of media presence is that the junta still controls the national TV. Each evening the screen is filled with events that seem to embolden the junta’s presence at community events. It is almost as if the stage is being set for them to take over when Diacounda’s 40 days is over. This is something the international community and especially ECOWAS (the body of African countries) would prefer not to happen. By establishing military rule, the junta would be returning the country to a similar period 20 years ago before democracy was established. The events in Mali have already proven that Mali’s democracy was a superficial one with leaders lining their pockets and fulfilling personal ambitions rather than truly answering the needs of those that put them in power. Captain Sanogo, the military leader, has already shown that he has the ability to gain the support from the Malian people that has lacked for so long. However, the constant quashing of the national TV does not bring any comfort and is an early indicator that dissenters could be silenced.

Just last week, I was headed to the PACP headquarters right by ex-Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe’s house. Modibo Sidibé was the one rumored to have stolen a lot of money and used even more to finance his Presidential campaign. He has already been arrested twice by the junta. As I was there, I saw few motorcycles carrying heavily armed guards. They were hunting for Modibo. The first thought that entered my mind was, “Why are you here. Should you not be in the North protecting your people?” It seems more and more that the junta is using the military to advance their personal protection and needs.

Nevertheless, the people of Mali remain embittered by the past 20 years of ineffective democracy and regardless many people see the junta as the lesser of two evils. Especially, since they provide a non-politically affiliated group that ended an ineffective democracy. Sanogo is viewed by many in Mali as a leader, and this is an impression that will not be dispelled anytime soon. I wouldn’t be surprised on May 22nd if the junta reclaims the Presidency and Sanogo remains in power till elections happen next year.

I cannot decide if this is a good thing or bad thing. While this is not an ideal solution, most other solutions will cause further unrest and delay a resolution to the important issues gripping the North. For now, Mali seems to be biding its time with Diacounda, waiting for a true leader to emerge to take the reins of the country. Hopefully the new transition leader will be one that makes more progress than the country has seen in the last 30 days with the least amount of unrest.

10 more days till the hourglass turns once again in Mali to begin the next phase towards determining Mali’s future.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Empowering women

The weekend has passed in somewhat of a peaceful manner despite isolated, unverified reports of gunfire in central Bamako.The ECOWAS rhetoric has now moved from forcing troops on Mali to stating that troops will only be deployed if the Malian government gives the go ahead.

Yeah spent the last week in Salt Lake City trying to raise awareness and also continue to raise funds for the refugees and his campaign. Thank you to Adele Kammeyer and Susan Escalante for helping arrange a meet and greet and a cottage-style meeting respectively! This coming week he heads to New York, DC and Boston to do much of the same, especially meeting with Senators that oversee America’s foreign policy.

As Yeah remains busy in the US trying to meet with individuals and American leaders to raise awareness on the situation in Mali, his party PACP continues to make leaps and bounds here.

As turmoil embroils the lives of the basic citizen, PACP continues to do the things that might improve these citizen’s lives. Today saw such an opportunity. Bamba, a local businessman, spent some time with a group of women teaching them skills that they can then market. For example, he taught them about micro enterprise that would help finance businesses and also how to make fabric and peanut butter.

This kind of entrepreneurship is essential to helping Mali’s individuals make a living for themselves in a country where jobs are scarce and the likelihood of making more than the $1 is incredibly low. May many such meetings happen and may women finally get a break from the hardship that has become their lifestyle.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Mali’s dilemma

Mali is once again experiencing its moment of uncertainty caused by the issues of the last few days. On April 30th, loyalist forces clashed with the junta of Mali in an attempt to push out of power the junta. The attempt was less than successful and brought about more bloodshed than even the original mutiny. In the initial mutiny, there was a report (unverified) of 3 presidential guards dying but no harm to civilians. However the latest unrest brought about the death of civilians and injury to many more.

In addition to the sad loss of life, the deeper underlining issue is the difficulty it brings for an already struggling Mali. Mali now has an interim President, a Prime Minister and the transitional government of 24 individuals. It was interesting to note how during this past week of unrest, no word was heard from Diacounda, the interim President. In fact all discussions and addresses to the nation were conducted by the Prime Minister Diarra and the Ministers over the sectors affected by the unrest. It’s almost like Diacounda is sending a message that he does not intend on staying past his 40 days despite what most ECOWAS leaders are pushing for. Time only will tell. His term expires around May 20th. Any attempts on his part or the West African bloc ECOWAS to lengthen his term will only add to the unrest as doing so will cause a change to the constitution that calls for a 40 day term for the interim President.

The other issue that concerns me is the continuing growing refugee situation in the North. The first semblance of aid on a large scale is starting to be seen. It is the hope that as more and more organizations donate, the aid will reach its intended destination. The rebels in the North have continued their attack on basic rights and the three territories of Gao, Kidal and Tombouctou remain hostage. There has been little discussion on what will be done to regain these territories. The only talk I have heard of this is from ECOWAS that want to send in military troops and the junta that are adamantly refusing to allow foreign troops on Mali soil. While it is great that the ECOWAS team would like to send reinforcements, the concern remains about foreigners fighting on Mali soil. In addition, these troops are not up to the task of fighting in the desert. Plus what message does this encourage? This in essence encourages the same evil loop as foreign aid. Once you get into it and someone else controls the effort, there is no need for the population/leaders to themselves be held accountable. I am not saying that we don’t need the ECOWAS help. Logistics and weapons are two things that have been denied the Malian army. Our so called army is defenseless and sending them into war currently is as good as signing their death warrant. However, action needs to be taken soon. To let this fester is to allow the rapes and the imposition of Sharia to continue. To sit back and watch is to give permission to rebels to continue the reign of terror. Something must be done to free our people in the North.

There are meetings that are set to happen between the current leadership, the junta and ECOWAS to discuss how the transition will move forward. Discussions need to happen between all players in the crisis but it is important that the end goal of Mali’s sovereignty and peace not be compromised any further.

Yeah continues to work hard to increase the awareness of the basic freedoms that are being denied to our Malian brothers and sisters. He is currently in the US meeting with individuals and American leaders to raise awareness on the situation in Mali. Yeah said in a recent Voice to America interview: ““Mali needs its partners, but we need to make sure that this is a Malian solution. We cannot make this solution outside of Mali [because] that will be an imposition. We don’t want that and it is not going to be a lasting solution..The people of Mali need to come together and define the terms of how the country should be run during the transition.” (http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/Path-to-Restoring-Malis-Democracy-Set-Back-Says-Politician-149761235.html)

Mali cannot afford for this to go wrong any further. Mali deserves its break now. Continue to keep Mali and all Malians embroiled in this crisis in your prayers.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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