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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mali update

Remember my fascination with Mali? Well, they still haven't held the election (scheduled for July) but the Mormon Malian presidential candidate that I knew back in college days that has made such a difference in his hometown as mayor has a shot at winning.
In 2009 Yeah Samaké was running a successful Utah-based charity when he decided to run for mayor in Ouéléssébougou, a town of some 12,000 residents in the southwest corner of Mali.
“When I saw my hometown was failing, just as Mali is now, it came to me I should run for mayor. I could not fail my people then, just as I can’t fail Mali now, when the country finds itself in the worst situation imaginable,” he says about the decision to return to the farming community where he grew up.
If you're new here, you are likely unaware that radical Islamists have taken over parts of Mali, and the United States refused to intervene despite requests for aid. France did come to their aid though I am not aware whether or not their troops in their former colony are still in the country.
Mali, once seen as a model for democracy in West Africa, has become a synonym for a dysfunctional and corrupt state.
“The government did not have the people’s best interest in mind, so the people turned to the religious groups,” Samaké offers. “The old leaders were more interested in serving themselves. If I’m elected president I want to serve my people.”
Also, if you've missed past references to Samake and his candidacy, he wrote to Mitt Romney thanking him for mentioning the plight of his countrymen in the third US presidential debate, thus bringing some much needed international attention to a country in dire straights. Samake, like Romney, is other-minded and unselfish. He genuinely wants to help his country by bringing stability and prosperity to the people living in it.
The 44-year-old social entrepreneur has a fair chance. He comes from a well-known political family. His time abroad has caused some voters to frown, but supporters say Samake’s willingness to leave a comfortable life in the US to come home and rebuild his country shows care and mettle.
When elected mayor Samaké quickly set out to transform Ouéléssébougou, transforming it from one of the most mismanaged and politically corrupt villages in Mali to one of relative social reform.
His charity, a $500,000-a-year foundation called “Empower Mali,” brought education programs, health improvements and even solar energy panels to Ouéléssébougou.
The charity also gave him national recognition – a reputation as a doer.
“When others talk about politics, I act,” Samaké says.
Will a can-do reputation make up for a lack of a broader political base?
Samake isn't concerned, and prefers to just plow ahead: “Mali now has the opportunity to change the old leadership, [that is] stalled by corruption, and [together we can] show the world that Mali is a secular nation that embraces all religions,” adding, “And what better way to do that than by electing a Mormon?”

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