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Leadership is Service

When I first met Yeah at University in 2003, he told me that he wanted to run for President of Mali, his country. I thought he was joking. As we got married and began our journey together, I realized he was not joking. In everything he did he always put Mali ahead. I realized very early on that serving Malians was the center of every decision he made.

Back when Yeah was in Mali, after he had graduated with an English degree from the prestigious Ecole Normale de Bamako, he returned to his city of Ouélessébougou. He soon realized that there were not enough teachers in his village. The government did not have funds to pay for teachers. Yeah could have moved to Bamako and gotten a well paying job there, however he chose to stay in Ouélessébougou. He volunteered at the local middle schools teaching English.

After graduating from BYU Utah with his Masters in Public Policy, Yeah partnered with Adrian Escalante to form a foundation that would serve the educational needs of the people of Mali. Through his leadership and fundraising efforts as the director, 17 middle schools were built in the rural villages of Mali. Each of these schools served 150+ children from the community increasing access to quality education. Additionally, Yeah headed many medical and dental missions from Utah helping connect quality resources with a deep need in Mali.

In 2009, the Mayor of his city was up for re-election. The commune was in crisis. The Mayors office had embezzled a lot of money and the result was that the city was suffering with inadequate access to education, electricity and clean running water. We didn’t have the means, but Yeah wanted deeply to run for the Mayor’s seat. He believed that he could change the way the Mayors office was run and ensure that all the money was used to serve the needs of his people in Ouélessébougou. Yeah ran and won with 86% of the vote. He became one of the youngest mayors in Mali. Using the education he learnt and the lessons of service he experienced in Utah, he quickly turned Ouélessébougou, a city of 55000 people, into one of the top ten communities in Mali. During his time as Mayor from 2009-2015, Ouélessébougou got its first big multi-service hospital, the biggest solar panel field, running water and the first high school. Business started to boom and many new hotels and new businesses opened their doors in Ouélessébougou. All of this would not have been possible without people recognizing that Yeah was a good man who truly loved his people and his community and wanted to make life better for them.

In 2012, we believed that we could impact change on a bigger scale. Yeah wanted to run for the Presidency of Mali believing that corruption and lack of management was responsible for the destitute plight of many Malians. In a country of 16 million people, Mali in 2012 remained one of the poorest countries in the world despite being the 3rd largest gold producer in Africa and the second largest cotton producer. The leaders were prospering but Malians were suffering. Committed to making a change, we left the comforts of America and moved our family to Mali. We could easily have stayed but we chose Mali because we believed that Yeah’s leadership and service could bring change. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our bid. But we didn’t loose the opportunity to get a larger name recognition and broaden the bases of our political party.
Through our Utah-based foundation Empower Mali, we continued strong, hoping to make an impact on our fellow Malians living in the rural villages. Through EM, we built 6 more middle schools, teachers houses, donated tractors to villages, initiated scholarship for Malians to study abroad, brought clean energy in the form of electricity generating playgrounds and donated textbooks. Each project Yeah initiated was done as a partnership where the village contributed and became part of their future success.

In 2015, the President of Mali, who Yeah contested against in the 2012/13 Elections appointed him to be Ambassador of Mali to India and 9 other Asian countries. Yeah was ambivalent and unsure as to whether he could effectively serve his fellow Malians abroad as much as he could in Mali. We chose to go. We believed that Yeah could help impact policy at a global level and that the impact would be felt by local Malians. That holds true today, two and half years later. Today, through Yeah’s efforts, Mali has secured funding for the $100 million electric line that will connect Sikasso and Bamako, a commitment to fight terrorism in Mali’s Northern region, scholarships for Malian students to study in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and many more exciting new opportunities.

At every step of our journey these past 15 years, I have never seen a man who loves his country more than Yeah. He sleeps, breathes and is Malian to his very core. Love for one’s country is seen not in the things we say but in the things we do. Yeah has fought for many opportunities in education, healthcare, clean running water and access to a better quality of life. But the fight is far from over. Today more than over, Malians remain destitute, a victim of poverty and lack of access to basic necessities. I once heard a saying “ If Serving is below you, then Leadership is beyond you”. Yeah has served his people from day one but he can do so much more if given the chance.

That is why we have chosen to run for the Presidency again on July 29, 2018. But we need your help. We are fundraising outside Mali because we don’t want to be controlled and influenced by the donations of special interest groups within Mali. Our goal is not to empower them but rather to serve the needs of our people. The 17 million Malians who deserve better. I believe Yeah Samake is that man who can change the course of their path for the better. But we need your help to help us win this election not only for our fellow Malians today but for our generations in Mali to come.

We can do this! We can bring change to Mali. Become a part of our journey and help our bid by donating $50 at www.Yeahsamake.com


 

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Posted by on March 20, 2018 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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