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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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The youth movement!

Team Samake

“Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.” — Kofi Annan

One of the most essential parts of the Samake campaign in Mali is the youth movement. The success of our campaign so far in Mali has been because Yeah has been able to get the youth involved and encourage them to become part of the Mali solution. And they should be. From a recent survey done, Mali’s youth population is the 3rd largest in the world with 47% of the 15.1 MILLION population between the ages of 18-24. (http://world.bymap.org/YoungPopulation.html). Some other studies quote even higher percentages. The youth need a voice. And Yeah has been giving that voice to them.

On a daily basis I see people who give up of their time and efforts to benefit the campaign. A few of them have been with this campaign since its inception in early 2011.

Most recently, 25 different leaders over youth associations all over Bamako banded together to form Association des Jeunes Leaders pour le changement et de la Decentralization du Mali (Association of Young Leaders for Change and Decentralization in Mali). Their goal was to use their Association and their voices among the community to help Yeah spread the message of change. As one of our volunteers, Dramane Bagayoko , reports: “We created this group to better support Yeah Samake and to spread the word about his political party PACP all over Mali. Mr. Samake spoke to us about his biography. What motivates us is that it is a powerful, incredible biography of one man who came from a village but has the vision to change Mali. We are ready to fight for Yeah Samake’s victory. We are ready to support an honest leader like Yeah Samake.The President of our Association decided that he would lead the association to fully support Yeah. We , the youth, understand that we need a person who has helped the youth and will continue to help youth. We know that Mr. Samake will create the educational opportunities for the youth so Mali can be a great country filled with many opportunities. To start our activities, we will host a number of soccer matches among the different districts in Bamako. This will allow us to raise alot of attention about Yeah Samake as these matches will be well attended by all the university students in the area. We will continue to give our voice to this leader as we believe in his efforts and we believe that he is the best chance for Mali.

Every day, new groups like these are being formed. Every day in a different region of Mali, a new group vows to help Yeah bring change to Mali. We know that this fight is not over. In fact it has just begun. Mali’s time and resources have been wasted too much by the old political class. It is time that someone gave back to Mali and Malians everywhere.

All these supporters have become a vital lifeline to Team Samake. A 24/7 commitment is not what drives Team Samaké. All our volunteers have full time jobs and commitments and still find the time to lend their voices and talents to this campaign because of their faith in the country Mali can become with a leader like Yeah. Check out the stories of our volunteers and what they are doing on behalf of Team Samake and Mali at www.isupportyeah.com. If you have a story about Yeah, reasons why you support him, or thoughts about a recent Samaké2013 event that you would like to share please email us at teamsamake@gmail.com to share your experience.

Those of you who have met Yeah know of what he is capable of and what he has already done for his people. Those of you who haven’t have read of his journey and his contributions to Mali. Yeah has the ability to change Mali for the better. Without the volunteers, this campaign would have been hard. Never underestimate the value of yourself and what you can offer. If you believe that this campaign is an effort to break the chains of poverty, illiteracy and poor healthcare, then support us. The people on the ground in Mali need change. If every person we knew donated the money they used for one morning coffee or soda, we could easily raise a $1000 in an hour. A $1000 helps us hold a rally in a big village. A $1000 can fill the gas tank of 50 motorcycles to reach the distant villages and towns. Support does not have to be financial. The power of the human voice is unmatchable. Tell a friend. Tell 100 friends. Post it on Facebook, Twitter and any other outlet you can think of. We have the ability to win this for Malians everywhere. But we cannot do this without you. This isn’t about winning the election on July 7th 2013. However the election is the first step to creating a secure Mali of equality and better living conditions. Can I count on you?

maliheart

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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French Ambassador Rouyer makes historic visit to Ouelessebougou

Ouelessebougou and the surrounding communities welcomed a very special guest to their commune on March 26th, 2013. The visit was the first of its kind by a dignitary of this magnitude in this region of Mali. Given the recent circumstances in which France has extended solidarity to Mali, Yeah, in his mayoral capacity, invited the Ambassador of France to Mali, Ambassador Christian Rouyer, to see Ouelessebougou and experience the many developments ongoing in the region. Ouelessebougou already shares a sister city relationship with Pontivy in France. Through it many great projects in the areas of water and education has become a reality for Ouelessebougou.

Ambassador Rouyer and the French delegation were received with great pomp as he and his delegation entered the city of Ouelessebougou. The air was thick with excitement as such an event has not seen for as long as many could remember. The people of Ouelessebougou and the surrounding villages turned out in droves to meet the French delegation.

Ambassador Rouyer in his speech was very appreciative to the people that came out to welcome him so warmly. In his speech he expressed gratitude to the people of Ouelessebougou and also their leader Yeah. He has been very appreciative of the leadership role that Yeah has played since last year’s coup. Regarding the situation in Mali, he said it was France’s obligation to help Mali. For during the Second World War, it was many Malians who paid the price of freedom with their life as they fought for France. Now it was France’s turn to help Mali combat terrorists. About governance in Mali, Ambassador Rouyer bluntly stressed that “Mali is not condemned to poverty, corruption and rebellion. It’s just a question of governance. It has all the capacity and potential to remain strong among the great nations of the world. In any case”, he added, “the majority of Malians aspire to a profound change. To do this, the Malian people must take their destiny in hand through a high turnout in elections to elect men and women to meet their aspirations.” This was amazing to hear as it was a reaffirmation of what Yeah has been saying all along. Mali’s many problems come not from the lack or inability of Malians, but rather from the leadership that has failed them.

Mayor Yeah Samaké then presented the Ambassador with a flag of Mali as a token of appreciation. This is the same flag that Yeah was presented with by Colonel Keba Sangare in Tombouctou last week. Colonel Sangare is a Red Beret and paratrooper commando and is the current commander over the 5th military region in the North. He had presented Yeah with the Malian flag as an appreciation for what Yeah has done for Mali. By giving the same flag to Ambassador Rouyer, Yeah was extending the military’s appreciation for the French forces now fighting on Mali’s behalf.

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After the speeches and an afternoon filled with cultural richness, Ambassador Rouyer and his delegation joined the dancing. Malians love music and love to dance. For Malians to see “white” people dancing is indeed unique, but also it warms their hearts, for to them it is an acceptance and embracing of the Malian culture. The visitors were not shy. They seemed to truly enjoy the Malian culture that is often hidden in the city life of Bamako. Many of these diplomats will not venture past the main cities because their duties usually keep them in these areas.

The evening ended on a high note as Yeah led the delegation to look at all the development projects and achievements Ouelessebougou enjoys today. Ouelessebougou enjoys the spot as one of the top 5 cities in terms of development and management. Many people in Ouelessebougou have not been as affected by the economic crisis in Mali as other villages and cities. This is apparent in the level of development projects present and the life style of the people of Ouelessebougou. As they toured the solar panel field, high school, the hospital and water tank, there was great, genuine, appreciation for how far Ouelessebougou has progressed in comparison to other areas.

The date that this took place is also a memorable date for Malians. March 26th marks the anniversary of the martyrs that lost their lives for democracy in Mali. On March 26th, 1991, after days of fighting, displeasure over the military dictator Moussa Traore’s government reached its peak. Many university students especially lost their lives as riots seized the streets of Bamako. I remember Yeah telling me, that back in those days, he was a student at ENSUP. He remembers going to join the movement against the dictator. However with the death toll mounting, his father came all the way to Bamako and pleaded with him not to join. Soon, the army lead by Lieutenant-colonel Amadou Toumani Touré (the same President who was overthrown last year), refused to fight the civilians and instead with a team of 18 other soldiers they arrested and overthrew President Moussa Traore. Malians have long celebrated those that gave their lives for the democracy movement. This year, this day holds more significance for it is a caution that those deaths should not continue to be in vain. That the democracy that they fought for should not be forgotten and that Mali must return to a government where the people are represented.

Ambassador Rouyer expressed his genuine gratitude for this memorable event. It comes at a time, when his tour of duty in Mali comes to an end. A Sarkozy appointee, he will return to France soon and he will be replaced by Gilles Huberson. He has been an outspoken advocate for the French military intervention and had been posted in Mali since 2011 and had cautioned about rebels in the North long before they took over.

This is a memorable event for Ouelessebougou as well. It comes at a time when Ouelessebougou is enjoying its own successes and growth. It is hoped this event will only bring more development opportunities to Ouelessebougou and the surrounding communities.

It is at times like this, that I pray that people will see the great work that Yeah does. Yeah doesn’t do it because he will personally gain. The successes of his people and his community are paramount to any political ambitions. However we realize that it is only through our political ambitions that we can spread the successes of Ouelessebougou to all of Mali.

I have read comments that try to downplay Yeah’s popularity. I would urge all these naysayers to actually venture past the walls of Bamako and gain a true perspective of the 80% population and what they say about Yeah Samaké. What Mali needs is a leader that is trustworthy and dependable. A leader that will guide Mali to greatness and Malians to a better standard of living. A leader that has actually done something for his community and given rather than taken away from Mali.

This all is possible. Two words: YEAH SAMAKE.

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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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MALI COUP: The coup that brought democracy to its knees

Today, Malians will remember a very controversial day in its history. Today, Mali marks the one year anniversary of the coup that ended 20 years of a stable democracy.

I remember the day, a year ago, like it was yesterday. My heart is still scarred with the pain that surged through me as I watched the panic grip Mali. My stomach still recollects the feeling of fear and apprehension of the unknown. I still remember clearly, the days after as all of Mali seemed gripped, not knowing what to do or who was right.

On March 22nd 2012, the actions of a few would re-write Malian history. On March 21st, mid afternoon, a few junior officers, disgruntled with the regime’s inaction in the North of Mali against rebels, stormed the National TV station. For a day, the station’s channel stayed black interrupted only by hours and hours of Mali’s music. The air resounded with intermittent gun fire. Then at 4am on March 22nd, Mali’s immediate dilemma became apparent as the TV zoomed in on a group of officers with guns surrounding one man: Captain Amadou Aya Sanogo. Here was a man, Mali knew nothing about and in one fell swoop, he became the man of the hour. Till today, the controversies exist. Malians remain divided on where loyalties lie. Many Malians believe that Sanogo saved them from the plots of the government. Soon after the coup, rumors circulated that the deposed president Amadou Toumani Toure had in his possession the money and materials to promote and rig an election in favor of one of the candidates, Modibo Sidibe. This rumor was spread far and wide and is a common story given by those who support Sanogo and his actions. There are others that remain loyal to the previous regime believing that the soldier’s duty is to defend their country but under Sanogo’s watch, Mali lost a huge portion of its territory.

The announcement on March 22, 2012

The announcement on March 22, 2012

In the days that followed, the streets of Bamako reflected the days of the deadly student revolution of 1991. There was looting of the government offices and the presidential palace. Soldiers were confiscating vehicles and cars. In fact, some tried to stop the car Yeah was in but Yeah advised his driver to keep moving. The soldier was infuriated by this action and shot a round in the air, but that only made them drive faster. Political leaders joined the fray and Sanogo’s office was filled with many leaders that wanted favors in the new government.

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March 22nd 2012: Yeah Samake meets with Sanogo to ask him to return power to the people of Mali

In all this, Yeah remained true to what he stood for. He recounts the day he met Sanogo for the first time: “I came walking through the crowd and went and stood in front of the office of the captain.  And he was just walking into his office and he said Mayor Samake!  He recognized me with perfect English, and I said ‘Captain, I have been waiting to get to see you for an hour’. And he said ‘Come with me.’  He said, ‘What has brought you here today?’  I said I came to ask him to turn the power back to civilians.  That power belonged to civilians and he needs to turn that back.   He looked at me and said, ‘Why have you come here to tell me that?’  To which I replied: “Because I know you love this country—you’re wearing the uniform. No matter what your motives are, I know you love this country.  And I love this country—I have sacrificed for this country.  So I am here to help you make things right.  If there is anything I can do, I’d be happy to help. He looked at me and said, ‘How? How do I do that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, you will figure it out.’  As I walked out, he asked me if I would say something to the national television that he was in control of.  He brought in the camera and microphone and asked me to say something and he was probably expecting me to say something else.  I told to the microphone exactly what I had told him—that he needs to give the power back to the civilians and reorganize the military quickly so that Mali can defend itself.   He didn’t like that-he didn’t show that, that was censored. But this built a very trustful relationship between me and the captain.  He respects me, till today, that I had come and said this.  And he has turned to me several times, as a political leader, to solve some urgent problems that he couldn’t, or the military couldn’t.  So, he knows that everything I’m doing, I’m doing it for the love of the country, not for my own sake.”

Sanogo’s actions in the last year seem disjointed. While his initial actions seem to indicate a desire to rid the country of the old, corrupt politicians, his actions in the months that followed raise questions. The weeks that followed the coup were filled with many political arrests. At first we did not know who was getting arrested and on what basis. We did not know whether given his political status, Yeah would be next. All we knew was now was not the time to give up. If we gave up now, then we were not fit to lead this country.  Soon we found out that the people being arrested were former politicians that had stolen money from the country and army officers that had colluded with the deposed president. Through all this Yeah encouraged Sanogo to let these people go and ensure that Mali’s justice system handled it. Some were let go, and others fled in fear that they were next.

As Mali’s neighbors closed their borders, the country became afflicted with a fresh crisis. No one could get out and no one and nothing could get in. With the economic crisis looming, Sanogo was forced to let go of leading the country. After multiple backroom deals and with growing pressure from the West African neighbors, Sanogo announced he would step aside and allow the Assembly President to become the interim President as per the 1992 constitution. This was probably the best time to ensure that a government was put in place that would truly handle the needs of the Malian. What instead happened is the old guard, that was responsible for Mali’s growing economic and development issues, were put back into power under a different puppet. The current interim government is filled with the old guard of Mali’s failed democracy and continues to display the very reason why the coup happened. It is filled with bureaucracy and inefficiencies.

As part of stepping aside, Sanogo would receive full benefits as an ex-President, including but not limited to a house, constant security and money each month. For me, this was the part that first created some disillusionment about Sanogo. Here was a man who was saying he was doing this for Mali and suddenly, here he was taking from Mali. What separated him from the corrupt President he helped overthrow?

In the months that followed, Sanogo would show the country and the world just how much power he really had. The silent arrests continued to happen. In fact in December 2012, he demonstrated this power when he removed the Prime Minister (PM) Cheick Modibo Diarra from office. The reason explained was that the PM was attempting to run in the elections and was using his office and the country’s limited resources to do so. One of the pre-clauses of the interim government that Sanogo required was that no participant in the government would be allowed to run when elections were held in 2013. In a way, these actions restored some confidence in Sanogo. To Malians, he demonstrated that he had their best interests at heart and wanted to make sure the leaders in place continued to be held accountable.

To me when you think March 22 in Mali these days, Sanogo is the name that comes to mind. Most Malians regard him as a hero, regardless of what has happened. For me, I am more divided. Maybe it because I personally associate the rebels taking the North and the issues that followed as a byproduct of the coup.

All I know now, is that Mali cannot afford a failed government. Mali cannot afford another leader that takes away more than they give. Today, my heart cries when I see how the people of this country continue to suffer for the actions of a few. It breaks my heart to see how the deplorable economy continues to take away from the ordinary Malian. Before the coup, Malians were already suffering. After the coup, a year later, the suffering is intensified. Life has become harder for everyone. But the one thing I love about this country is its resilience and ability to continue to live life as fully as possible. Malians have and will continue to make ends meet the best they can. The coup awakened Malians to the realization that they had become too silent in allowing their government to run things.

Today the mood has shifted in Mali. There seems to be eagerness among the youth and the middle aged citizens, a majority in Mali, to stand up and fight for democracy in Mali. The elections in July are a sign that Mali and Malians are ready to return their country back to the people.

We are ready for this fight. The victory is not the elections. The victory will be getting Mali back on track and helping it attain greatness for itself and its citizens. Mali can be a great country. Malians have suffered enough and it’s time to get rid of the leadership that is dragging our country back into the pits.

Today, I celebrate the resilience of all Malians. I celebrate the possibility of a return to democracy. I celebrate Yeah Samaké, a symbol of a new democracy in Mali.

We have a proven track record. All Yeah has ever done is give to Mali and Malians from schools to scholarships to medical missions to building a successful community in Ouelessebougou, which is ranked in the top 5 cities in all of Mali in terms of development, transparency and government.

We are fighting for Mali and Malians everywhere. Join us in our fight for this beautiful people and this wonderful country! Visit us at www.samake2013.com to find out how you can become part of the #MALIMOMENT

yeahsamake

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Journey to Tombouctou

Hope, destitution, order semi-restored, a lack of medical aid, a recovering region. These are just some of the feelings that besieged Yeah as he entered the gates of Tombouctou, Mali. The past year has seen a region that was once Mali’s poster child for tourism and history crumble under the harsh Sharia law and Islamic radicalism.

When the coup happened in March 2012, no one could have predicted that Mali’s northern region would be taken over and then raped of all her history and cultural richness. It did not stop there. Many Malians living in the region fled to escape Sharia law and the fighting. In January 2013, the first hope of freedom came when French forces entered the North in an attempt to fight back a growing Islamist threat. The fabled town of Tombouctou was once again free.

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This past week Yeah did the unthinkable. He and some foreign partners decided to visit Tombouctou so they could assess needs and see how to best bring in the aid needed. Very few people, other than military personnel, have gone to the region.

The idea behind the trip was not politically motivated. The hope was to extend to our brothers and sisters in Tombouctou solidarity and also truly find out what could be done to help restore hope for the people and the region to its previous glory.

With no options into Tombouctou, Yeah and his group resolved themselves to a 15 hour drive on bumpy roads interrupted only by moments when the driver had to carve their own way through the desert sand. There was a collective sigh of relief as they finally made it to Tombouctou.

Once there, the actual work began. The Mayor of Tombouctou, Hallè Ousmane, is based now in Bamako, so Yeah met with the Deputy Mayor Drawi Maiga. They discussed the issues of security, the reconstruction plan and the general living conditions of the people in the area. Maiga stated that the number one priority was the restoration of basic service provision in the town, including healthcare, water and most importantly the economic recovery of the city. The deputy mayor was very grateful to see the first visitors since the French military intervention, claiming it brought some hope that tourism would return to the region. Yeah advised him that he had come to express his support for the freedom of religion and tell the rest of the world that all of Mali embraces democratic values.

Under the guidance of a doctor from the local hospital, Yeah and his team visited the hospital and community clinics to assess the need and conditions. When the Islamists had taken over the region, many basic supplies and needs fell to the wayside.

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Yeah also visited the Ahmed Baba Institute, a library and research center, which held almost 60,000+ ancient manuscripts many of which were destroyed by the rebels. He was filled with a deep anger and sorrow that the physical proof of Mali’s history and its heritage had been destroyed by the selfish actions of a few. While few manuscripts have been destroyed, many remain intact due to the brave actions of the people living in the area.

AhmedBaba2

AhmedBaba

One of the key meetings Yeah had an opportunity to participate in was with Colonel Keba Sangare, the head of the Malian army command center in Tombouctou and the Commander of Operation Serval, General Grégoire de Saint-Quentin. The French general was meeting with the Malian military authorities in Tombouctou and local leaders to assure the support of the French troops and in turn called on the locals to help support their efforts. Unlike Gao, Tombouctou has not been hit by suicide bombers. This is due in part to the cooperation of the people in the region with the military forces. Yeah met with the leaders over the Malian forces thanking them for their service to our country.

ColBerthe

Meeting

In the last leg of the trip, Yeah and his team traveled to the remote towns of Diré and Bourem Sidi-Amar. While it is evident that these areas have returned to a normalcy, they continue to fight to make ends meet. It was interesting to see walls still plastered with Samaké posters and the overjoyed, welcoming faces of the men, women and children, and the village elders that wore their Samaké campaign buttons with pride. Standing in the town’s public square, Yeah restated his commitment to help the refugees, who have fled these areas, return home. The people were touched to see a fellow Malian coming to visit. Many Malians have stayed away from the area because of it being a high risk zone. Here was a man that was coming not only to extend his greetings but more important to ask how he could help. “To lead is to serve, nothing more, nothing less”.

Bourem

Meetingppl

This was a very successful trip for Yeah. It allowed him to connect with his brothers and sisters in Tombouctou who have been isolated from the rest of Mali. It allowed Team Samaké to assess the immediate needs and to bring the story back of what life is like in Tombouctou. Things are getting better. But they haven’t reached their peak. With proper leadership, economic development and growth can be brought to the region. With the right resources, the children and people of the North can enjoy the same benefits as their brothers and sisters in the South. Democracy must be restored. That was one message the people wanted to make sure the outside world knew. They want democracy!

Help us help the people of Mali. Help us make sure the things happen that will make democracy a reality for the people of Mali. Read more about our campaign at http://www.samake2013.com

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Mali’s future

The year 2012 has been a challenging one for Mali. Mali is already the second poorest nation in the world with issues in many sectors like healthcare, education and government. And if that is not bad enough, the coup last year has made matters worse. While Sanogo seems nowhere in the picture, it is not hard to see that not much happens without his approval. The Interim President Dioncounda is a President in name and more power lies with the Interim Prime Minister Django Sissoko, who so far seems as ineffective as his predecessor. December 2012 saw the resignation of the previous Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra as allegations circled that he was advancing his own political agenda instead of focusing on resolving Mali’s territorial integrity and helping prepare Mali for elections. After months of negotiations, the UN Security council finally backed a resolution to send an African led force to Mali to unseat the rebels in the Northern regions. Unfortunately we have seen more Islamist attacks on areas that were previously held by the Malian army. Yesterday, it was reported that there was an intense battle in the town of Konna, a small town by Mopti.Today reports show that the Malian army was able to successfully regain control of Konna.

So what does 2013 hold for Mali? One only has to be living among Malians to know that Mali is suffering internally. While Sanogo was hailed as a hero immediately after the coup, public opinion in his favor is starting to waiver. The cost of day to day goods has risen significantly and in an economy that already had a 35% unemployment rate before the coup, things seem bleak. Tourism has suffered dramatically and many hotels/restaurants are feeling the pinch. The people in the North are suffering under the imposition of Sharia law. In addition, the refugee crisis seems forgotten. It has become an issue that has been put on the back burner while Mali’s inefficient government tries to figure where it is going and what it is doing. Yeah’s most recent trip to the camps in Burkina Faso last week revealed degrading conditions. One woman in the camp told Yeah that the refugees were tired of the situation and the conditions and just wanted to return home. A home of a united Mali, not a North run by extremists.

The international community is requesting elections in April 2013. Is this doable? Many politicians, who were running prior to March 2012, have now been imprisoned or have fled the country in fear of the junta. The large parties have had to find replacements that are relatively new and unknown. In addition, some of the prior candidates are serving in the current interim government making them ineligible to run in the next elections. Finally, much of the collected campaign funds were utilized prior to the coup and so more fundraising needs to happen to replenish this fund to campaign. Despite these reasons, it is good to see that many of the old corrupt politicians are nowhere in sight to run in the next elections and that much of what is left are younger politicians with newer ideas on how to improve Mali.

However, if we don’t have elections soon, we will not have a government that is recognized as a true democracy. When you have too many players determining policy, fighting to regain the North will become harder. When you have a central leader recognized and elected by the people and a government that responds to that leader, then you have a unified front to represent Mali and regain the North. With all the forces involved from the junta to the interim President to the interim Prime Minister, you have too many faces trying to call the shots and assert authority. Elections mean one authority, one government and a stronger face against terrorism. So if that means April, we will have to be ready.

Mali cannot afford another failed government. I believe strongly, that Mali needs leadership. The issues to date have been caused by a lack of leadership. First, by the former President ATT who was overthrown and who for 10 years failed to raise the level of living. Then by Sanogo who let key parts of the country fall to rebels, while he asserted control. Then by a puppet government which has not truly led. We need to look at what is being done for Malians. While so-called Malian leaders were floundering in their self importance, it was Yeah who was meeting with other Malian politicians trying to reach a consensus on where Mali needed to go. It was Yeah educating key African and Western figures on understanding the situation in Mali from Mali’s perspective and about what was needed for Mali. It was Yeah who was bringing attention to the refugee crisis and reaching out to external organizations to send food and medical care.  Malians need a leader who isn’t self serving. They need a leader that has proved that a Malian’s life is more important than lining their own pockets. Now it is just a matter of allowing Malian voices to be heard so that free and fair elections will be held.

People ask me all the time. Why are you here? Aren’t you afraid for your family, for Yeah? I would be a fool if I said I did not fear for my family and Yeah’s well-being. I do worry, but if we don’t take this opportunity to make a difference, then the fate of 15 million people lies in the balance. Our comforts and tension is nothing compared to the suffering that Malians undergo daily.

The only hope for Mali now is to hold elections and create a strong, unified government. If Malians continue to hope the solution will come from outside, it will be too late. The economy cannot take another year of bad news.

I believe that Yeah can bring change. I believe that this campaign is not about just becoming President of a country. Rather I believe that this campaign has become a quest to restore integrity to a nation and bring hope to a people that are suffering. Too many years have passed with the Malian people being marginalized. Things need to change. Yeah possesses the skills, education and integrity needed to lead Mali. He possesses the strength and diplomacy to unify the government and restore his country.

If you believe like I do, then support us. Become a part of Team Samake and see how you can help us in 2013 to unite a country and raise hope for the people of Mali. www.samake2013.com

The Samake2012 year in review

The Samake2012 year in review

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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