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Yeah Samake

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Yeah Samake, Mormon running for president of Mali
Photo by Robert Walton

Yeah Samake is an alumnus of Brigham Young University and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was the mayor of Ouelessebougou, Mali, and running for the office of president of Mali in spring of 2011.

Samake earned a master's degree and met his wife (a native of India) at BYU, and has directed the Utah-based Mali Rising Foundation for about six years. He was elected mayor of Ouelessebougou in 2009. Ouelessebougou is a group of 44 villages, and when Samake took over as mayor, was ranked number 170 out of 174 municipalities in terms of economic development, transparency of government and management. [1] The municipality is now ranked in the top 10 in the country.

With a history of government corruption, the people of Mali value integrity, accountability, and honesty. Samake has followed some church organizational patterns as mayor. He has instituted a council of tribal elders, with two elected from each village. The people are gaining trust in their local leaders, and the elders carry information back and forth. People are now willing to pay their taxes. Samake has gained the respect of his peer mayors and was elected vice president of the association of 104 mayors of Mali. This, in turn, has "brought more access to national leaders, who are now willing give funds to Ouelessebougou because they know they will be used wisely."

Mali is a multiparty country, and his supporters are creating a new political party, the Party for Civic and Patriotic Action, PACP as it is known in its French form. The launch of the party will be a major event when he returns to Mali in May, something he hopes will grab "headlines in every newspaper in Mali and in all of Africa."

The presidential election will be held in spring, 2012, with things going into full gear about three months before. Mali is a French-speaking country that is 90 percent Muslim, and yet Samake's religion doesn't seem to be an issue.

Samake was born into a poor family in a country where one in five children don't live past age 5. He was one of the 15% of children in the area who had the privilege to attend school. Then, he was able to attend college and came to the United States. In New York City, he came into contact with and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and through the generosity of a family in Colorado was able to go to BYU for graduate work.

Samake hopes to make education available to all the children of Mali. He sees a day when families don't have to choose between buying food and educating their children. He also wants safe drinking water. He wants Mali to be an example to the rest of Africa.

The key, he says, is "using our resources with integrity and finding leaders who believe in service rather than taking advantage of their position." [2]

Updates

A coup and radical Moslem insurgents and invasions in the north upset the country of Mali and put things into chaos. The unrest also created a refugee problem in one of Afica's poorest countries. By late spring 2013, it seemed like elections would finally happen, and Yeah appeared to be the front runner. Time reported on the unlikely candidate, a Mormon amidst a population almost completely Moslem.

Yeah lost the election, and his party refused to endorse the two standing candidates, both old-guard politicians whose corruption Yeah has been fighting. [3]

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