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Elections planned

Crazy "lovable" kids

Life in Mali seems to go on without much complaint. Keanen restarted school a week and half ago and thoroughly enjoys it. Even Carmen now is starting to ask when she will go to school, which is a change from a few months back, when the mere mention of the “s” word was enough to induce hysterics. The kids have settled into life in Mali or rather Mali has settled on them. They love the freedom of playing outside (despite the 115F weather) and the walks into the market to buy popsicles. They eat the food with no complaint and honestly seem to be enjoying the people they interact with on a daily basis. That is not to say they don’t miss Utah or the friends they left a year ago. They still talk about them and how they would like to go back and see them. And then the moment passes and they find themselves caught up in another activity or trip to the market. I think that I too have calmed down parent-wise. When I first came here, I worried about where they went and what they ate and how they did certain things. I have been able to trust the perspective what does not kill them will make them stronger. They are good kids, despite their healthy vocal cords and fighting, and I feel blessed to be able to spend time with them.

One of many meetings with community leaders

Yeah’s party PACP continues to remain politically active. Now more than ever given the political dilemma Mali finds itself in, it is essential to continue to spread the word about the party and what it stands for. Yesterday, party leaders Fomba and Kone did a leadership training so as to teach community leaders how to spread the word about PACP. By teaching community leaders, they in turn will spread the word and before you know it, there will be a domino effect.

On the political front things seem to be stabilizing. On April 27th, all the ECOWAS members met with the President of Mali and drew up the final installment agreement which decided on the elections and what to do in the North. A positive thing was that elections that were to happen today were decided would happen in 12 months. Two points of the agreement however caused much controversy in Mali today, namely:

  • “The Heads of State and Government decide to bring the transition in Mali over a period of 12 months, during which presidential elections should be held to choose a new President. The Summit also decided to extend the mandate of the transition bodies, including the Acting President, the Prime Minister and the Government over this period of 12 months to ensure, within the limits of the powers conferred on them by the Constitution, the continuity governance of the country.”
  • “The Heads of State and Government decide to take all necessary measures to help Mali in the restoration of its unity and territorial integrity. In this regard, the Heads of State and Government instruct the Commission to start with immediate effect, the deployment of the ECOWAS Standby accordance with the mandate approved.”

What the first point in effect is doing is ignoring the 40 day mandate of the constitution and stating that the interim President Diacounda would in essence serve for the coming 12 months. This has been the constant fear that Diacounda would try, like all other “old guard” politicians, to keep his position for longer. To be honest, there is little Malians have seen him do in the 30 years he held positions in the government. The last 10 days since his inauguration has seen him do even less. Other than his meeting with dignitaries, little has been done on his part (in my opinion) to bring the reunification of Mali. His actions belie someone who is unhurried by current circumstances. It is interesting that ECOWAS should ask that Diacounda remain in power for the term of 12 months. Interesting because Yeah had predicted this very thing would happen and a week ago had an article published that asked Diacounda, in the name of patriotism, to step aside after his remaining 20 days, to quick start the transition. (http://samake2012.com/updates/2012/04/le-coq-dioncounda-must-resign-in-the-name-of-patriotism-after-21-days-to-quick-start-the-transition-declared-yeah-samake-of-pacp/). Many political parties, including Yeah’s group ADPS quickly condemned the blatant disregard for the constitution. One cannot just decide to follow the parts of the constitution that are favorable and then change the parts that one doesn’t like. However, that is exactly what seems to be happening by allowing Diacounda to stay for more than his 40 days dictated by the constitution. Captain Sanogo, who led the March 21 coup, was quick to state in an address to the nation, how the junta would not allow such a violation of the April 6th framework agreement to happen. While it is a concern that the junta still seems to have a strong control over the national TV, it feels like the Malian people do have a protector that isn’t afraid to speak out and also let these power-hungry politicians know that Mali is the first priority and the policies that benefit Mali need to be followed.

The second point of day before yesterday’s agreement will allow foreign forces to conduct a military operation on Mali soil. This is a very sensitive issue. The entire problem has started in January with foreign rebels entering the Northern regions of Mali after the fall of Gaddafi, bringing weapons with them. By allowing ECOWAS to fight Mali’s fight with the rebels is continuing to feed the dependency that has made Mali and most African countries dependent on foreign aid. If a war must be fought, the charge has to be led by the Malian troops supported by the foreign forces in terms of weapons and logistics. These ECOWAS troops are not used to fighting in the desert conditions that are home to the rebels and such an operation could lead to the loss of more lives and more chaos.

Indeed it has been a couple of interesting days politically. But in some sense, you can almost see the young Malian politicians stand up and say to the “old guards”—No more. No more breaking the rules just to suit your power-hungry minds. No more putting self before country. No more sacrificing Mali’s sovereignty to please foreign interests. No more changing the constitution that was built on the 300 souls that perished in the previous coup. No more.

Mali is strong. The fight that is being fought is an essential one. Mali needs to find its own identity so that it may in turn hold its own among African nations. To have other nations build its democracy for it will only cause it to fail again.

Vive la démocratie! (Long Live Democracy), Vive le Mali! (Long Live Mali)

 
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Posted by on April 29, 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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