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To Lead is to Serve

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On May 22nd, 2013, the Parti Pour L’Action Civique et Patriotique ( PACP) held its 1st congress. For this special occasion, more than 240 PACP delegates from the different regions of Mali came to Bamako to represent their individual sections.  The event was held at the CICB in Bamako, a meeting place for many big conventions and events.

This was a great opportunity for the various delegates who are themselves leaders in their own regions to reaffirm their support of their candidate and the party. This event was an essential one. It gave the party the chance to show and explain all the activities that PACP has been involved in since it became a party in 2011 as well as to confirm the goal of the party in achieving stability and growth in Mali.

As we walked through the doors of the CICB, we were surrounded by the youth. Their chant became the theme of the convention: UNIS NOUS GAGNONS TOUS, DIVISES NOUS PERDONS TOUS ( United we all win, Divided we all Lose). The youth support has been growing for the last 2 years and it reached a climax at the event. To see the youth volunteer their time to come support their candidate was heartwarming and encouraging. The youth make up the majority of the voting population and it is essential that we train tomorrow leaders today. We need to include these bright minds in tomorrow’s future plans for Mali. And they sure did make their voice heard as they chanted their support for Yeah Samake.

The conference started with a speech by Yeah. In it he talked about the changing dynamics in Mali. His focus was on PACP as the party of change, growth and development of Mali. Yeah spoke with great passion about all things that the party has accomplished since it was created. He highlighted the actions of the party leaders on the day the country fell to a coup. While all parties were running away from the coup leaders, Yeah was right there condemning the coup and urging Sanogo to return power back to the people. Yeah spoke about the trips he has made to many countries and the meetings with many individuals to help explain the Malian perspective on the crisis in Mali. So many times, countries get caught up the issues in Mali that they forget to include the Malian in the solution. Yeah has consistently tried and succeeded at getting the Malian perspective represented and expressed. The partnerships he has created over the last two years with different governments was evident by the presence of representatives from different embassies, including Burkina Faso, Senegal, Algeria and the US Embassy. Usually, embassies try not to get involved in the political parties, so it was heartening to see the support and respect signified by their presence.

After Yeah’s speech, the secretary general Aboubacar Sidiki Fomba spoke. He stated the facts of what PACP has done in the humanitarian and social arena. Namely the 15 schools that have been built in rural Mali under Yeah’s leadership, the multiple medical missions that continue to come each year, the scholarships Yeah has been able to get for Malian students going to America,  donation of medical supplies and equipment to hospitals and clinics through Bamako, donation of computers to the Ministry and various schools in the country, a donation of food worth about $50,000 to Malian refugees in Burkina and Mopti and a visit to the Army in Tombouctou a month ago to name a few . More recently PACP has been holding multiple health clinics in rural villages where they have been able to utilize the expertise of doctors within the party. Most Saturdays, these doctors will travel to distant villages to give free healthcare and also train fellow doctors.

This is what this party is all about. Yeah’s success today is linked to his ability to serve his countrymen and women. That is one thing I respect the most about Yeah. He is the kind of man who will go out of his way to help if he can. So for him to create a party that replicates and signifies that sense of service is essential and crucial in the process of developing Mali. The party, despite being in its infancy, is at a crucial time. In Mali today, it is very rare and almost impossible to find politicians that serve their people. Most are in it for personal agendas and gain rather than to improve the lives of the Malian people. From day one, Yeah has wanted to make Mali a model of change and success. From day one, the people’s needs have been the priority.

The congress continued with various members from key areas like Tombouctou making statements about the party’s activities in their separate areas. The guiding principles, statutes and rules were read and acknowledged by all leaders present.

The event ended with all delegations reaffirming Yeah Samaké as their candidate in the 2013 Presidential elections. Yeah was touched by their commitment and stated: “I pledge to you that I will spare no effort to carry the torch of the party, for the term that you just trust me.”

This congress was an essential one. It was a reaffirmation not only of the candidate but also of the delegates who vowed to continue to support Yeah and work on his behalf. Many of these delegates traveled from far away, some as far as a 15 hour drive. This speaks volumes about the commitment of the people that join PACP. When I talk with people, they always tell me that they could go join other better know parties. However the reason they have joined Yeah and PACP is because it has demonstrated that it is a party of action, not just talk. This is something so rare among today politicians in Mali. Let’s look at it. Mali has been independent for 52 years. Where is she today? She is the second poorest nation in the world and in the top 5 worse educated countries in the world. Look at the healthcare system. There is 1 doctor to 20000 people in the rural areas that form 80% of Mali’s population. The education system has been riddled with strikes both on the teachers side and the students as well. Even the electricity has been as undependable as Mali’s current and past government leaders.

The time has come for Mali to celebrate the dawning of a new day. A day filled with hope for all Malians. This was an amazing conference. I feel blessed to have participated in it. I feel blessed to be part of this journey. But most of all, we feel blessed by your support that makes this journey possible.

Come join the Mali Moment. Visit us at http://www.samake2013.com (EN) or http://www.pacp-mali.com (FR). The ability to change a country’s destiny lies in our hands.

 

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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PACP makes its mark on Dioila

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On Sunday, the Samaké Team headed by Yeah Samaké and a delegation of 10 PACP members visited the city of Dioila which is about three hours away from the capital city of Bamako. Dioila Cercle is made up of 23 different communes. Last week, a young woman by the name of Mussokoura Samaké had heard of PACP and the vision of Yeah Samaké on how to make Mali a prosperous nation.

Mussokoura comes from a well-respected political family in the area and enjoys a prominent political role in Dioila. Her father Sounkalo Samake is a former Army captain who served under President Moussa Traore and her mother was a former elected Member of Parliament of the region. Her role and position within her community allowed Mussokoura to bring, in just one week, more than a 100 community leaders, elders and members of other parties to come meet the PACP delegation.

Yeah spoke with great passion about emulating the example of service that the Captain has shown for Mali and the community. He solemnly promised the people of Dioila that as President, he would put the interest of the country first. Yeah presented a special token to three individuals in the community: the Chief of the griots, the captain Soungalo Samake and one to the most successful farmers in the area.  He emphasized to the people of Dioila that these individuals at all times during his Presidency can come hold him to his promise by showing these tokens.

After the rally, Yeah made specific visits with the chief of the village Mariko and the Imam. Both men of respect, they offered their blessings and support for the work that PACP is doing in Mali.

The visit ended with a personal home visit to the home of Mussokoura Samake. There, Yeah was presented with an autographed book written by the Captain about his life as a soldier. He committed his support to Yeah and shared with him the book as a token of his respect for Yeah’s service to Mali.

This was a wonderful rally and promises to create many supporters in the area. We were able to bring in many supporters who have been waiting to campaign on behalf of PACP.

Each day continues to bring many blessings and many new experiences. We are so grateful for all the support we have received and continue to receive. Your emails of support and your kind words on all our social media sites warms spurs us on. The amazing support we see at our rallies and at our headquarters signals to us that we are on the right path. Mali needs hope. Mali needs a leader who can bring hope and development to the country. Mali needs Yeah Samake.

 

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Growing support!

Today we mark the two month count down to the elections on July 7th. I am humbled at the out pouring of encouragement and support we have received since we began this journey.

I am very excited to share the latest video of Samake2013. I would like to thank the amazing talented Travis Pitcher and Joseph LeBaron at The Goodline who have yet again successfully captured the spirit of Samake2013 and the hope for a new democratic Mali. These guys are amazing. Check this video out!

This past month we have seen a growing recognition for what we are trying to accomplish in Mali. In Mali, this has meant a growing number of supporters turning up to our weekly meetings at our headquarters and many offices being created in distant regions. Many Malians are starting to seriously realize that change is needed and Yeah Samaké is the man for the job. Our growing fan base on social media and at our office on the ground is proof of that.

It does not stop there. We have had a number of news outlets including TIME cover Yeah’s story and his run for the Presidency. Just this morning Yeah was on the BBC to talk about his candidacy and why he is running to be President of Mali.

Here are some excerpts and the links to some of those News articles. We thank all these media members that have shared the Samake2013 message of hope and democracy for Mali.

TIME: As Mali Wars With Islamists, a Mormon Runs for President by Aryn Baker—“The government failed the people, so the people turned to the religious groups that filled the gaps,” Samaké says, referring to the success of Islamist militias that, for a time, occupied some of the country’s most historic cities. “Any nation that fails its people opens itself up to that kind of vulnerability, and we need to change that in Mali.” Read more

UTAH ABC4: Elections back on track: Mormon leads in race for president in African nation by Brent Hunsaker — “I am here to serve, not to take advantage of the people.” For years, Mali politicians did just that. They grew rich while the people starved. An election was seen as a license to rob. Samaké sharpened his image as a corruption fighter as mayor of Ouelessebougou. He turned around the poorest region of the poorest country and now promises to do it for all of Mali. “So that we can depend and rely on ourselves and not sit and wait for a handout. That is the Mali I see,” said Samaké.” Read the entire story

UTAH KSL5: Risking death, BYU grad confronts Malian coup leader by Stephanie Grimes and Richard Piatt — “I hope to see democracy restored. I hope to see leaders with integrity. I hope to see the people of Mali meeting their basic needs, including human rights and access to basic services, and having three meals a day and making sure education is available,” he said. “My hope is that my country would become prosperous and peaceful and that we will be more reliant on ourselves than on any external forces. That is my hope for my country.” Read the entire story

UTAH 89.1 FM THINKING ALOUD: Yeah Samaké and the Future of Mali by Michael Wyatt — Yeah Samake, an alumnus of BYU and leading candidate in the current Mali presidential election, joins Thinking Aloud to share the dramatic story of his reform efforts in his home country. Listen Here

MERIDIAN MAGAZINE: Yeah Samaké: Born for Such a Time as This by Maurine Proctor — “No education could prepare you to be the leader of a nation,” Yeah says, “but you do have to have a true and sincere sense of service. My heart is set on this people.” Read the entire story

We are thankful for the attention our story has gotten and continues to get. While much of the focus remains on our religion, that is the least of our focus. We know that religion is not what will stop us in Mali. Malians are very open and kind people. Even in Ouelessebougou, where there is a majority Muslim population like the rest of Mali, Yeah was elected Mayor with 86% of the vote. We know that the people are waiting for an honest leader who can bring change and raise Mali up to the great nation she deserves to be.

I am thankful that our supporter base only continues to grow in Mali and the world. We get supporter emails on a daily basis. I say this not to boast. I say this because we are so thankful and feel blessed for all the support. It means a lot when we hear someone say to us:”I believe in you” and “How can I help Yeah”. It means a lot when we see the youth in Mali sacrifice their weekends to campaign and attend meetings. It means a lot when we see Malians themselves donating.

We are ready. We are ready to fight for Malians everywhere so that a true democracy may be restored. A democracy that is not in name alone, but one that is demonstrated by a leader who is willing to acknowledge and meet the needs of his people. We are ready to fight for a Mali where three meals a day and at least a high school degree becomes a norm. We are ready to fight for a Mali where basic amenities like clean water and electricity become accessible in all regions. Mali does not deserve to sit in the bottom two of the world. It is time to fight for Mali and break her chains of bondage to poverty, illiteracy and poor governance. July is fast approaching and we here at Samake2013 are giving it all we got for a democratic, prosperous Mali.

Can we count on you? Together for Mali!

WWW.SAMAKE2013.COM

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Impacting Governance at the local level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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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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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.

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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 Elections Announced!

Mali has received more than its fair share of news coverage this past year. While initially, it was for all the bad things happening in Mali, now there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. French and African forces have joined the Malian army to eliminate the rebel threat. While all previous rebel-held territories have been freed, the rebels have melted into the population and the surrounding desert, making it more tedious to find them. However, the forces are not taking this task lightly. Security must be restored fully so that these rebels cannot start up again once the foreign troops have left. The Islamist threat in Mali has been a wakeup call to the world. The reality is the world cannot afford to have a country at the mercy of the Islamists.  And we got into the hands of the Islamists, not because the people of Mali believe in this, but because the government failed them.  The hopes and dreams of the people have been completely drifted because of the lack of government support.  So we have to rebuild the institutions, we have to give the people of Mali a leader that believes in embracing all religions, embracing all of the democratic values, and making sure that development and the basic services are provided for the benefit of each and every citizen of Mali.

It will be essential that Mali’s military be rebuilt. The last 10 years has seen all foreign money intended for this purpose being used by the leaders to line their pockets. The weaponry possessed by the Malian army does not even compare with the weaponry a homeowner would have in the West.

So what’s next for Mali? While these forces tie up some last minute threats, the attention has now moved to what needs to happen next in Mali’s recovery plan. And that is the elections to choose the next President of Mali.

After almost a year of non-democratic rule, Malians will be given the chance on July 7th to elect their new leader. The way elections are run in Mali is in two parts. The first run off will be on July 7th. If no one party holds more than 50% of the vote, then the two top candidates will run off again on July 21st. The French are already asking the UN to provide election observers to ensure that the vote is fair and the leader will be democratically chosen.

As Mali edges closer to this date, we continue our mission to ensure that elections do happen. This past month has been hectic as Yeah has been flying coast to coast in the US to try and continue to raise awareness to the challenges Mali will face in the near future. More importantly, he is attempting to guide the debate so that key decision makers in the Western world and Mali will understand how Mali can overcome the many challenges it faces and will continue to face for a while.

Yeah had the opportunity to meet with leaders at UN about the intervention in Mali. Last week he was able to attend Congressional hearings about the situation in Mali and meet with leaders like Assistant Secretary of African Affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson who emphasized that the US “supports the territorial integrity of Mali.” This is important because the US has remained largely disengaged from operations in Mali, providing only C17s, despite the threat that AQIM could pose to the US in the future.

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Most people are so quick to point a finger at the Mali military for the present day issues. They are quick to state that all these issues started because of them. The issues of Mali have been present longer than the coup. While the military played a role that prolonged the issue, the time had come for the bubbling pot of discontention with Mali’s leaders to boil over. As Yeah advised: “The current crisis in Mali is not a military problem. It is a problem of ungoverned areas, porous borders, weak central government, weak institutions and poor governance, exacerbated by the lack of economic opportunities, tribal or ethnic division, the extremism, anarchy, and a good dose of corruption increasing poverty. If someone tries to tell you that the North is a separate issue and should be treated, isolation is considered too narrow a solution to accomplish what really needs to be done in the long term. The long-term stability, security and peace are the goals, not just a military victory over a group or organization. When you look at the problems listed above, it is clear that a platoon or battalion cannot solve this crisis. Certainly, they can address and support some of them, but first and foremost it is a question of legitimacy and governance.”

The #Mali Moment is now! If Malians wait longer to hold its leaders accountable, the time for change will pass. If Malians don’t elect someone who is honest and truly has done a lot for the country, then we will see the last 10 years of leadership replayed again. This is an opportunity to actually turn the page on the old political class and renew this class with new ideas.

Yeah is the man for the job. We believe that Mali needs the honest, innovative leadership that Yeah can offer. As Yeah has so often stated, “With exceptional skills, valuable experience and moral principles that I have acquired, I am prepared to make Mali a land of freedom, opportunity and prosperity. As a leader, I will promote the belief that it is in the spirit of entrepreneurship, local governance and citizenship that Mali will find his illustrious colonial prosperity.”

We cannot do this without your support. You may not be able to vote for Yeah. However, the resources you donate will help us fight for Mali to hold clean, effective elections.  Help us to share our message of hope and our aspirations for the people of Mali.

They deserve to see the day when they are free of the burdens of poverty and poor leadership. They deserve to see the day when their children are educated and not lose them due to poor healthcare. They deserve better paying jobs and a stable economy. But most of all they deserve a leader who can make all these things possible.

They deserve Yeah Samaké!

MALI WITH YEAH SAMAKE AT THE HELM

MALI WITH YEAH SAMAKE AT THE HELM

Find out how you can be part of this incredible journey at www.samake2013.com.

You can keep current on our journey on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Marissa-Samake-Journey-in-Mali/263354780407524 Twitter @marissasamake and this blog!

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Helping affect Mali’s future

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

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

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

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

Ambassador Price with Yeah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Aw Sambe Sambe!

As we drove back to Ouelessebougou this past weekend, we were looking forward to celebrating the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims. The traffic and the high number of cattle being sold were a tell tale sign of the upcoming celebration as Malians busied themselves preparing for this important event.

On our way to Ouelessebougou. All smiles.

he first thing that greeted us at our house in Ouelessebougou was a collapsed ceiling. The high amount of rain in the past month, while a welcome break for drought stricken Mali, had caused one room’s ceiling to fall in. That was not even the worst part. As the carpenter took the roof apart, the room filled with a swarm of bees. There had been a hive in that part of the roof. Within minutes, the buzzing of bees could be heard through an open window in the house. Being the eve of the celebration and the 100s of bees, the carpenter was unsure of whether he could fix the roof in time before nightfall. It looked like we would be returning to Bamako. However, a little insecticide took care of the bee problem and the carpenter Sunkalo was kind enough to come back and fix the roof even though it took him till 10 pm to do it. My driver Zhu and the boys that help me Dra and Nouman made a feast of the hives and honey. I guess one man’s cast offs is another man’s treasure. 🙂

Enjoying the honey

The next morning proved to be a beautiful one as millions of Malians woke up to celebrate the ending of Ramadan. The greeting of “I Sambe Sambe” and blessings accompanied by jovial teasing between family members could be heard ringing through the streets of Ouelessebougou. We celebrated the day with my brother-in-law Bei and his family. I had not seen them for a few months so it was nice to catch up with Momuso (Yeah’s second mom) and Tenemuso (Yeah’s aunt). I can always tell how much the kids and I are missed and loved by the look in Momuso’s face when she sees us at the compound gate. Regardless of the fact that she does not understand the kids, they have taken to her and her to them. The day was spent with greetings and visits to other family member’s compounds. The idea of family and its importance in Malian culture is so evident during feast times. Any money you give to one family member goes to the whole family. Also family member’s children are usually given money while all other children usually get just candy. Families celebrate by eating together and the day is one for visiting and paying your respects to different members, young and old. It is beautiful to be drenched in family and blessings and I have realized how much I have come to love and accept this new tradition.

Talking with Momuso( which means Grandma in Bambara) and Tenemuso( which means Aunt in Bambara)

Visiting Yeah’s uncle

Visiting Yeah’s third mother

Popsicles for the hot day

When we got home, there was a steady procession of young kids that came to pay their greetings and spurt out blessings in return for money and candy (almost like Halloween). Keanen and Carmen had a blast handing out the candy. The experience highlighted for me how much they have grown in just one year. Last year, they would not have heard about handing out candy. This year they were volunteering! Even fiery little Carmen! At Bei’s compound, they ran around like the other kids chasing chickens, eating brochette (meat on a stick) and exploring for treasures. The experience in Mali has taught them much. However, I think, because of how much they are blessed with, in their own childlike way they acknowledge the stark difference in the fortunes and are happy to share. May their kind hearts rub off on me so that I may learn to be as generous. Mali is teaching my children to remember how blessed they are and how they should try and share those blessings.

Handing candy out to the kids.

To my Malian brothers and sisters, I wish you: “Aw Sambe Sambe. ‘Ala ka san wɛrɛ yira na’ May next year be better than last; ‘Ala ka hɛrɛ caya’ May God increase your peace; ‘Ala ka batow mine’ May God answer your prayers’; ‘Ala ka kɛnɛya soro’ May you be healthy. Ala ka san caman yira an kene la (May God give us many years of health); Ala ka yaf’u ma (May they forgive us); Ala ka yafa an bema (May we be forgiven)

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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Guiding Mali forward

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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