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Helping affect Mali’s future

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

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

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

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

Ambassador Price with Yeah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Interim President of Mali returns to Mali with new plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Guiding Mali forward

If you had told me a few months ago what would happen in Mali, I would not have believed it. The events that have unfolded since the March 21st coup were an awakening. An awakening that Mali was not as stable a democracy that everyone in Africa seemed to think it was and that Mali had fallen the hardest when it seemed the most stable. Since then Mali’s way of life and the uncertainty in government has moved Mali back 20 years. It is unbelievable that one man could change so much. There seems to be little political drama these days and calm seems to be on the surface. The African Union has since disregarded the agreement that was signed with Sanogo giving him ex-Presidential privileges. However it remains to be seen how much power they have to even enforce it.  It is easier to give something than to take it away once given. The ripples of dissent are there. People are unhappy with the way things are playing in the North. The latest attack on Mali’s national treasures has caused such anger that it makes me question humanity a little. Mali has gotten more attention from the West with the destruction of Tombouctou’s mausoleums to its Sufi Saints, a UN World Heritage site. If sites/things can get this much attention, how come 250000 displaced refugees cannot get a similar reaction. Have we come to a time in our history where human life is cheap and dispensable but historical artifacts are not?

The refugee situation is becoming worse and the situation will continue to degrade unless the security is restored in the North. People flee when conditions are not safe. The Malian government has been unable to re-secure Northern territory. In addition the destruction on World Heritage sites and the increased punishment under Sharia law has made people desperate. People are so frightened that they are willing to leave homes, land and family behind. Just last week, a woman carrying her baby on her back who was getting water was flogged by Islamists. Her crime? Her head scarf had fallen as she tried to fill water. Today, she and her child lie in a hospital. In other incidents, young men have been flogged for stealing or associating with women. The young men of Tombouctou and Gao are so angered by the situation that they have taken to the streets with clubs and machetes. However while they are bigger in number, they are no match for Ansar Dine’s men that are equipped with guns.  Something has to happen soon from the Government of Mali. We cannot lose the future of Mali. Ansar Dine has proven its original mission of its own state to ensure the Tuareg’s well-being is polluted with an agenda of terrorism.

In yet another move to progress Mali back to democracy, Prime Minister Diarra advised ECOWAS of a roadmap to ending Mali’s two big issues: terrorism in the North and ability to hold credible elections after the one year transition. There is talk of creating more opportunities for political actors from other parties so that government can indeed be more diverse. Diarra has said that he would welcome the 3000 ECOWAS troops only if they were to rid the North of terrorists.  If all is kept on schedule and the new plan accepted then Mali would be on course to hold elections in May 2013. One of the biggest issues in Mali today is most political parties feel excluded from the government; hence instead of supporting Diarra they are constantly opposing his policies. If a government were created that held no majority, while it would bring in differing agendas, it will also give political parties the chance they seem to be asking for to make a difference. Hopefully, it will not become yet another political circus. Yeah has constantly called for a national unity government to be formed but has also cautioned against furthering personal agendas. He said in a recent debate:” When a nation is faced with its survival it must act in unison. The quarrels of interest will always exist but the existence of our territorial integrity must come before our partisan interests”.

Many people have asked us whether we plan on dropping out of the campaign. Giving up on Mali is not an option for us. Our efforts will be focused on making sure the right things happen for the Malian people in terms of getting refugee aid and contacting governments to advise them of how they can help.

It is essential that national unity be achieved first so that international support will return. Then a better equipped army can be deployed that has confidence in their leaders. After that the North can be regained and the terrorists kicked out. If we don’t do that soon, it may be too late. The time has run out and enough is enough. Once security and safety returns to the region, the refugees will return home.  Mali cannot afford another blunder. We are on the right path, but it is moving slowly

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Join Yeah Samake at an event in UTAH!

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

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

The situation in Mali is bleak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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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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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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Civilian rule continues unharmed

Amidst the dust storms that settled over Bamako, there came news mid evening that gunfire was being reported in the vicinity of the news station ORTM and Kati (the military barracks). ORTM has been at the heart of Mali history in the making for the last month and a half. The first coup happened at ORTM. So what exactly was going on? The loyalists to the deposed president Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) were reported to have joined forces with foreign fighters to try to defeat the junta and reclaim ORTM. It was interesting to note the changing news stories in the first few hours as journalists reported how first the junta was in control and then the loyalist forces and then the junta again. Interesting because it showed an uncertainty of the rapidly developing situation. The loyalists are known as the Red Berets and are the personal bodyguard of the President, very similar to the Secret Service. It is also interesting to note that when the coup first happened on March 21st, there were reports of the Red Berets launching a counterstrike, but then junta leader Sanogo had come on TV with the Red Berets and said that they were all one and fighting for the same cause.

The Red Berets and junta show a united from on ORTM (March 22)

So why the sudden change of heart? It would be pointless to re-institute ATT as President given his term was essentially done as of April 29th and that most Malians are fed up with his lack luster leadership over the last year. To put ATT in office would essentially cause a lot more trouble than is worth and even ATT, given his recent fleeing to Senegal does not seem willing to put his life on the line. So why now? The past week has seen a number of decisions made by ECOWAS and the interim President Diacounda regarding the length before elections, which has been set at 12 months, Diacounda’s term possibly being extended to 12 months and the deployment of ECOWAS troops in Mali. This has caused some consternation among the junta as the extension of Diacounda’s term is a violation of the Mali constitution and the junta in no way was part of this new agreement which goes against the framework agreement of April 6th. In addition, the junta and most Malians do not want foreigners fighting on Malian soil. What they want is weaponry, logistics and supplies that can help guide their efforts in the North of the country. Today, there was to be a meeting between the junta and ECOWAS to discuss these things. However, yesterday evening, tensions flared first as the student association AEEM attacked the radio station run by Oumar Mariko, a junta loyalist. Red Berets stormed ORTM with the hopes of defeating the junta and soon reports were swirling around about the Berets having taken over ORTM and the airport. As we reached midnight, nothing seemed clear. Reports claimed 14 junta and Red Berets were dead and 40 injured.

This morning, I woke up to rumbling thunder. In the first moments I thought it was gunfire, but then realized that the rain was coming to wash away the bad dust storm that has captured the city. No new news has been reported and in my opinion, no news is sometimes good news. Sanogo came in a recorded broadcast and spoke to the Malian people this evening. He advised that certain foreign militia had teamed up with the Red Berets to try to stage a mutiny against the junta. Sanogo told the Malian people not to worry and that all was well. He was firm and said that none of the governments that have been installed are in danger. They remain and Mali continues to be ruled in effect by an interim President Diacounda, a Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra and the transitional government of 24 members. Sanogo has advised his job is to ensure Mali and Malians remain safe and that the seat of government should not fall. Yeah also called Prime Minister Diarra early this morning to ensure his safety and the safety of the government as the situation developed. There were also rumors swirling about ECOWAS troops being in Ouelessebougou, which Yeah quickly dispelled. The Prime Minister, encouraged Yeah to spread a message to all American leaders he was meeting with. His position is that what happened on March 21st was a mutiny (and not a coup) against a corrupt government and that stability has been restored with an interim President and civilian transitional government. It is the hope of PM Diarra that countries like America will understand that the aid they have continued to suspend is a hard blow to the innocent civilians that need it most. It is the hope that this aid will be restored so Mali can recover quickly.

As it stands now, the airport, ORTM and other key areas are under the junta’s protection. They have also taken over the Red Berets Djicoroni camp. The airport has been shut down not only due to the bad visibility but now the fighting. There are reports of flights operating on the 4th of May. Also, a large amount of guns, grenades and missiles have been confiscated from these armed groups.

The junta has successfully quashed two counter-strikes now and in a way has shown their ability to protect Mali from further falling. Their inabilities in the North are attributed to ATT who never prepared his army to fight an insurgency. All the weaponry provided by the Western governments is rumored to have never reached the soldiers. Sending troops without arms into battle would be sending them to an early grave and risking the lives of 100K people in the region. To many Malians, the junta is their hero, having saved them from being marginalized further by a corrupt, ineffective government.

My two cents. It makes no sense why the Red Berets would launch a counter offensive. It might just be militia trying to make the most of the uncertain times in Mali. That is why it is important now more than ever for Malians to stand up for their country and unite in the face of rebellion. No use turning the clock back. I guess call me the optimist, but Mali is heading in the right direction with the objective being the installation of a leader that will resolve the countries bigger issues like education, the economy and the healthcare system. For now, it will be essential to protect the semblance of the government in place so that calm may be re-established and that the needful may be done like restoring Mali’s territorial integrity. We need to live in the moment. We have to make the most of what has happened and help build a strong foundation upon which Mali’s democracy may grow.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 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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Developments towards a sustainable democracy

As the political uncertainty hovers around Mali, the average Malian individual’s life has returned back to somewhat of a normalcy. It is not that people do not care. However, there are more important things for the average Malian than what is happening or not happening in central Bamako. Malians have been served a plate of misery and as long as their leaders don’t make their deplorable lifestyles even worse, they will usually not speak out. However, despite this, if one were to ask a Malian what they think about the situation currently, most Malians will just shake their heads in amazement as to how Mali will get out of this dilemma and which leader is honest and capable enough to help do it.

Part of the plan made between the political class of Mali and the junta in Burkina Faso was to choose a prime minister who would then choose a transitional government that would take the country one step closer to restoring democracy. Yesterday, the big announcement came that most of the political circle and international community was watching and waiting for. The announcement of the transitional government.

The agreement reached on April 6th between the ECOWAS and the junta was that the transitional government would be a national unity government. That is it would contain representatives from all national forces. This was not to be and the Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra created a 24-member government without consultation with the political parties, whose members had not served in the prior President’s cabinet.  The breakdown is 21 ministers and 3 deputy ministers. Of the 21 ministers, three army representatives close to military leaders who overthrew the government last month are part of this government. They hold three of the big posts namely, defense, interior and civil protection. 3 of the 21 ministers are women. The way the government was created has caused some unhappiness in the political circles, especially from the bigger parties that have ruled Mali’s political scene for many decades. There was a hope that some of their representatives would have been part of the new government and many of these parties had spent long weeks trying to sweeten the deal with the junta and then the Prime Minister. An interesting fact to note also is that most of these appointed individuals do not have a heavily involved political background. In addition a few have spent a majority of their time outside Mali and have ties to neighboring countries and international institutions.

The appointments are as follows:

1 – Minister of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs and international cooperation: Sadio Lamine SOW

Sadio, has had little political clout in Mali. His main role has been as an aide to Burkina Faso President Blaise Campaoré (the mediator assigned by ECOWAS to help with this crisis). He has worked a majority of his life outside Mali. Having this individual fill this role might come across as a conflict of interest given his close ties to another country’s President.

2 – Minister of economy, finance and Budget: Tiéna COULIBALY

Tiéna Coulibaly is better known in Mali as the Director of the Malian Textile Development Company (CMDT) and former Director of Mali’s Cotton Privatization Agency. Also interesting is that he held the same exact position under President Moussa Traoré, who was overthrown by ATT in the 1991 coup.

3 – Minister of defense and former combatants: Colonel – Major Yamoussa CAMARA (This is a post that is held by one of the junta’s people.)

4 – Minister of internal security and Civil Protection: General Tiéfing KONATE (Another post that is held by one of the junta’s people.)

5 – Minister of public service, governance and administrative reforms and policies, Chargé des Relations with Institutions: Namory TRAORE Mamadou

Dr. Namory TRAORE Mamadou has served as the National Director of Health in the past.

6 – Minister of Territorial Administration, decentralization and development of the territory: Colonel Moussa COULIBALY Sinko (Another post that is held by one of the junta.)

This is an important post given that this individual will work to ensure free and fair elections in all territories. Also this individual before this appointment was the junta leader’s chief of staff.

7 – Minister of trade, mines and industry: Ahmadou TOURE

Interesting fact is that M. Toure is the brother-in-law of the candidate of the URD, Soumaïla Cissé, who was arrested in the wave of arrests recently.

8 – Minister of Agriculture, breeding and fishing: Moussa SIDIBE Léo

M. Sidibe belongs to ADEMA, the same political party as the interim President. He served as the Secretary General for the Ministry of Agriculture under the previous administration.

9 – Minister of youth, labor, employment and vocational training: Mamadou DIAKITE

10 – Minister of health: Soumana MAKADJI

11 – Minister of Education, literacy and the Promotion of the national languages: Adama OUANE

12 – Minister of Justice, keeper of the seals: Malick COULIBALY

A change in what has become norm, M. Coulibaly has been a firm critic of judges and justice in Mali. His classmates from Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA Bamako) and colleagues recognize him as “a principled, honest, rigorous work.” His task will be to fight the corruption that has seeped deep into the government.

13 – Minister of Malians abroad and African integration: Ms. TRAORE Rokia GUIKINE

A career diplomat, Ms Traore was Ambassador of Mali to Gabon, technical advisor and director of international cooperation. Before her appointment, she was the secretary general of Soumeylou Boubèye Maiga, former Foreign Ministry.

14 – Minister of Humanitarian Action, solidarity and the elderly: Dr Mamadou SIDIBE

M. Sidibe was a former Director of Human Resources (HR) of Health, Social Development and Promotion of Women and Children. Given the travelling he has done as part of his previous roles, he is recognized as a connoisseur of the country. The expectation on him will be to assess the health and humanitarian situation in the North where the situation is dire.

15 – Minister of the family, the advancement of women and the child: Madam ALWATA Ichata SAHI

Madam Sahi is an active and influential member of the Women’s Movement in the ADEMA party. She also previously served as the African Representative for Afrique de l’ouest de l’Organisation Panafricaine des Femmes.

16 – Minister of energy, water and the environment: Alfa Bocar NAFO

 Served as CEO of the Regional Solidarity Bank (BRS).

17 – Crafts, Culture and Tourism Minister: Mrs. DIALLO Fadime TOURE

A sister-in-law of Madani Diallo, a prominent member of ADEMA and candidate in the 2002 presidential election.

18 – Minister of Communication, post and New Technologies: Hamadoun TOURE

Dr. Hamadoun Touré of Mali has been Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the specialized agency of the Nations dedicated to information and communication technologies (ICTs), since 2007. He was re-elected for a second four-year term in 2010. Also he was the spokesman for the United Nations mission in Côte d’Ivoire last year and is very close to Ivoirian President Alassane Ouattara.

19 – Minister of equipment, transport, housing and urbanism: Mamadou COULIBALY

20 – Minister of higher education and scientific research: Harouna KANTE

21 – Minister of sport: Hameye Founé MAHALMADANE

M. MAHALMADANE was previously the secretary general of the Free Trade Union of Magistrates (SYLMA) and a very active campaigner against the constitutional reforms initiated by former President Amadou Toumani Toure.

22 – Minister delegate to the Minister of economy, finance and the Budget, Chargé du Budget: Marimpa SAMOURA

23 – Minister delegate to the Minister of the public service, responsible for policy reforms and Relations with Institutions: Yacouba DIALLO

24 – Minister delegate to the Minister of youth, labor and employment and vocational training, responsible for youth and vocational training: Bruno MAÏGA

It will be interesting to watch and see how this new government will operate. While it is interesting to note the lack of political know how of the appointees, it will also be refreshing to not have individuals that have been soaked in bad policies and corruption.  Corruption remains one of the biggest challenges in Malian government and is one of the reasons that ATT lost favor during the last few years. There does seem to be a few players and connections from ADEMA, which lends the perception that the interim president Diacounda Traoré might have pushed the vote in certain party affiliated individual’s directions.

The aim of this transitional government is to set a date for fair and free elections and in essence help the Prime Minister run the government until elections can be held.

Things are progressing in the right direction. The coup has opened up the possibility for Mali to root out the inefficiencies and corruption that was making Mali a democracy in name alone. The hope is that once our territories are returned and our people come back home in the North, then elections can be held that will allow the people to once again choose their leader.

Yeah has said, ““The junta has given us the opportunity to change Mali,” adding that the coup of March 22 exposed the political dysfunction in Mali. Through this crisis, democracy must be rebuilt on a solid foundation. “If we miss this opportunity, the castle of Malian democracy will still grow on the same sand that made it collapse,” Yeah has said. This objective will be achieved when “the old guard agrees to make way for the new generation,” he concluded.

Sounds like the needful is happening. Small steps to a bigger, hopefully better future.

Some recent articles in the news:

  1. Canard Dechaine( in French): Niankoro Yeah Samake, president of the PACP: “We will not accept that Mali is untrustworthy”
    1. English version click here
  2. Zero Hora( Brazilian Newspaper): Interview with Yeah
    1. English version click here
  3. India West: Wife of Malian Presidential Candidate Encourages Democracy
 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Small steps in the right direction

ADPS members Nouhoum Sa and Fomba watch on as Yeah exchanges a few words with Pres. Campaore

The meetings of this past weekend were a step in the right direction. Yeah and his team ADPS made sure that preserving Mali’s sovereignty was foremost as they headed to a weekend full of conferences with President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Campaoré, who has been appointed the official mediator by ECOWAS. Since the first part of the ECOWAS agreement had been honored by instituting interim President of Mali Diacounda Traoré, it was essential to discuss how Mali would now move forward. Diacounda’s primary responsibility is to reunite the country by regaining Mali’s 3 lost regions. The conference was filled with 78 members representing the different stakeholders in Mali. The conference provided a stage for political parties and representatives of the civil society to discuss their views on a number of topics including the territorial integrity of Mali, the transitional authorities, the duration of the interim presidency, and the authority that will make the choice of the Prime Minister to lead that the transitional government.

I am not going to lie and say that everyone had the same expectations.  Some of the participants were under the impression that the conference would designate the PM and members of the transitional government. However, it was more important to decide logistics before suggesting and appointing people. It was honestly a nice change to see somewhat of a democracy in action as leaders discussed what would best serve Mali in terms of leadership.

Yeah advised that the current interim President should not be able to name the next Prime Minister. If given that ability, Diacounda would have the power to put someone affiliated to his political party and potentially cause unneeded bias, especially at this sensitive time. It will be important for a non-partisan body to choose the Prime Minister. The only non-partisan body at this time is the junta. Hence, that role was given them and they will be tasked with choosing the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister in turn will be responsible to lead his transitional government before elections takes place.

So who is the new PM? The new PM announced just 30 minutes ago is Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft’s Africa Corporation chairman and a former NASA astrophysicist. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheick_Modibo_Diarra). He was also a Presidential candidate for the 2012 elections. This could be either good for the country or really bad. Diarra lacks the political experience having no role in the political circle but might be what is needed to bind the differing political parties and views together in a strong transitional government that can lead the country till elections.

The agenda in Burkina contain essential promises and decisions that will affect the future of Mali. I can’t believe this all started less than a month ago. Mali has seen three different Presidents (ATT, Sanogo and now Diacounda) in a matter of 27 days. Now more than ever, Mali and Malians need to feel some stability return to the country. The country looks like it’s getting back on the track of democracy. And that is the right direction!

For those interested, the agreement (translated) made and acknowledged by all parties in Burkina Faso is as follows:

SOLEMN DECLARATION PROJECT BY THE VITAL FORCES OF MALI

The Conference of Active Forces of the Republic of Mali met in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, under the auspices of His Excellency Blaise Campaoré, President of Burkina Faso, and the mediator of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Malian crisis.

Welcoming the Framework Agreement of 6 April 2012 on the implementation of the solemn declaration of the President of the National Committee for the relief of Democracy and Restoration of the State (CNRDRE) from 1 April 2012 on the return to constitutional order;

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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