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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 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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