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A New Adventure!

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Well! It’s all official. The President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, nominated Yeah the new Ambassador of Mali to India.

My country INDIA!! Whohooo!!! I am super excited to return back to my country. After 4+ years in Mali, the kids and I have had a wonderful opportunity to learn and experience the Malian culture and traditions. We have come to love the Malian people like our own and to understand intimately the many challenges they face on a daily basis. Through Yeah’s role as Mayor, we have enjoyed many unique experiences and learned much about local governance and the ability to impact the citizens of Oueléssébougou. Running the campaign was a whole different ball park and it was probably the biggest challenge we have lived through. The kids have adapted amazingly well to life in Mali. We came here when Keanen was 5 years old and Carmen barely 3, where they knew only English and the comforts of America. When we first came, the adjustment was hard, the challenges many. But we were blessed with courage at our most difficult times. Now the kids speak French fluently and I have been able to learn both French and Bambara. Through school and our different road trips, our children have enjoyed the beauty of experiencing different cultures. They have accompanied us on the many projects that have taken us to many villages and communities all over Mali. Road trips took on a whole new meaning and I have to say they have loved it!! Through our foundation Empower Mali, we have continued to partner with rural communities in Mali to make an impact in education, clean water/energy and leadership development. The high level partnerships and contacts we have in Mali and the United States will allow us to continue fundraising and implementing the work we are doing. We have no plans to stop building schools, providing scholarship opportunities abroad or increasing access to basic rights like clean water and food.

So much accomplished and so many great experiences lived in just 4 years. When I first started this blog 4+ years ago, I could not have predicted this. I can hardly wait to see what the next few years hold for our family. India will be a new experience for us all. It has been 15+ years since I have visited. I am excited for the kids to learn my own culture/traditions and get to experience the different religions and exotic cultures all housed in one beautiful country. Not to mention the opportunity to travel the many surrounding countries where we will also serve.

While we will mainly be based in New Delhi, the India Mission will cover 10 different Asian countries. We will have an opportunity to serve Malians and grow relations between Mali and all these countries. The countries are: India, Bangladesh, Nepal , Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand. For 11+ years, Yeah has shown he can help move Mali forward at a local and national level. Now I am thrilled that he has received the opportunity to play this role and will be able to make an impact on a larger national and international level. In this day and age, Asia has shown herself to be a big player and by helping grow relationships Yeah has the opportunity to create many partnerships that will help many Malians abroad and at home.

Yeah said the following in a recent press release: ” Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced that he has appointed me as the next Malian Ambassador to the Republic of India. The jurisdiction of the post in New Delhi, India covers 10 countries: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.

As a result of this appointment, I will soon travel to India with my family to begin my work representing Malian interests in these countries. I am grateful to President Keïta for this opportunity and look forward to representing Mali in this new role.

Malians benefit in many ways from trade with India, whether it be through our increased electricity or access to high-quality medicines resulting from Indian imports, or from our sales of cotton and other agricultural products to India that puts money in the pockets of Malians across the country. This continued and growing trade partnership is improving the lives of citizens in both countries, and I look forward to building upon this relationship in the coming years.

As Mayor of Oueléssébougou over the last six years, I have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of everyone in our area. When I was first elected, less than ten percent of the population paid taxes, and government workers were owed six months of salary. When measured in terms of our governmental management and transparency, our commune was at the bottom of the list. Six years later, I am proud to say we have transformed our area, making it one of the most respected and admired areas in all of Mali. Today, 86 percent of our citizens pay taxes, and our area is seen as a model of transparent and effective government. Working with our city council and other local leaders, I have also brought investment and critical infrastructure to our area as well. We now have a hospital in our area. We have a high school for our children, and we have more primary schools as well. We have improved our water infrastructure. We have the largest solar panel field in West Africa. We are helping farmers with equipment so they can make their land more productive. Instead of citizens waiting weeks for their local government to help them with requests, now they wait only days—with many receiving help on the same day. We have shown this type of transformation is possible in Mali.

In recent years, I have also worked as a part of Empower Mali and other foundations to help build schools for our children, provide scholarship opportunities to children in Mali to study abroad, purchase tractors for our farmers, and construct hospitals for our communities. While I am committed to my role as Ambassador, I will also continue to actively ensure through my contacts on the ground that our projects on the ground in Mali continue to grow, benefiting the communities in rural Mali. I urge Foundation benefactors to continue to support this work and encourage others to get involved as well.

I have worked hard every day as Mayor of Oueléssébougou to make lives better. It is with great honor that I accept the position of Ambassador to India, and I look forward to continuing my service to Mali in this new role. While this new position will take me away from my friends in and around Oueléssébougou, it will give me the opportunity to improve the lives of all Malians across the country and abroad. ”

This opportunity is just simply amazing! We are emboldened by the vote of confidence shown by the Malian government. I am so proud of Yeah and all he has done and continues to do to make Mali a better place. I have not met a more honest man or one that is very committed to making an impact for all his people in Mali. We are so grateful for all our supporters who have stayed the course with us. Our success today is in part due to your vote of confidence and support for all we do.

The journey to achieve a new Mali is not over yet. In fact, we have started a new phase. Keep you posted. Thank you for helping bless our people in Mali. May you be blessed!

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* Check out our work in Mali through the Empower Mali Foundation at www.empowermali.org
Want to help impact change in rural Mali? Make a tax deductible donation today. All donations online are secure. Checks can also be sent to Empower Mali, P.O Box 708514, Sandy, UTAH 84070.

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MOVING MALI FORWARD

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Past Posts

 

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Election Day in MALI

Two years ago Yeah and I left the comforts and possibilities of America for Mali to pursue a different future for our family. A future that included helping improve the lives of 15.1 million people in one of the poorest countries in the world.

The journey has in no way been easy but at every step of the way, we have been blessed. We have blessed with family that supported our decision and guided us as we settled into a new, different life in Mali. We have been blessed with friends that have supported us emotionally and financially as we pursued an ambition to change the corrupt system and initiate change. It is your kind donations that have let us run a clean race untainted by corruption and stick on the stage with the corrupt, older giants of Malian politics. We have been blessed with new supporters each day both here and in America who have believed in our vision of a Mali that can break the chains of illiteracy and under- development and welcome a day when every Malian can have three meals a day, accessible, quality education, accessible low-cost healthcare, clean water and a job when they graduate.

Today, was an emotion filled day. Our day started as we cast our ballot in the city of Yeah’s birth. As we entered Ouélessébougou, we were touched to see the throngs of people clamoring to vote. The booths opened at 8 am and people were lining up long before that time. Many came to us, waving their left index finger proudly, stating the exact time they voted for Yeah.

The booths will close at 6 pm tonight. The manual counting and limited access to far regions will mean that most results will not be known until sometime tomorrow or day after.

We do not what tomorrow will bring. We do not know what the results will be. While we hope for the best, we know that we will continue to serve Mali in whatever capacity we can. Our goal is empowering Malians to better standards and a better life.

Our heart is filled with deep gratitude for all you have done to support us. We have been blessed by your friendship and have been touched by your investment in our campaign for Mali.

It is an investment that will never be forgotten.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Why we do what we do

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Think about the future of your children when you vote

 

With 5 days to go, all I can say is Mali’s future is at stake. We are determined now more than ever to affect change. Mali cannot remain destitute for 20 more years.

On July 28th, Malians will choose their destiny. They will either say they want to stick with the old corrupt guards or go with a new leader with fresh ideas and someone who has served them.

For us the Presidency is a means to an end. An end in which we can make Mali the great, prosperous nation that can enjoy education and healthcare for all citizens.

This video captures perfectly our vision and our passion. We thank our Alma Mater BYU for sharing our story. We all have the ability to make a difference in our own corner of the world. Don’t miss it!

Here are some shots from the last few days of campaigning in Koutiala, San, Segou, Commune IV, Kenedougou, Koury and Mopti to name a few

I thank all our supporters for donating to our campaign, especially when we issued an announcement for a $30,000 need. In the last three days we were able to raise $10K. We are still trying to raise $20000 to be used on the actual day of elections to be able to send our members in each voting area to ensure no voter fraud happens. There are 8 regions in Mali containing 703 cities. The money covers their transportation to/from the regions and their food.

Asking for money is not something I am comfortable doing. But we need your help. If you can help, no matter how big or small, please help push us closer to that $20,000 goal. 

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God bless Mali and all Malians everywhere!

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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The Voices of Change

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In Mali, the youth represent a high percentage of the voting population. The youth today in Mali are besieged by the many failures of their country. To start with, many children are born into poverty. Despite the government providing free primary education, the existence of middle schools in their local areas is rare and high schools even rarer. If children even graduate high school, their next challenge comes in terms of finding a college/technical school close by. Most colleges/technical schools are located in the big cities like Bamako and Sikasso. All through these important years, the children also face the problem of overcrowded classrooms and teachers who do not have the adequate skills/training to teach. These issues apply to college level as well. In addition, corruption is rampant and a degree is easily bought. The result is a workforce that is ill-equipped to handle the growing economic need. The need for educated, well trained individuals is barely met, making companies hire graduates from the surrounding West African countries. Mali’s reported unemployment hovers dangerously at 35% with the real number being even higher.

So it isn’t surprising that the youth are big stakeholders in the upcoming Presidential elections. One of the things that the new President will need to resolve is the immediate employment need and also the long term human resource quality. This will involve big investments in education and infrastructure building.

In the Samaké campaign, the youth are an essential bloodline of our success. The youth see Yeah as a bright flame in their bleak future. They see the success that can come from hard work. They are inspired by all the things that Yeah has accomplished for Mali like building schools and bringing clean water and electricity to his community of 53,000 people. In Mali politics, there is not one leader currently who can list more than two things he has done for his people. Yeah, on the other hand, can talk about education, healthcare, clean energy and clean water, as he has made big impacts in all those areas. So the youth are attracted to the man who practices what he preaches.

It is in this energy that our youth bureau has been spreading the Samake message in the different regions of Mali. This past week, 10 members of the “Voices of Change” used notebooks and traveled to the different communes of Bamako to spread the Yeah Samake message. They each share the video about Yeah that they compiled and talk about the politician that is a doer. These guys are pumped up and I have been so impressed with their commitment. In a day and age when our teenagers like to sleep in on the weekends, these youth are gathering for meetings at 7am. They work constantly for more than 8 hours a day without complaint. Their commitment encourages me each day to fight a little harder. They are bigger stakeholders in Yeah’s success. This coming week, in conjunction with the newest school we were inaugurating, the youth visited the Sikasso area. Here they did a similar grassroots movement educating men, women and youth about Yeah Samake as the candidate that could bring much change and opportunities to Mali.

The response to the youth group has been amazing. The people of Mali are so tired of the change that has been promised and never delivered for the last 20 years. It is time that the page be turned on the old generation and old ideas. 20 years has proven that they do not work. If change does not happen, Mali will continue to be condemned to 5 more years of ineffective leaders and corrupt practices. The youth will continue to be brushed aside and the unemployment and illiteracy will only get out of control.

Today, I am asking for your investment. It’s not too late to join the fight for Mali. The youth have been marginalized long enough with lack of opportunities and mediocre leadership. Yeah and I are committed to fight this election to the end. However, we need your investment to help us end with a gusto. The youth of Mali deserve the chance to be given the opportunity to change their destiny. They can only do this if the opportunity exists. Yeah truly understands how to create opportunities. All the projects like the water pumps, clinics, schools, hospitals, and solar field have brought many opportunities and economic development to his area. Working with the previous government, he was even able to reopen one of the 5 cotton plants in Mali. His track record resounds with the youth.

Today invest in the youth of Mali and their future by donating to our campaign for Mali. The old leaders of Mali have profited of Malians and are counting on Yeah to fail. Do not let them win!

This journey would be impossible without your help, prayers and guidance. Donate today at http://www.samake2013.com or share this message with friends/family/acquaintances that can help Mali. Together we can build a stronger Mali.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Service Before Politics

This past week was charged and full of some great events and service projects that we did in the various areas of Bamako, the capital of Mali.

Our PACP delegation headed to Baguineda where our resident eye doctor and Secretary General of PACP Aboubacar Sidiki Fomba donated his services to do free cataract surgery. In Mali, to remove cataracts, it costs about 50000 cfa ( $100) per eye. Now think about it. An average Malian will not make more than a $1.25 per day. In fact, most Malians will forgo the cost of an eye surgery because the need of food and other basic amenities for their family is a priority. Fomba has donated his services in many areas. The newest was Baguineda. In Baguineda many older people and young children were brought to get eye tests done and then the surgery. In one case, a man told us that he had bad cataracts for a few years now, and for the first time he was now able to see clearly. It makes me sad when I hear about the lack of access our people have to healthcare. With there being few specialized eye doctors, prices are high for a Malian and for many the cost is their sight. This is not the first time that the party has provided free healthcare clinics. Since the party was started in 2011, the doctors in the party have banded together to provide free healthcare services in many villages in Mali. People are amazed when they see a party that serves before they engage in politics. However, in regards to Yeah, this is nothing new. Yeah has brought many doctors and dentists to his own areas which has served people from regions as close as Sikasso and as far as Kayes. People are amazed when they hear about what Yeah has done because in essence their own leaders have failed them for so long. For them to imagine that there is  a political leader that has served his community and impacted lives is a stretch because for too long politicians have lined their pockets and not helped the country.

The next day, our delegation headed to Yirimadjo to establish and recognize a sub section of our Party PACP. The youth of Yirimadjo committed their support to the campaign.  The President of the PACP section there, Fidelle Samake confirmed their support to PACP and to continuing the fight for new leadership in Mali.

The following day, the delegation made up of PACP members Fomba, Djeneba, Kone, Fifi and Fatoumata headed to Niarela. Again they established and confirmed a sub section in Niarela. The President of the sub section, by the name of Nientao, had gathered together quite a crowd of youth in Niarela. They committed their support. To add to this great evening, the leader of the women by the name of Sympara, committed that she would support Yeah Samake and the PACP vision for a new day in Mali.

Also, an amazing movement has been growing in Mali. Recently our youth bureau headed by our youth leaders Sibiri Mariko and Salif Tigana launched a new project. They created a short video showing Yeah’s bio and all the things Yeah has done for Mali. The amazing thing about this video is that it is transferable by phones. If anything, almost 3 out 5 Malians possess a phone, if not more. So this is awesome, because we can now transfer this video and in essence create a ripple effect. In addition, our youth bureau is going full steam ahead by showing this video on projectors to large crowds during the night and on laptops/notebooks with small groups during the day in all the communes in Bamako. We hope to spread to the rural regions as well with the video, but given that this video is transferable, we can just simply send this to our section leaders in the different communes and have them show it and spread it among their communities.So far the video has been displayed on a project in 2 of the 6 communes within Bamako. Each time we had a huge number of people show up to watch the movie and find out about Yeah Samake. Bamako is one area where we have not focused our resources because a majority of Malians live in the rural areas.However people that watch this video are amazed. Many in Bamako are surprised that there exists a man who has served before he got into politics. It is like the lamp of hope re-illuminates and many of them will take the video and even give their contact info so we can get them involved in the party

I love the energy of our youth. They give me the strength and courage to continue our work. More than anything, our youth that form more than 50% of the population deserve a chance to break the cycle of poverty and desperation.  I am truly psyched at the possibilities with this group!!! They know what they want and they are not afraid to think outside the box to make it happen.

It just amazes me how each day we get new supporters. These new sub sections are a sign of growth, of life, of desire for change. Malians are eager to kill the python that has choked them for so long. They are eager to see beyond the expired visions of a failed country with no opportunities.

Please invest in our country’s future. Mali and Malians need your prayers and support. They need your voice to spread the word about Yeah Samake. We need your donation to spread this campaign in every corner of Mali. The first step to a prosperous future is getting Yeah elected. Be the spark of change and part of this amazing campaign at http://www.samake2013.com

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Campaigning in the distant villages of Kati

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This past week was a busy one for the PACP campaign. Our youth leader Sibiri Mariko led our PACP delegations to a number of communities in Mali.

The first village that the PACP delegation went to was N’gorogodji which has about 1160 inhabitants and is in the Kati area . The village is one of the five villages that make up the municipality of Kambila. The delegation consisted of Sibiri Mariko, Sekou Traoré, Sidiki Sangaré, and Mahamane Maiga. To start of the meeting, the PACP representatnt of N’gorogodji Konimba Kané spoke. He spoke with great disgust at the politicians who visit the area and how all the promises they had made for the last 50 years had not been kept.  He then introduced the PACP delegation and allowed Sibiri Mariko to explain who PACP was and what they hoped to accomplish for Mali. He spoke of all Yeah has done for Mali already. The PACP leader in the area then urged the participants to vote for PACP and the young candidate Yeah Samake.  The major concern in this area is the high number of unemployed graduates. PACP committed to work hard to help better the lives of the people of N’gorogodji.  The residents there gave the party many blessings and urged them to continue their hard work.

The delegation also held a meeting with the youth at the national bureau of PACP to discuss Kati. There they met with the PACP youth leaders in the area and made plans on how to mobilize leaders within the community to better spread the word about PACP.

The delegation then continued on to Diaguinebougou where they met with the founding family. The members listened to the PACP delegation and made a firm commitment to support Yeah Samake and PACP.

The next day, the delgation now made up of Sibiri MARIKO, Abdrahame Mariko, Sékou Traoré, Moussa Maiga, Sidiki Dembélé and Mahamane Maiga visited Doubabougou. Doubabougou is a village and rural commune in the Cercle of Kati in the Koulikoro Region of south-western Mali. The commune contains 6 villages and has a population of 8,041+. The PACP leader there by the name of Moussa Kouyaté, introduced the PACP delegation and welcomed them to the area. Sibiri, after explaining about the party’s vision and who Yeah Samake is, called on the village to help change happen in Mali. The youth of the village had created a slogan:”Le changement radical” (The radical change) when they campaigned for PACP and Sibiri emphasized this same slogan as he spoke to the villagers. The villagers showered their blessings on the party of change and its delegation and urged them to continue their mission in all the villages of Mali.

Meetings like these are so essential. They help us determine what the needs of the Malian population are. No candidates will usually visit these areas and so the people have grown disillusioned with politics and politicians in general. Seeing candidates like Yeah Samake and the PACP party that take the time to travel to these far areas gives people hope that if they choose a leader like this, their needs will be met by the President. How can you bring your people hope and change if you do not know what afflicts them. PACP is the party of change. The party that will welcome a new day in Mali because it truly understands the chains that hold back many ordinary Malians from the different walks of life.

Many more meetings like this must happen. Today I ask you to donate $50 at http://www.samake2013.com which helps us pay the gas and chair rentals for the trip to one distant village. Today I ask you to become part of this journey and make the lives of ordinary Malians better by helping elect YEAH SAMAKE. This happens only if we can educate every corner of Mali about what their options are and who Yeah is. Today, I humbly come to you with open hands and ask for your investment in my Mali. 

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Campaigning in Dio, Selingue and Yelekebougou

This past weekend was another great campaign success.

Youth leaders in Bamako gather to support YEAH

Youth leaders in Bamako gather to support YEAH

The youth that had formed their own movement visited with Yeah first thing Saturday morning. I love seeing the commitment of our youth in Mali to support change. Neatly dress and enthusiastic, they are my hope that Mali’s future is indeed bright. The youth association AJLCDM met with Yeah to present a plan of action in reaching some new areas in Mali. They also presented what they had been doing in terms of supporting Yeah and to increase awareness on the campuses about Yeah’s plans for Mali. Yeah also had the unique opportunity to meet with members of the National Youth Bureau in Mali. They presented a small skit showing the impacts of corruption and how Yeah is a good, honest individual who could bring change to Mali. This skit can be taken and presented to many communities and residents. Malians love dramatic performances and I love how the youth are using their talents to spread the word about Yeah Samake and PACP. The energy is simply amazing!

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The PACP delegation visited new villages of Dio, Selingue and Yelekebougou. One of the successes of this campaign is that unlike other candidates, we campaign mainly in the villages of Mali. 80% of Mali’s growing population is based in the villages. In order for Mali to progress as an entire nation, change and development need to happen in all parts of Mali.

It was in this spirit that the Samake team headed to these two villages. The first village called Dio-Gare is situated in the Koulikoro region and hosts about 8000 residents. The village had formed its first PACP committee and the delegation officially recognized the association. Many residents attended this event. Our PACP delegation was led by our youth leader Sibiri Mariko and Yaya Coulibaly. They talked with great enthusiasm about what Yeah Samake has accomplished already for Mali and what the vision is for the future. The meeting ended on a high note with many residents speaking their praise and showing their enthusiasm for the delegation that had traveled far to come talk with them.

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The next area visited was Yelekebougou, an area that also is in the Koulikoro region. More than 15 PACP members visited this area where they spoke to more than 60 people of all ages.  This morning a supporter who had witnessed this meeting, Abel Traore, shared this message about the meeting on Facebook: ” Le bureau national du parti PACP etait a Yelekebougou le samedi passe. Ils ont eu le soutient indefectible de toute la commune de Yelekebougou pour les prochaines election car c’est le seul parti qui peut amener le changement dans ce pays. QUE DIEU BENISSE LE MALI.” which translated is: ” The national office of PACP party was in Yélékébougou this past Saturday. We had the unwavering support of the entire town for Yélékébougou believes that in the next election we are the only party that can bring about change in this country. MAY GOD BLESS MALI.”

The PACP delegation in Yelekebougou

The PACP delegation in Yelekebougou

Yesterday, our campaigning continued full swing as our PACP team visited beautiful Selingue, a 118KM drive from Bamako. Selingue is one of the touristic areas in the South of Mali famous for the Festival of Selingue and also the Selingue Dam that is the 3rd most important energy production center of Mali. Here too, the delegation was met with great enthusiasm. In fact in this area, the residents had been eager for PACP to visit the area, having made many requests with our bureau. We were excited to visit and solidify the relationship with our association there.

Everywhere we go, we see residents turn out to welcome us and create their own PACP associations in their areas. The support has been exciting to watch and witness. People in Mali are begging for change. Too many years have gone by and most Malians still remain destitute. The rich get richer. The poor get thrown to the sidewalk to beg. This is not the vision of a progressive, developed Mali. This has to change. Many Malians have put their faith in Yeah. We will not let them down. We will continue this fight for Malians everywhere. The goal is not the Presidency. The goal is a Mali that is developed with a population that is able to have better opportunities.

We need your help. Villages like these are far off and not as easily accessible. It is expensive to visit these areas. If you can donate, then we can continue our battle for a developed, democratic Mali. Your money allows us to show and tell people that there is hope for Mali. And that hope is Yeah Samake and his plans for a new Mali. Donate today at http://www.samake2013.com and help us welcome a new day in Mali.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Impacting Governance at the local level

On March 16th a delegation of Malian mayors and municipal leaders left hot, sweltering Mali for Utah. The goal was to attend a 3-day governance summit in Salt Lake City, Utah.

One of the key things that Yeah hopes to offer as President of Mali is further training and exchange between Malian leaders at the local level and local leaders in other countries, so that an exchange of ideas and best practices can happen. This falls in line with one of the key platform points of the Samaké campaign: decentralization of power. No one knows better how to solve the problems of the Malian people at the local level than the Malian leaders that govern them locally. By providing them the tools to make better decisions and implement different ideas, we are stretching minds to the endless possibilities that can give Malian people a better life and it all starts with educating and empowering local leadership.

The summit and the trip were made possible by a partnership between the Utah based foundation Empower Mali and Utah League of Cities and Towns. Yeah, as the Mayor of Ouelessebougou, Mali, led the delegation of local leaders. The really cool thing about this delegation is that its members hail from 5 of the 8 regions in Mali, even war torn Tombouctou.

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The delegation includes members from different political parties. It included the following members:
• Nampaga Coulibaly, Mayor, Misseni (Population: 45,000 people, Sikasso Region)
• Diarha Diarra, Mayor, Moribabougou (Population: 29,000 people, Koulikoro Region)
• Sekou Boubacar Doucoure, Mayor, Tele (Population: 2,078+ people, Tombouctou Region)
• Malik Guindo, City Council Member, Doucoumbo (Population: 13,000+ people, Mopti Region)
• Malick Keita, Mayor, N’Gabacoro (17,000+ people, Koulikoro Region)
• Ousmane Kouyate, City Manager, Ouelessebougou (Population: 44,000+ )
• Birama Traoré, Mayor, Kirané (Population: 40,000+ people, Kayes Region)
• Barakatoulahi Keita, Partnership Coordinator, Association of Malian Municipalities
• Mamadou Tangara, Mayor of Kénédougou, Sikasso City ( Population: 230,000+, Region of Sikasso)
• Delegation led by Yeah Samaké, Mayor of Ouelessebougou (Population: 44000+, Koulikoro Region)

The 3-day summit was jam packed with visits and discussions all over the state of Utah from Logan to Provo. City Councilman Carlton Christensen greeted the delegation on behalf of UCLT. The delegation also received a warm welcome at a luncheon hosted by the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah. The Mayors were impressed with the student’s commitment and involvement in government studies. Prominent figures like Mayor Mike Winder and Director of the Hinckley Institute, Kirk Jowers expressed hope that a partnership between local leaders in Utah and Mali would be solidified through this exchange. The energy was high and this was a great start to the three day summit in Utah. The delegation, despite being extremely tired and jet lagged, was excited at the endless possibilities of what they would take away from this experience during the next few days.

During the remaining days, the delegation also visited facilities like the UTA Trax Station, Sandy City Fire Department, Waste Management Transfer Station, Salt Lake Valley Landfill, Parleys Canyon Water Facility and Salt Lake City Waste Water Facility. These are all new experiences for the group. These kind of high end facilities are not available in Mali. That is not to say there is no fire, waste or police facilities in Mali. The difference is that the level of resources committed does not even begin to compare. The delegation was impressed by the organization of these facilities, especially the police station, water and waste plants. They asked many questions on how these facilities worked at a local level to handle the State’s needs. The mayors discussed the significant differences between waste and water management in Mali and waste and water management in the U.S. and what measures they can take to improve access to and quality of water and handling of waste in their own communities.

The delegation also had a unique opportunity to visit with the Sandy City, South Jordan and Ogden City councils. This gave them the opportunity to compare these councils and their functions against similar councils in their own regions. Each of these mayors works together with the city council in Mali in their respective regions to determine things like budget and requirements within the city limits. So it was nice to see some similarity of a process and observe how things are done in the US vs. Mali. The delegation also met with the African representative Franz Kolb at the Utah Office of Economic Development and Lew Cramer, President of the World Trade Center. The key topic of discussion was how to realistically implement a partnership between the cities in Utah and the cities represented by the delegation.

A good starting point was determined to be via the school systems in Utah and the primary schools in their cities. The delegation was pleased and impressed by the discussion and with the prospect of business partnerships between cities in Mali and cities in Utah.

The trip to Utah also included a visit to beautiful Temple Square. The delegation had a meeting with Elder Robert Gay of the Quorum of the Seventy of the LDS Church. Elder Gay is in charge of employment, education, and new business startups worldwide. At this meeting, they discussed the role of the Church in helping young people to find work after they have graduated. Elder Gay also emphasized that if education is only in the cities then the youth will come to the cities and never go back to the villages. The organization Unitus that Elder Gay helped start up is in the process of building apps that can be used on tablets and phones to help educate individuals in the rural villages. They are also focusing on water innovation in rural areas, primarily in Africa. Elder Gay asked the delegation to send him an official invitation to Mali to for his education application pilot program. The group also visited Welfare Square where they looked in amazement at the scale of services offered to the needy through the thrift store and employment program.

The final high note was a visit to none other than Costco. It is amazing the things we take for granted. Seeing so much food and items in one place can be overwhelming. The delegation loved it! I remember Yeah telling me when he first went to Costco back in 1999 when he first went the US, the feeling of awe that went through him and the realization that all the food there could help feed his own people back home.

All the delegation members wished the trip in Utah could go on longer so that they could see more and learn more. That is definitely something we will implement next year when we invite yet another batch of municipal leaders and mayors to come to Utah and other parts of the US for an exchange. The delegation was pleased with the trip and spoke of plans to act on what they had seen and learned, particularly in regards to partnerships.

I am thankful to all the wonderful people in Utah who helped with the delegation, especially the Utah League of Cities and Towns for arranging the meetings, the Empower Mali Foundation for arranging everything on the Mali side, our volunteers who translated and helped where they could, Jen Leahy our amazing photographer and Brett Van Leeuwen who kindly arranged lodging for all the delegation members in beautiful Alpine, Utah. It is support like this that makes what we do a possibility. We are grateful for your support!

The delegation is currently in NYC where they had the opportunity to visit the United Nations and the current Ambassador of Mali to the US Al-Maamoun Baba Lamine Keita. Also NYC hosts a strong population of Malians. The delegation was excited to meet with and mingle with many members there. The Malians in NYC showed great hospitality to the delegation, a tradition not forgotten or absolved of even though they are many miles away from Mali. The Malian delegation will return back to Mali this week.

It is opportunities like these that will empower our local leaders to effect change in their own communities. Yeah has often said: “A mind once stretched can never go back”. Yeah, through his public policy education at Brigham Young University, Utah has learned many things about governance. He has been able to apply the things that will work and has moved Ouelessebougou from the bottom 10 cities in Mali to one of the top five cities in terms of development and transparency. He talked last year with the Sutherland Institute about how his education has helped him . You can watch that video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8nFS7AwrpU

It is essential that leaders be given the opportunity to see the endless possibilities and then pick and choose what will work to better their communities’ lives and livelihood. We want Mali to be a strong nation with a prosperous people. It is for that reason that we create opportunities like these. We hope that through these conferences and summits, that we can affect change at the local level. It is a possibility that can be made a reality with the right kind of leadership and implementing the right processes for change. Ouelessebougou, Mali is proof of that and the track record of Yeah Samaké displays that he is the leader of good, honest change and can make Mali a great nation.

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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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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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Personal thoughts

March 21st 2012 meant a lot of things for our family. As we celebrated my son Keanen’s 6th birthday, we awaited news about what was happening in the middle of Bamako. What was happening was a coup that would spell the end for a 20-year-old democracy.

As we watched and waited, we were hit with every sensation you would get when you lose something/someone dear. The disbelief, the shock, the dread, the pain that this can’t be true, the anger at the why and finally a gradual acceptance of what cannot be changed.

As soon as dawn broke, Yeah was in different mode. From campaign mode he switched to firefighter and the diplomat. Now was not the time to be threatening action, now was the time to talk and make a plan on how to proceed. However Yeah was not going to just bow down to the coup. He condemned it on National TV and it was never played. He met with Sanogo and told him where he stood but how the country must move forward. As I watched Yeah go through his private struggle, it hit me how much he really did love his country. Inside, he was seething at what had been taken away but the surface was calm and realistic.  During the two weeks that followed, I saw him lead a difficult schedule. Sleep was the last thing on his mind and there were not enough hours in the day. As the rebels gained hold of first Gao, Kidal and then historic Tombouctou, it felt like the nightmare kept getting worse. What could be done? So Yeah did what he knows best? He became the mediator, the connection, the glue between political parties. His country suffering and divided became his own personal hell. You might think I am exaggerating. There is not one person I know that loves his country more than Yeah does. Every dream or task he has ever pursued ultimately lands up in Mali. Some may see it as carefully planning a political future, but what it really is, is the vision that Mali and Malians everywhere deserve better.

As Yeah became more and more tied up with meetings, to me it seemed like what we had been working towards was blown up. It did not seem like we would have elections. Worse still was the constant fear that something bad would happen. With Yeah so heavily involved with politics and the news spreading like wildfire that politicians were being “detained”, we only had to leave our wild imaginations to wonder why and when our turn would come. Secretly, I had packed a small bag and was ready during the first days to hightail with our kids to Ouelessebougou. Yeah kept asking me to go telling me the kids and I needed to be safe but listening never was one of my better qualities. It’s not that I wasn’t scared for the kids, but it terrified me more to see Mali in essence falling apart. Yeah wasn’t going and neither was I. We were in this together. I wasn’t going anywhere! Soon my attentions got fixed on other things. Making sure the world knew what was going on became important. As reports spread and continued to spread of looting, raping and random acts of violence, I continued to write because I felt that my adopted homeland was under fire for things some of which were not true. As people came out of the woodwork claiming atrocities, my heart was angered because I knew that they were doing it to get their two minutes of fame. As sanctions were threatened, I was angered because no person should have to suffer for the actions of someone else. Sanctions were not the answer, but it did get the intended impact and I understand that. I guess I would never be a good politician. As Azawad was claimed by the rebels, my people in the North went hungry. With every day that passed, 500 more refugees were displaced or escaped across the border. More and more the news became about the coup and people lost sight of the mothers, children, fathers and families that died or became another statistic. That continues to be a fight till today. As things in Bamako got better, a light seemed to shine that democracy would indeed we restored.

On Thursday, an interim President was assigned the job. Optimism is returning that politicians will meet around the table to discuss the situation and how best to get out of the crisis that has gripped Mali. This weekend is testament of that as Yeah meets with Burkina Faso President Blaise Campaoré with 70 other politicians from Mali. The aim is one. To unite Malians in an undivided Mali.

Let us not fail Mali now. Mali, now more than ever, needs good leadership. It needs diplomacy. It needs patriotism. It needs, in my humble opinion, Yeah.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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