Meridian Magazine brings you updates from the campaign trail of Yeah Samake, an LDS father, and BYU graduate, running for President of Mali. These posts and letters are written by his wife, Marissa Coutinho Samake.
Part I (April 29) – Progress in Mali, Elections Planned
On the political front things in Mali seem to be stabilizing. On April 27th, all the ECOWAS members met with the President of Mali and drew up the final installment agreement which decided on the elections and what to do in the North. A positive thing was that elections that were to happen today were decided would happen in 12 months. Two points of the agreement however caused much controversy in Mali today, namely:
What the first point in effect is doing is ignoring the 40 day mandate of the constitution and stating that the interim President Diacounda would in essence serve for the coming 12 months. This has been the constant fear that Diacounda would try, like all other “old guard” politicians, to keep his position for longer. To be honest, there is little Malians have seen him do in the 30 years he held positions in the government. The last 10 days since his inauguration has seen him do even less. Other than his meeting with dignitaries, little has been done on his part (in my opinion) to bring the reunification of Mali. His actions belie someone who is unhurried by current circumstances.
It is interesting that ECOWAS should ask that Diacounda remain in power for the term of 12 months. Interesting because Yeah had predicted this very thing would happen and a week ago had an article published that asked Diacounda, in the name of patriotism, to step aside after his remaining 20 days, to quick start the transition.
Many political parties, including Yeah’s group ADPS quickly condemned the blatant disregard for the constitution. One cannot just decide to follow the parts of the constitution that are favorable and then change the parts that one doesn’t like. However, that is exactly what seems to be happening by allowing Diacounda to stay for more than his 40 days dictated by the constitution. Captain Sanogo, who led the March 21 coup, was quick to state in an address to the nation, how the junta would not allow such a violation of the April 6th framework agreement to happen. While it is a concern that the junta still seems to have a strong control over the national TV, it feels like the Malian people do have a protector that isn’t afraid to speak out and also let these power-hungry politicians know that Mali is the first priority and the policies that benefit Mali need to be followed.
The second point of day before yesterday’s agreement will allow foreign forces to conduct a military operation on Mali soil. This is a very sensitive issue. The entire problem has started in January with foreign rebels entering the Northern regions of Mali after the fall of Gaddafi, bringing weapons with them. By allowing ECOWAS to fight Mali’s fight with the rebels is continuing to feed the dependency that has made Mali and most African countries dependent on foreign aid. If a war must be fought, the charge has to be led by the Malian troops supported by the foreign forces in terms of weapons and logistics. These ECOWAS troops are not used to fighting in the desert conditions that are home to the rebels and such an operation could lead to the loss of more lives and more chaos.
Yeah’s party PACP continues to remain politically active. Now more than ever given the political dilemma Mali finds itself in, it is essential to continue to spread the word about the party and what it stands for. Yesterday, party leaders Fomba and Kone did a leadership training so as to teach community leaders how to spread the word about PACP. By teaching community leaders, they in turn will spread the word and before you know it, there will be a domino effect.
Indeed it has been a couple of interesting days politically. But in some sense, you can almost see the young Malian politicians stand up and say to the “old guards”—No more. No more breaking the rules just to suit your power-hungry minds. No more putting self before country. No more sacrificing Mali’s sovereignty to please foreign interests. No more changing the constitution that was built on the 300 souls that perished in the previous coup. No more.
Mali is strong. The fight that is being fought is an essential one. Mali needs to find its own identity so that it may in turn hold its own among African nations. To have other nations build its democracy for it will only cause it to fail again.
Part 2 (May 1) – Another Attempted Coup, Civilian Rule Continues Unharmed
Amidst the dust storms that settled over Bamako, there came news mid evening that gunfire was being reported in the vicinity of the news station ORTM and Kati (the military barracks). ORTM has been at the heart of Mali history in the making for the last month and a half. The first coup happened at the ORTM news station.
So what exactly was going on? The loyalists to the deposed president Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) were reported to have joined forces with foreign fighters to try to defeat the junta and reclaim ORTM. It was interesting to note the changing news stories in the first few hours as journalists reported how first the junta was in control and then the loyalist forces and then the junta again. Interesting because it showed an uncertainty of the rapidly developing situation. The loyalists are known as the Red Berets and are the personal bodyguard of the President, very similar to the American Secret Service. It is also interesting to note that when the first coup happened on March 21st, there were reports of the Red Berets launching a counterstrike, but then junta leader Sanogo had come on TV with the Red Berets and said that they were all one and fighting for the same cause.
So why the sudden change of heart? It would be pointless to re-institute ATT as President given his term was essentially done as of April 29