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MALI COUP: The coup that brought democracy to its knees

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

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

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

The announcement on March 22, 2012

The announcement on March 22, 2012

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

Sanogofirstmth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yeahsamake

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Mali’s future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Samake2012 year in review

The Samake2012 year in review

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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Small steps in the right direction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOLEMN DECLARATION PROJECT BY THE VITAL FORCES OF MALI

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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News from Mali

The situation in Mali remains precarious. Last night for the first time since the coup, there was news on ORTM, Mali’s national TV. In an attempt to preserve some sort of normalcy, one of the regular reporters reported the news in Mali. However one could see the lady reporter was frazzled. The report started by showing the current state of the Malian Presidential palace. As the camera zoomed on cars that were riddled with bullets, spent bullets on the ground and the Presidential office ransacked and destroyed, a sense of how real and dangerous this situation is was prominent. In addition the camera focused on military men armed with guns, in an attempt to show who was in control. The reporter also advised all parties running in the race to submit their declarations on the situation. In addition, people were advised that a big meeting would be held today to explain what happened and why it happened in more detail.

As the news wrapped up, the TV channel played movies in an attempt to calm the fears of the population and reassure them that normalcy would return. In addition, soldiers were ordered to stop firing in the air and to return to military barracks around 8pm. The night remained calm and for the most part the nation waited to see the outcome of this coup. The ex-President Amadou Toumani Toure(ATT) is reported missing and has not been captured by military leaders yet. Many ministers that served under ATT have been “detained” including Modibo Sidibe, who was a presidential candidate and the ex-prime minister that embezzled money from Mali. The airports and borders continue to be on lock down restricting anyone from fleeing the country. So far, the one thing that remains promising is the fact that no civilian has been harmed. Yesterday afternoon, spelled a different story, as military people looted the government offices and then attempted to stop cars to help carry the loot. Yeah, who was downtown, doing an interview with Al Jazeera, was flagged to stop in his 4×4. But his driver, encouraged by Yeah, drove past the man in uniform, who fired his gun in the air to show his displeasure. The two Mercedes behind Yeah were stopped instead. The situation has become very real and all this in just a day and a half. It makes you think that there is no control out there. As attention of the military is diverted here, MNLA in the North promises it will continue its advance for independence.

Here is the Al Jazeera piece that Yeah did:

This morning, you could still hear the gunshots ringing in Faladie. Yeah this morning with his advisors left to arrange a meeting with the leader of the military coup Amadou Sanogo. The focus at this point is to establish a peaceful relationship so that things may move faster in the direction of democracy. Also they will be giving their formal declaration to ORTM ( which is still controlled by the military).

It is in situations like these that I believe true leaders emerge. While half the parties hid away not wanting to get involved, Yeah, despite my deep anxiety, had issued his declaration condemning the coup and was already reaching out to the military leaders in charge and other national leaders attempting to see what could be done to restore democracy in a stable and peaceful way. The coup leaders have advised that the end goal is democracy and the elections will happen. However, no time or date has been set in stone. Currently the only promise made is that a government will be put in place on March 27th, 2012 and workers are encouraged to return to work or it will be considered job abandonment. There is no talk of who will hold what role.

It is sad to see one of the more stable democracies in Mali disintegrate after 20 years of hard work. It is almost like time has been turned back to the year of 1991 when the first coup happened since independence. The biggest difference is there has been no claim on innocent civilians. It is the hope that the military will honor their promises and hold the elections so that Malians may be able to choose their own leader and in turn their own destiny.

It is my hope and prayer that things stabilize. But more than that, it is my prayer that democracy is returned back to Mali. The Malians have enough pain and poverty to deal with and now insecurity has only been added to their plate of misery. It is my hope that all the refugees displaced by the fighting in the North will be able to return to their homeland. It is at times like these that I wonder what our children’s future holds when everyone can’t get along. Pray that this homeland can achieve the peace they so desperately need right now and the democracy and honest leadership needed to build a successful future.

God bless you and thank you for your continued support.

Vive la démocratie ! ( Long Live Democracy)
Vive le Mali ! ( Long Live Mali)
Divisés nous perdons tous ! Unis nous gagnons tous! (Divided we all lose! United we all win!)

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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