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Elections back on track: Mormon leads in race for president in African nation

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 UTAH) - When you mention a Mormon running for president, you're likely to think of Mitt Romney or perhaps Jon Huntsman Jr. But there is another.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 UTAH) - When you mention a Mormon running for president, you're likely to think of Mitt Romney or perhaps Jon Huntsman Jr.

But there is another, Yeah Samake of the African nation of Mali. Samake is widely considered the frontrunner in the Mali presidential race.

He may well be the first Mormon elected president of a country -- and a Muslim country at that.

Mali, which is 95% Muslim, has been in a fight for it's survival. Jihadists invaded from Libya and took control of key northern cities. They might have overrun the whole country had it not been for the intervention of French troops.

The French saved the day and have now installed "peacekeeping" forces that will remain at least until the presidential elections. Samake told me, "They now have a strong stake in furthering the democratic process in Mali -- making sure the election is fair and transparent."

Yeah Samake is a BYU graduate and convert to Mormonism.

His campaign pledge may sound run-of-the-mill to the American electorate, but to the people of Mali it is revolutionary. "I am here to serve, not to take advantage of the people."

For years, Mali politicians did just that. They grew rich while the people starved. An election was seen as a license to rob.

Samake sharpened his image as a corruption fighter as mayor of Ouelessebougou. He turned around the poorest region of the poorest country and now promises to do it for all of Mali. "So that we can depend and rely on ourselves and not sit and wait for a handout. That is the Mali I see," said Samake.

Samake is drawing supporters from around world, and even in Hollywood. One of his biggest supporters is John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell Systems.

As for his Mormon faith, Yeah says his opponents have tried to use it against him, but so far it isn't working. He says only the politicians care about his chosen church, but not the people.

Being the only Mormons in a Muslim country can still be lonely. "We know that the Church is the true church -- that the gospel is true. We have no doubt about that."

Even so, The worship experience for the Samake family is very different from that of Mormon families in Utah. "As a family we try to keep our faith, we read the scriptures and we try to do the things that a Mormon in Utah would do to keep his faith." But there is no chapel around the corner, nor congregation to give support. "You know the chapel is a symbol. Our home is a chapel on Sunday morning."

For Yeah Samake, being in his native land with a chance to make history is worth the sacrifices.

The Mali election is July 7th.

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