A look at life on the campaign trail of Mali Presidential candidate Yeah Samake, by his wife, Marissa Coutinho Samake.
It has been 39 weeks and counting since my young family and I have attended a full Sacrament meeting and felt the Spirit fully. In June 2011, we bid farewell to the comfortable, easy life of America to come to Mali, West Africa. We did not come for pleasure or financial opportunity but rather so that my husband Niankoro Yeah Samaké could run for the highest office in the country, that of President.
Mali, most famously known for the city of Tombouctou, has a population that is 90% Muslim. With elections fast approaching on April 29th, 2012, Yeah not only promises to be the only Christian candidate, but the only Mormon citizen.
When Yeah first told me seven years ago that he would be running for President, I thought he was kidding, thinking he was trying to impress me as we dated. Today, the deep love I see that Yeah has for his country of Mali and for his people helped me make the decision to move my entire family from the plentiful, easy life we had in America to one of the poorest countries in the world. The move has not been an easy move, but it is my belief that the Lord will bless our efforts if we put our entire heart and soul into the task at hand.
When I was growing up, my mom would always tell me, “If you do your best, God will do the rest”. Yeah and I are the first Mormons of our generation. We have been counseled by wonderful people in America, but in Mali, we have each other and the Lord. The Lord has strengthened our ties to each other and our relationship has grown stronger with each day. It was hard to see my children move to a country where they did not speak the language and where they had to learn to adapt to a different culture and lifestyle. My children learned how to trust in each other and protect each other. And while they still fight from time to time, they go back to being the best of friends and confidants.
People tell me always what a sacrifice I have made. When I look at it in comparison to the people I see around me, I can’t always agree. Here, people struggle to have three meals a day. Here going to a doctor is almost impossible because of the inability to afford healthcare. Here education is almost pointless because not only is the education system ineffectual but once you graduate you might not even get a job. This country needs someone who will stand up for them and heed the cry of help they have resounded for the last fifty years.
I wouldn’t be here, changing my lifestyle and putting my family through such a drastic change if I did not believe in Yeah. I believe that Yeah could be Mali’s hope for a stable future that is prosperous. Look at his own commune of Ouelessebougou where he has been a Mayor for just two years. Today Ouelessebougou boasts the biggest solar field in West Africa; they have a higher tax collection rate and a transparency in the Mayor’s office that is unheard of. Also they have their first high school in the region and a new big hospital that comprises woman and child health services will be completed next year. Imagine all this man could do for his country in the next five years if elected?
None of this would be possible without the Lord. We have been blessed with amazing opportunities. Without coming to Brigham Young University, Yeah would not have been able to get a good Masters degree in Public Policy. Without being a director at the Mali Rising Foundation, through kind donors, Yeah would not have been able to build middle schools for the children that would not otherwise not even go past the 6th grade. Without the belief of strangers, Yeah and I would not be able to even attempt this journey. However, the Lord works in strange ways and it is the Lord’s hand I see in all of the steps we have taken so far.
It is my hope as April 29th approaches that the journey we started 8 months ago will see fruition. Mali deserves a new day and all of the Lord’s angels in Mali deserve the comfortable life I have been blessed with.
You can follow the campaign trail through the eyes of Yeah Samake’s wife, Marissa Coutinho Samake, at First Lady Mali 2012.
Marissa Samake is Bahraini born and educated, Indian raised, and married to a Malian for the last 7 years. She received an Information Systems BA in the U.S. and has been blessed with two inquisitive children. She and her family have returned to Mali so that her husband, Yeah Samake, can run for President. The elections are to be held in February 2012 and then a final runoff is to be held in April. He hopes to provide his country with quality education, healthcare and to also decentralize the government’s power back to local leaders. The hope is to lift Malians out of the corruption that has made their country the third poorest country in the world.