Today was another election in Mali. Today was the day when Malians would go to the polls to choose the delegates that would represent their area in the National Assembly of Mali. Many news agencies and international organizations had touted this election as sealing the long road since the country was thrown into chaos in March 2012.
As many of you know, Yeah had submitted all his papers to run in the legislative election. However after his papers were approved, his old party URD lodged a complaint stating that as an elected official Yeah had to step down from his role as Mayor since he was elected under the party URD. In, what we believe to be a very corrupt ruling, the Constitutional Court invalidated Yeah’s candidacy to run for the National Assembly. What we cannot grasp is how the same Constitutional Court did not disqualify Yeah’s papers when he ran for a higher office of President. Should the same laws not have applied? Or is the law only applied when it suits certain parties and certain individuals. In addition, Yeah had officially submitted his resignation to URD’s local office in 2011. This resignation, while acknowledged by the local office, was conveniently brushed under the rug and forgotten. To make matters even more incomprehensible, Yeah is listed as the President of his new party on an official document provided by the Malian government. It is very sad and angering that it had to come to this. The area that Yeah was running in is his own home turf. A turf he is well known on and well respected. This area also has 7 seats at the National Assembly and has been constantly won by the party URD for the last 10 years. This was one race that they could not afford to lose. We have done all we could to fight the decision, even taking it to the EU observers and UN observers that were assigned to observe elections. It makes you realize just how powerless these individuals really are and that elections are determined not at the voting booths but in the governments and justice systems before the lists even make it to the booth.
In the last few weeks, Yeah has campaigned vigorously for his other party members that are also running in different areas all over Mali. From the different communes in Bamako to Kenieba to Diola, he has supported his party members in their own areas and races. However his own area of Ouelessebougou vowed to boycott elections in the area of Kati in response to the blatant injustice of the disqualification and the inability by the Malian government and people to address/fix the mistake. As we watched in Ouelessebougou, the voting booths seemed like ghost towns.
Most polls are predicting that no more than 20% of the 6 million voting population went to the polls to choose their legislative leaders. It’s sad to watch how people have lost faith in their leaders and believe that their opinion is as forgotten as the leaders campaign promises. While news outlets are trying to make it seem like security concerns kept people away, this is not true. The number of insecure areas is so minimal compared with the majority of voting precincts through the country. The poor turnout is an indication of how people just don’t care because deep down they know nothing will change. Also there are so many candidates that the names that stick out are the ones who have ruled Mali’s political deficiencies and failures for the last 20+ years. But many will go with names they have heard rather than ones they are not familiar with. Once elected, these delegates will remain in office for 5 years. For 5 years the delegates will get richer while their areas get poorer. And the same cycle will continue until the people decide enough is enough and democracy means their voice gets heard and remembered throughout the elected term and not just in the 2 months before elections. We had run for the Presidency and then again wanted to run for the Legislative race with one purpose only, and that was to affect change. Look at Ouelessebougou. No person can say that the city has not changed dramatically for the better in the last 4 years of Yeah’s term.
Nevertheless, we will not give up hope. We will continue to do the things that will improve the lives of Malians. Whether that is strengthening our political standing for a better run in 2018 or building schools, providing educational, clean water and healthcare opportunities to Malians under the foundation Empower Mali, we hope to give Mali our very best.