What a busy couple of months it has been since our plane touched down in New Delhi, India!! The sights, smells and sounds of Delhi has brought back many beautiful memories. It has been 15 years since I returned back home to India and so far the experience has been marvelous. If anyone had said to me a few years ago, that I would be in India in service of the Malian people, I would have laughed. Our kids were amazed and did not believe it when we were called to serve in India. For many years, Keanen and Carmen would talk about India and how since they had lived in their dad’s country, they now wanted to visit their mom’s country. And what better way to do it than to help represent Mali’s interest in India.
On August 16th, our family and dog arrived safely in New Delhi. As we walked out of the plane we were greeted by the Mali Embassy team based in Delhi. But the welcome was not over yet. We were then welcomed by the Ambassadors of all the West African nations that are based in India. It was truly such a warm welcome and an unexpected honor. What a great start to our journey in India!
Just one short week later, we were in for another auspicious occasion. Yeah welcomed the First Lady of Mali, Her Excellency Madame Keita Aminata Maiga, and her delegation who arrived in New Delhi to attend a week-long conference on ending child and maternal deaths. Being an issue that is close to her heart, she spoke to Ministers of Health from many countries and Indians leaders on what Mali is doing to create a safer, healthier environment for both mothers and children. Reducing infant mortality while ensuring mother safety is a key part of her mission as a First Lady. It was an honor to meet her and it was interesting to notice a humility and down to earth nature that is usually not common to someone in such a high position. The trip was a first for the First Lady and an undoubted success!
Call2Action Summit 2015: First Lady of Mali with Indian PM Modi and other world health ministers
Ambassador Samake visiting with First Lady of Mali, Her Excellency Madame Keita Aminata Maiga
The very next week, on September 2nd, in an official ceremony, Yeah got to present his credentials to the Indian President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee.
Ambassador Yeah Samake presenting his credentials to Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee
And I was honored to watch him do this. What a once in a life time experience! With close to a billion population, not many Indians can say they shook hands with the President. The ceremony was amazing and awe inspiring. I am so proud of Yeah and all he has done to reach this stage of his career. After Yeah presented his credentials and the greetings of the President of Mali, he visited with the President to discuss the Mali-India relationship and what he hoped to accomplish to strengthen ties between the two countries. It was truly a special, memorable day. And the feeling of sitting in a car, flanked by Indian armored cars, with the Mali flag fluttering high, is just incomparable. In the months to come, Yeah will present his credentials in the 9 other countries we oversee: Bangladesh, Nepal , Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.
Since that auspicious day, in an effort to strengthen Mali-Indian ties, Yeah has held audiences with Indian businessmen from many different fields of interest to Mali. He also visited with the Indian Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Dr. Mahesh Sharma.
Yesterday, Mali celebrated her 55th Independence day. And what better way to celebrate this special day than with Malian students in the city of Bangalore. Many of the Malians that are in India are students pursuing a higher university degree. Yeah and his first counselor flew in to Bangalore to meet with the Malian student body. During their time, he visited with the students to better understand their goals and the challenges they face studying in India. This visit will open up opportunities to better place Malian students and also provide a better support system for them through the Embassy.
It has truly been a busy yet fulfilling few weeks. Our goal here in India, is to increase the profile of Mali and to create many more opportunities for the two countries to grow stronger together. And the start has been simply amazing!
Every morning, at the crack of dawn, there is a buzz of activity on the outskirts of the village of Fala. Every morning, young boys aged 12 and over, ropes slung over their back where bags should be will walk to the unapproved mines on the outskirts of Fala to begin their 10 hour shift. Mali remains the third biggest producer of gold in Africa producing close to 50 tonnes per year. Much of this gold money will never reach many of the people that work on the ground. So why do it? Because for these inhabitants of Fala, this is the only option.
The residents of Fala, like many villages in Mali, are fighting to make ends meet. They understand and see the power of an education when they see the better life of people in the city, but what are they to do. Where others have schools, they have mines. So they do what they must do to survive.
Meeting with the village leaders and parents of Fala, their plea is uniform when they ask Empower Mali to help bring a middle school to their village. The school will keep their young boys from the mine and give them an opportunity to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty. The middle school will save their girls from early marriages. When you invest in a school in Fala, you are not investing in a building. You are investing in a life which then has the capacity to impact a generation in the village.
Empower Mali ( empowermali.org) is a 501c3 foundation. We want to bless our children in Mali with opportunities but those cannot happen without donations. We build our schools to last many generations and for a lot less than the government. The school is a shared investment that the village continues to take care of because they contribute 20% of the cost and all land and labor.
We are trying to raise the final $8000.00 we need to make a 3-classroom middle school a reality for the village of Fala.
Check out our campaign to raise the final 8K. We have some fun, ethnic Malian gifts for those who donate. They are limited so hurry!
Whatever you can spare this holiday season will help impact the lives of 1587 children and a village for generations. And your donation is tax deductible.
Check it out at. The campaign will end November 23rd, 2014, so please make your donation soon.
For $50, a handcrafted Mother and Child statue –Handcrafted by artisan Pascal Mounkourou, this beautiful statue is a reflection of this Christmas season. It represents Mother Mary and Jesus–the reason for the season.
For $100, an authentic Malian Bambara mask: Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture and art of the peoples of Mali. Masks usually have a spiritual and religious meaning and they are used in ritual dances and social and religious events, and a special status is attributed to the artists that create masks and to those that wear them in ceremonies. In most cases, mask-making is an art that is passed on from father to son, along with the knowledge of the symbolic meanings conveyed by such masks.
All the masks we have are handcrafted by Malian artisans and are a beautiful reflection of a deeply traditional culture.
For $200, an intricately designed hunter “doso” statue: Equipped with a bag of arrows, this intricately carved hunter statue by artisan Pascal Mounkourou is a representation of Mali’s hunters. During ancient times, hunting was one of the biggest professions ( after farming) among the Malian men. The hunters of Mali are still a celebrated group in their communities and Mali. These traditional hunters are called “dozo” in Bambara. It is believed that the amulets (In Bambara: gris-gris) worn by Dozos possess magical properties protecting them from harm, and amplifying their vision and hearing. Such amulets are said to make them bulletproof. The design is so intricate on this one that each statue takes 3 days to make.
These make for some great holiday gifts for your friends and family! And every dollar raised goes to the middle school in FALA.
Education is the pathway to opportunity and we want to bring opportunity and hope to our children in Mali.
Two years ago Yeah and I left the comforts and possibilities of America for Mali to pursue a different future for our family. A future that included helping improve the lives of 15.1 million people in one of the poorest countries in the world.
The journey has in no way been easy but at every step of the way, we have been blessed. We have blessed with family that supported our decision and guided us as we settled into a new, different life in Mali. We have been blessed with friends that have supported us emotionally and financially as we pursued an ambition to change the corrupt system and initiate change. It is your kind donations that have let us run a clean race untainted by corruption and stick on the stage with the corrupt, older giants of Malian politics. We have been blessed with new supporters each day both here and in America who have believed in our vision of a Mali that can break the chains of illiteracy and under- development and welcome a day when every Malian can have three meals a day, accessible, quality education, accessible low-cost healthcare, clean water and a job when they graduate.
Today, was an emotion filled day. Our day started as we cast our ballot in the city of Yeah’s birth. As we entered Ouélessébougou, we were touched to see the throngs of people clamoring to vote. The booths opened at 8 am and people were lining up long before that time. Many came to us, waving their left index finger proudly, stating the exact time they voted for Yeah.
The booths will close at 6 pm tonight. The manual counting and limited access to far regions will mean that most results will not be known until sometime tomorrow or day after.
We do not what tomorrow will bring. We do not know what the results will be. While we hope for the best, we know that we will continue to serve Mali in whatever capacity we can. Our goal is empowering Malians to better standards and a better life.
Our heart is filled with deep gratitude for all you have done to support us. We have been blessed by your friendship and have been touched by your investment in our campaign for Mali.
Think about the future of your children when you vote
With 5 days to go, all I can say is Mali’s future is at stake. We are determined now more than ever to affect change. Mali cannot remain destitute for 20 more years.
On July 28th, Malians will choose their destiny. They will either say they want to stick with the old corrupt guards or go with a new leader with fresh ideas and someone who has served them.
For us the Presidency is a means to an end. An end in which we can make Mali the great, prosperous nation that can enjoy education and healthcare for all citizens.
This video captures perfectly our vision and our passion. We thank our Alma Mater BYU for sharing our story. We all have the ability to make a difference in our own corner of the world. Don’t miss it!
Here are some shots from the last few days of campaigning in Koutiala, San, Segou, Commune IV, Kenedougou, Koury and Mopti to name a few
Meeting the elders of Koutiala
Meeting the elders of San
I thank all our supporters for donating to our campaign, especially when we issued an announcement for a $30,000 need. In the last three days we were able to raise $10K. We are still trying to raise $20000 to be used on the actual day of elections to be able to send our members in each voting area to ensure no voter fraud happens. There are 8 regions in Mali containing 703 cities. The money covers their transportation to/from the regions and their food.
Asking for money is not something I am comfortable doing. But we need your help. If you can help, no matter how big or small, please help push us closer to that $20,000 goal.
This past week, it has been extremely interesting to hear the other candidates speak. Like parrots they speak the words “turn the page”, an adage coined and displayed first by the Samaké campaign. But what does it mean to truly turn the page?
Look at Mali today. Where does Mali stand despite all its resources in cotton, agriculture and gold? Mali is the second biggest producer of cotton in the world and the 3rd biggest producer of gold in Africa. Yet, one only has to walk into the streets to see the beggars line up. The Malian people are a strong people. They have done their best to make the best of the bad situation. During the crisis of last year, there are many people that have taken to the streets to sell goods. That is one of the things I love most about the Malian people. While some might see it as being resigned to their fate, I see it as them making the most of what little they have. And that is a quality few countries can talk of.
Look at the candidates running. There are 28 candidates. They each talk of what they will do for the country when they become President. Many candidates have a platform, few have a clean track record of being doers. Most of these candidates have held positions of power. They have been ministers, prime ministers and directors of government agencies. There is not one of these candidates that can say they have helped the country during their leadership tenure. If anything they have eaten the country’s money while the people around them get more destitute. Nepotism and corruption have run high and no good has come from their tenure. And then after their terms, which they have tried to prolong, they become critics of the government’s policies. So first you have inaction and then you have talk, both of which are useless and cheap.
On the other hand you have the young candidates. There are some candidates who have been paid off by the older candidates to run so as to take away votes. Some have created secret alliances with the old class yet they preach of change. Still some have dirty hands themselves having embezzled money in the positions they held.
This is the political landscape we are fighting in. We are not in this for the fame, the money or the glory. We could sit in America and make 10 times what we will ever make here. For the past 10 years we have shown the Malian people, where we have worked, a different way of life. With each school we helped build, we have helped educate a village and villages around it. With each water pump we have installed, we have brought health and clean water to a community. With each hospital/clinic we have helped build, we have brought accessible healthcare to the community. While others candidates talk of change, we have brought change.
While the country has regressed, the communities where we have worked have grown and prospered. Ouélessébougou is a prime example of that. While the rest of country languishes with daily power cuts, Ouélessébougou enjoys electricity 24/7 ( except during a bad storm). Today Ouélessébougou sits at the #7 position out of 703 cities in Mali. When Yeah took office 4 years ago, it was 699 out of 703. People say, oh well, running a town is much different than running a country. We say, change happens at the bottom and if each town was empowered to change their future instead of an ineffective government trying to determine it, Mali would be a very different place. If each community had a university and a school, children from the village would return home and try to improve the community instead of clustering in the cities that have the university.
Change. The time for Change is here. Mali deserves better. And it is up to us to help change Mali. Each of us has the ability to make a difference. Each of us has the ability to empower communities in Mali, whether you are in Mali or in the rest of the world. The biggest lack right now is not that the Malian people don’t know, it is that they don’t know better. This has been their life for 50 years, if not more. Mali is as poor and destitute as it was 50 years ago. Its 20 year democracy has been a sham where leaders have been propelled into power through voter fraud.
Change. Change for Mali. Change in Leadership. The time has come to Turn the Page on Bad Government. The time has come to Turn the Page on Irresponsible Leadership. The time has come for the Malian people to prosper. That will not happen under the candidate IBK. That will not happen under the candidate Soumaila Cisse or Modibo Sidibe. That will definitely never happen under the candidate Ahmed Sow, Soumana Sacko or Dramane Dembele.
Yeah Samaké is the only man who has served his people and if given the chance he can mould Mali’s future into a prosperous one filled with opportunities for every race, religion and background.
July 28th is the day that Mali’s future will be determined. July 28th is the day when either the chains of illiteracy, poverty and death will be broken or strengthened.
We are on a race to raise $30,000 more to staff precinct captains that can watch for voter fraud in all 703 cities in Mali. Do not let them win by stealing yet another opportunity from the Malian people for change. Already, the older candidates are starting to tell lies about Yeah in the hopes of taking votes away from us. Help us secure Mali’s prosperous future.
This past week was charged and full of some great events and service projects that we did in the various areas of Bamako, the capital of Mali.
Our PACP delegation headed to Baguineda where our resident eye doctor and Secretary General of PACP Aboubacar Sidiki Fomba donated his services to do free cataract surgery. In Mali, to remove cataracts, it costs about 50000 cfa ( $100) per eye. Now think about it. An average Malian will not make more than a $1.25 per day. In fact, most Malians will forgo the cost of an eye surgery because the need of food and other basic amenities for their family is a priority. Fomba has donated his services in many areas. The newest was Baguineda. In Baguineda many older people and young children were brought to get eye tests done and then the surgery. In one case, a man told us that he had bad cataracts for a few years now, and for the first time he was now able to see clearly. It makes me sad when I hear about the lack of access our people have to healthcare. With there being few specialized eye doctors, prices are high for a Malian and for many the cost is their sight. This is not the first time that the party has provided free healthcare clinics. Since the party was started in 2011, the doctors in the party have banded together to provide free healthcare services in many villages in Mali. People are amazed when they see a party that serves before they engage in politics. However, in regards to Yeah, this is nothing new. Yeah has brought many doctors and dentists to his own areas which has served people from regions as close as Sikasso and as far as Kayes. People are amazed when they hear about what Yeah has done because in essence their own leaders have failed them for so long. For them to imagine that there is a political leader that has served his community and impacted lives is a stretch because for too long politicians have lined their pockets and not helped the country.
Aboubacar Sidiki Fomba, eye doctor and Secretary General of PACP offers free cataract surgery to the people in Baguineda
Even young children in Mali sometimes have serious cataracts
Aboubacar Sidiki Fomba, eye doctor and Secretary General of PACP offers free cataract surgery to the people in Baguineda
The next day, our delegation headed to Yirimadjo to establish and recognize a sub section of our Party PACP. The youth of Yirimadjo committed their support to the campaign. The President of the PACP section there, Fidelle Samake confirmed their support to PACP and to continuing the fight for new leadership in Mali.
The following day, the delegation made up of PACP members Fomba, Djeneba, Kone, Fifi and Fatoumata headed to Niarela. Again they established and confirmed a sub section in Niarela. The President of the sub section, by the name of Nientao, had gathered together quite a crowd of youth in Niarela. They committed their support. To add to this great evening, the leader of the women by the name of Sympara, committed that she would support Yeah Samake and the PACP vision for a new day in Mali.
Also, an amazing movement has been growing in Mali. Recently our youth bureau headed by our youth leaders Sibiri Mariko and Salif Tigana launched a new project. They created a short video showing Yeah’s bio and all the things Yeah has done for Mali. The amazing thing about this video is that it is transferable by phones. If anything, almost 3 out 5 Malians possess a phone, if not more. So this is awesome, because we can now transfer this video and in essence create a ripple effect. In addition, our youth bureau is going full steam ahead by showing this video on projectors to large crowds during the night and on laptops/notebooks with small groups during the day in all the communes in Bamako. We hope to spread to the rural regions as well with the video, but given that this video is transferable, we can just simply send this to our section leaders in the different communes and have them show it and spread it among their communities.So far the video has been displayed on a project in 2 of the 6 communes within Bamako. Each time we had a huge number of people show up to watch the movie and find out about Yeah Samake. Bamako is one area where we have not focused our resources because a majority of Malians live in the rural areas.However people that watch this video are amazed. Many in Bamako are surprised that there exists a man who has served before he got into politics. It is like the lamp of hope re-illuminates and many of them will take the video and even give their contact info so we can get them involved in the party
Commune I, Bamako gathers to watch the video
Commune I, Bamako gathers to watch the video
Commune I, Bamako gathers to watch the video
Commune I, Bamako gathers to watch the video
Commune I, Bamako gathers to watch the video
Commune I, Bamako gathers to watch the video
I love the energy of our youth. They give me the strength and courage to continue our work. More than anything, our youth that form more than 50% of the population deserve a chance to break the cycle of poverty and desperation. I am truly psyched at the possibilities with this group!!! They know what they want and they are not afraid to think outside the box to make it happen.
It just amazes me how each day we get new supporters. These new sub sections are a sign of growth, of life, of desire for change. Malians are eager to kill the python that has choked them for so long. They are eager to see beyond the expired visions of a failed country with no opportunities.
Please invest in our country’s future. Mali and Malians need your prayers and support. They need your voice to spread the word about Yeah Samake. We need your donation to spread this campaign in every corner of Mali. The first step to a prosperous future is getting Yeah elected. Be the spark of change and part of this amazing campaign at http://www.samake2013.com
This past weekend was another great campaign success.
Youth leaders in Bamako gather to support YEAH
The youth that had formed their own movement visited with Yeah first thing Saturday morning. I love seeing the commitment of our youth in Mali to support change. Neatly dress and enthusiastic, they are my hope that Mali’s future is indeed bright. The youth association AJLCDM met with Yeah to present a plan of action in reaching some new areas in Mali. They also presented what they had been doing in terms of supporting Yeah and to increase awareness on the campuses about Yeah’s plans for Mali. Yeah also had the unique opportunity to meet with members of the National Youth Bureau in Mali. They presented a small skit showing the impacts of corruption and how Yeah is a good, honest individual who could bring change to Mali. This skit can be taken and presented to many communities and residents. Malians love dramatic performances and I love how the youth are using their talents to spread the word about Yeah Samake and PACP. The energy is simply amazing!
The PACP delegation visited new villages of Dio, Selingue and Yelekebougou. One of the successes of this campaign is that unlike other candidates, we campaign mainly in the villages of Mali. 80% of Mali’s growing population is based in the villages. In order for Mali to progress as an entire nation, change and development need to happen in all parts of Mali.
It was in this spirit that the Samake team headed to these two villages. The first village called Dio-Gare is situated in the Koulikoro region and hosts about 8000 residents. The village had formed its first PACP committee and the delegation officially recognized the association. Many residents attended this event. Our PACP delegation was led by our youth leader Sibiri Mariko and Yaya Coulibaly. They talked with great enthusiasm about what Yeah Samake has accomplished already for Mali and what the vision is for the future. The meeting ended on a high note with many residents speaking their praise and showing their enthusiasm for the delegation that had traveled far to come talk with them.
The next area visited was Yelekebougou, an area that also is in the Koulikoro region. More than 15 PACP members visited this area where they spoke to more than 60 people of all ages. This morning a supporter who had witnessed this meeting, Abel Traore, shared this message about the meeting on Facebook: ” Le bureau national du parti PACP etait a Yelekebougou le samedi passe. Ils ont eu le soutient indefectible de toute la commune de Yelekebougou pour les prochaines election car c’est le seul parti qui peut amener le changement dans ce pays. QUE DIEU BENISSE LE MALI.” which translated is: ” The national office of PACP party was in Yélékébougou this past Saturday. We had the unwavering support of the entire town for Yélékébougou believes that in the next election we are the only party that can bring about change in this country. MAY GOD BLESS MALI.”
The PACP delegation in Yelekebougou
Yesterday, our campaigning continued full swing as our PACP team visited beautiful Selingue, a 118KM drive from Bamako. Selingue is one of the touristic areas in the South of Mali famous for the Festival of Selingue and also the Selingue Dam that is the 3rd most important energy production center of Mali. Here too, the delegation was met with great enthusiasm. In fact in this area, the residents had been eager for PACP to visit the area, having made many requests with our bureau. We were excited to visit and solidify the relationship with our association there.
Everywhere we go, we see residents turn out to welcome us and create their own PACP associations in their areas. The support has been exciting to watch and witness. People in Mali are begging for change. Too many years have gone by and most Malians still remain destitute. The rich get richer. The poor get thrown to the sidewalk to beg. This is not the vision of a progressive, developed Mali. This has to change. Many Malians have put their faith in Yeah. We will not let them down. We will continue this fight for Malians everywhere. The goal is not the Presidency. The goal is a Mali that is developed with a population that is able to have better opportunities.
We need your help. Villages like these are far off and not as easily accessible. It is expensive to visit these areas. If you can donate, then we can continue our battle for a developed, democratic Mali. Your money allows us to show and tell people that there is hope for Mali. And that hope is Yeah Samake and his plans for a new Mali. Donate today at http://www.samake2013.com and help us welcome a new day in Mali.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“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.
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.
The political situation in Mali, as far as South Mali goes, remains quite stable. The Prime Minister seems to have gotten his team together so that the country can be run. The Interim-President Diacounda Traore remains absent as he continues to have treatment in Paris. To be honest, it really matters little that he is not here as much of the government running is done by the Prime Minister and his transitional government while the President remains in name alone. There are pitter-patters of discontentment from the political circle in regards to the running of the government. The transitional government that was formed left out all political parties, one feature that has received international credit but that has caused major discontent among Mali’s political class who feel they should have been included in the government. While it seems admirable that no old guards from the political parties were represented among the transitional government, it would have been advisable to have a few fresh faces from Mali’s political circle as advisers. The result now is that there are many parties, mainly the big ones that are creating a stir by saying the Prime Minister is ineffective and the country is not making progress.
Yeah’s had formed a political coalition ADPS (Alliance des Démocrates Patriotes pour la Sortie de crise) with other political parties. This past week saw members of some of the political parties claiming that they wanted to ask the Prime Minister Diarra to resign and have a new government be created. Yeah refused to go along with this and advised PACP’s official position as such: “The Political Bureau of the Party for Civic and Patriotic Action(PACP) informed the Executive Board of the Alliance of Democrats for the Patriots out of the crisis (ADPS) of our decision to disengage from the memorandum between the ADPS and FDR. Given the principles and values that led to the creation of the ADPS, PACP will reserve from partnering with FDR. Our party is committed, in this delicate moment in the life of the nation, to support the government of Mali in its mission to regain territorial integrity of our country and the organization of upcoming elections.”
It is essential at this point in time that Mali not falter back to the position it was in 3 months ago. To return back to a non recognized form of government would create more uncertainty in Mali and encourage further rebel actions in Mali’s North. Already, the Northern region has declared their independence and is looking for Mali to separate from that region. The question is not whether Mali will relinquish its hold, it’s when it will start to regain its territory so that it’s displaced people in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso can return home. Also letting the Northern region go will mean doom to other ethnic groups that form the majority in these regions as they will be driven out and suffer the same fate that the refugees suffer today. Also, already the activities of rebels and AQIM are pointing in the direction that the North will become Al-Qaeda’s new playground.
Mali’s dilemma is complicated to say the least. Diarra, the Prime Minister, needs to become more vocal about his intentions or his people will start to lose faith in his abilities. There is little indication as to where his policies are headed. An uninformed people can easily be led away and become an opposition. Diarra, now more than ever, needs to get his people on his side. Food prices are rocketing and it is the general population that lives on less than a $1 a day that suffers. Two things remain a priority for Mali. First and foremost, Diarra needs to show the Malian people who is in charge and share his ideas to get Mali where it needs to be. Second, he then needs to bolster the Malian army so that terrorist groups can be expelled from the country. When these groups are removed, then negotiations can happen with the Tuaregs to determine their rights without infringing on other ethnic groups.
While the political scene remains complicated, but stable, the Malian people continue on with their daily lives. Yeah’s party PACP has been growing in droves ever since the coup happened. With the major political parties in disarray with no leadership, many youth leaders are knocking on PACP doors to investigate joining the party. PACP is engaging in tasks that follow its core principle of patriotic and civic action. Along these lines, PACP sent a delegation to Burkina Faso to assess the refugee situation a week and half ago. Their visit lit a fire under the Malian authorities who now have also paid a visit to these camps.
Another group that has received some attention from PACP is the women. Personally, I believe that Malian women are strong. They work dawn to dusk taking care of their families and are usually the first to wake up and the last to go to bed. Usually they will have anywhere from 4-10 children with the average being six. Their responsibilities do not stop there. They cook, clean, chop firewood and often try to start small businesses so that they can bring in some income. All of this is usually done with a child on their back or one to two in tow. In Mali, women and men have separated incomes. The man is responsible for providing money for food and the general running of the household. Any money the women bring in can be used by her at her discretion. Having a business teaches these women how to sustain themselves. The culture in Mali is rapidly changing and it is very common to see small street businesses run by women selling anything from household items to produce.
Classroom training for the women
PACP in an effort to encourage increased women entrepreneurship hosted a free workshop for 25 women, led by PACP member Kone, to teach women how to make soap and shea butter. The women in a 5-day workshop received the benefit of formal training in a classroom setting as well as on the job training. This was an awesome opportunity for these women to learn a business that they could then take back to their own regions and implement. Shea butter is a very essential product in Mali everyday life. It is used for anything from a cosmetic value to a medicinal use. People in Mali will often use shea butter when they have a cold or sore throat and many will swear by its effectiveness. In addition it is used in cooking and some will even add a perfume into it and make it a cream. Soap as well is an essential part of everyday life in Mali. As polluted as Mali is, Malian women do the best they can do to keep their surroundings and personal/family items clean. These two items are essential in Mali’s economy and there can never be too much of either product. By teaching these women how to make these products, PACP is providing them the tools to learn a skill that could change their lives. This knowledge can be shared not only with the next generation, but more importantly with other women in their communities. Women are very social in Mali and by teaching one woman you are in essence teaching the entire group she will associate with. On their final day of training the group met with Yeah in Ouelessebougou, where he expounded to them the importance of the training and what the women could gain from it if used.
Classroom Training on making Shea Butter
Practicing Making Soap
The finished product being allowed to set. In Mali, bars of soap are used to wash clothes, dishes etc. Detergent is reserved for car washing or cleaning the house.
Yeah speaking with the women at the end of their training
Many more trainings like this will happen and the need is great to empower women. Many women in Mali are illiterate having had little to no opportunity to gain an education. It is projects like these that will help women create opportunities for themselves. A 5-day workshop like this usually costs $1500-2000. You might be surprised, and this does not include the trainer’s fees. In the case above, the trainer donated his services to PACP. The fees come from renting vehicles, gas and for housing/food. To truly learn these skills, you have to travel to different villages and regions hence contributing to the cost. Regardless of the cost, I believe this was money well spent. I am a big believer in empowering women and it is my hope that projects of this nature will educate women and then give them the hope to change their lives and the lives of those around them.
This past week has been a huge political muddle. May 22nd was to spell the last day of office for interim President Dioncounda Traoré. A deal brokered by the African nation’s body ECOWAS sought to extend his term for 12 months. Now Dioncounda would have limited powers and the main running of the country would fall in the hands of the Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra.
On Monday, protesters unhappy with the forced decision to keep Dioncounda marched on Mali’s palace. There in the heat of the moment, the 70-year old Dioncounda was injured and admitted to the Mali hospital with head injuries. Now people are saying the junta that was supposed to be protecting the President let these protestors in. On the other side, we have also heard that there was a scheduled meeting between Dioncounda and 10 individuals that represented opposing factions. When these 10 individuals came to meet the President and were waved in by the guards, the protesters pushed past as well. Either story while the second may remove the junta’s involvement are hard to corroborate and point to the finer meaning that not even the highest office in the country is safe from protest.
As Bamako watched the news of this attack spread, we were in disbelief. While I am a big believer in democratic process and making your opinion heard, I am also of the belief that human beings need to act like human beings and not animals. In addition, in a society that reveres its elderly, for a 70-year old individual to be assaulted by youth is something that Malians do not take kindly to. That next morning, in secrecy Dioncounda was flown to Paris to be admitted for further testing. That evening, there was another protest held which claimed that Sanogo would be the new President. This protest was only attended by a few 1000 compared to the tens of thousands the previous day. This could mean one of two things. One, many people were shocked that the events of the previous day got so out of hand and also many people felt that Sanogo betrayed them when he took a deal with ECOWAS that bestowed him with an ex-President’s privileges. Sanogo, for his part, other than condemning the violence of the protests, has remained quiet. He as brokered a pretty sweet deal for himself. He would get paid $10000/month (5 million cfa), a house, two cars and a security detail. So the gift he is getting for bringing so much insecurity is very big. In a country so poor, one can only imagine how anyone can get so much money when the average Malian makes less than a $1 a day. The question that also is high on every ones minds is that Sanogo has benefitted but what about the 500+ odd men under the junta. If they feel that Sanogo has betrayed them, then things could get ugly.
This past week Yeah met with the Prime Minister to discuss the ongoing situation. The Prime Minister has condemned the actions of the mob and called on people to be calm using the Bambara word “Sabali” which means “patience” several times in an address to the nation. Yeah also had an opportunity to talk with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux on the issues in Mali. Take a listen at CNN below. You can also find this on http://samake2012.com/updates/
The North continues to remain in the hands of rebels and the ties that these groups are building are very dangerous to Mali’s stability. Mali’s AZAWAD last week even installed their own President over the North. There has been talk of Mali letting these three regions go. If that happened, I think the outcry in Mali would be huge. These territories not only house the Tuaregs that want their independence but also many other ethnic groups, of which the Tuaregs are a minority. By allowing an independent state to emerge, Mali would be allowing a territory in which groups similar to the Taliban will emerge. In essence Al-Qaeda would be able to get a new playground to harvest various training camps and illegal activities. The entire world will pay the price if the North becomes another Al-Qaeda festering pot. In all this, Malians will pay the heaviest price. With Sharia law already established in Tombouctou, Malians are already being suppressed. Malians in the South need to focus their attentions on the Northern regions. Aid is not the only thing the North needs. It needs freedom from groups attempting to take away civil liberties. If the world wants to get involved it needs to be putting pressure on these groups to pull out. Yeah spoke with CNN’s Erin Burnett about the Northern issue in Mali.
In this entire ruckus, the one thing that remains as forgotten today as it was two months ago is the growing refugee situation. The situation is worse today as the numbers continue to climb. People are living in despicable conditions and while the aid is coming in more now than before, it cannot meet the growing demand. It amazes me that when the earthquake happened in Haiti, the American celebrities put on a great fundraiser and raised a lot of money to benefit Haiti. Probably because Haiti was closer to home. However, the refugee situation has not gained the support of celebrities despite Angelina Jolie being called as a special envoy for the UN High Commission for Refugees. The need is great, the supply is small. Next week, Yeah plans to go to Mopti where some of the refugees are and then later to Burkina Faso. The hope is to assess the growing need and then provide the refugees with some much needed food.
The one thing that never fails to amaze me is the tenacious strength of the Malian people. Through all this, they continue to build their lives, taking in stride the changing forces. As noted before, their faith in their politicians is very low and their belief is as long as the politicians don’t make their lives worse, life will go on. Here it is hard for people to look to the future when their present is so filled with turmoil and hardship. But the Malian people will prevail like they have before. They deserve a much needed break. They definitely deserve better leaders who will give their needs a priority. Mali’s mess cannot be solved by self-serving politicians. It needs honest leadership!