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Niankoro Yeah Samake (About this soundPronunciation ) (born February 27, 1969) is a social entrepreneur and politician from Ouelessebougou, Mali. Samake served as the Malian Ambassador to India. He was nominated by the Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in May 2015 and he assumed the post in 2015. Samake is the executive director of the Empower Mali Foundation, former mayor of Ouelessebougou, Vice President of Mali's League of Mayors, and was a candidate in the 2013 Malian presidential election.

Niankoro Yeah Samake
Personal details
BornFebruary 27, 1969 (1969-02-27) (age 50)
Ouelessebougou, Mali
Political partyParty for Civic and Patriotic Action
Spouse(s)Marissa Coutinho-Samake
Alma materBrigham Young University (MPP)
OccupationFormer Mali Ambassador to India, Former Mayor of Ouelessebougou, Mali; Field Director of Empower Mali Foundation
Known forFormer Mali Ambassador to India, 2013 Presidential candidate Mali; Mayor of Ouelessebougou; Building schools in Mali;;;

On January 22, 2018, Samake resigned from his post as Ambassador to run as a candidate in the Malian Presidential elections on July 2, 2018.


Early life and educationEdit

The 8th of 18 children born to Tiecourafing Samake who had three wives in a Muslim family,[1] Niankoro Yeah Samake was born in the small village of Ouelessebougou, where he and his family lived in such deep poverty [2] that Samake recalls how his mother would tie the stomachs of Samake and his siblings to ease their hunger.[3] Despite their material circumstances, Yeah's father Tiecourafing insisted that all of his children receive an education, not wanting them to suffer the darkness of illiteracy.[4][5] An exception in a commune where only 15% of the population attended school, Samake's father's vision contributed greatly to the family's later prominence in Ouelessebougou.[4][6] Samake recounts, "My father knew we would feel deprivation from time to time, but the odds weren't with us, anyway. When I was growing up, it was hard to survive. 45% of Malian children would die from malaria, diarrhea, and preventable diseases. We knew the challenges of staying well, but we believed in our father's wise resolve to have us educated. He is a hero to me, and any sacrifices were worth it."[5] In addition to Samake serving as mayor, one brother teaches physics at the university and some of Samake's other brothers hold jobs in agricultural engineering and education.[5][7]

Samake finished high school at Lycée Prosper Kamara in Bamako, and continued his studies at Ecole Normale Supérieure of Bamako, where he received a bachelor's degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.[8][9] After completing school, finding no jobs, Samake worked as a volunteer teacher in his village for the next three years.[10] He also worked for the Ouéléssébougou-Utah Alliance, an organization founded by Utahns in 1985 to partner with local Malians to improve heath, educational, and economic opportunities in the country.[11] He supported himself during this time by working as a linguistic and cultural guide for the Peace Corps and Ouelessebougou Alliance.[12] This brought him in contact with a Mormon couple from Colorado, Jeff and Gretchen Winston, who were impressed by Samaké's work ethic and his devotion to his community.[11]

Brigham Young University (BYU)Edit

The Winstons sponsored Samaké to come to the United States to further his education.[11] He was accepted to Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2000.[2][13] At BYU, he earned a master's degree in public policy and served as president of the Black Student Union.[11] During his time at BYU, Samake met his wife Marissa Coutinho, a native of India who was studying Information Systems at BYU.[4][14][15] While at BYU, Samake completed an internship at the United Nations.[7]

Ecole normale supérieure (ENSUP)Edit

Samake completed a 4-year bachelor's degree in Teaching English as a Second Language at the university Ecole normale supérieure (ENSUP) in Bamako.[8][9]

Career and politicsEdit

Ambassador of the Republic of MaliEdit

On May 7, 2015, Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appointed Samake to be the second Ambassador of the Republic of Mali overseeing diplomatic relations with 10 countries: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.[16]

During his tenure as Ambassador, Samake presented his credentials to the Heads of 8 of the countries he oversaw. He focused his diplomatic efforts in the field of culture, cotton, agriculture, education and solar energy.

Due to Samake's diplomatic meetings and creation of strong relations, on September 29, 2016, the Vice President of India, H.E Hamid Ansari,became the first high official to visit and hold bilateral talks with the Malian government.[17] During his visit, H.E Ansari addressed the National Assembly and the Parliament of Mali. He also held high level talks with the President of Mali H.E Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and the Prime Minister Modibo Keita. Important outcomes of this visit included a commitment from India to help Mali fight terrorism, gifting of vehicles and IT equipment to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gifting of ambulances for general public use, assistance for setting up of English Language Learning Lab. and also US$500,000/- towards revival of the world heritage site of Timbuktu.[18] Samake initiated the first display of the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu in a rare Exhibition "Taj Mahal meets Timbuktu" in India.[19]

During his tenure, Samake also focused his efforts on agriculture[20] and increasing cotton processing and export ties with different Indian businesses.[21][22] Additionally, Samake worked closely with universities in India and Bangladesh to create scholarship opportunities for Malian students to come study.

Solar also being a key topic, a partnership was forged with the Barefoot College and India's ITEC scholarship program to bring and train five rural Malian women in the field of solar power.[23]

On January 22, 2018, Samake announced that he would run for the Presidency of Mali in the July 29, 2018 elections. He left his post to return to Mali.


Yeah Samake in front of solar panel field. A project that he partnered with the central government to bring to Ouelessebougou.

Due to his work in development, Samake became well known and respected in Mali.[5] In 2009, Samake recounts how the current mayor, who had already been in power for 10 years, was seeking re-election for a third term.

Yeah Samake speaking to community leaders about the new clean water pump in Ouelessebougou

At this time less than 10% of the population of Ouelessebougou was paying their taxes and salaries were behind for 6 months.[13] Samake ran for the position of Mayor of Ouelessebougou under the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) party. Ouelessebougou encompasses 44 villages. Samaké's name was listed at the top of a slate of 23 candidates for council positions.[5] Samake won with 86 percent of the vote.[2][24] Samake focused on ending corruption and increasing government transparency as Mayor. In 2009, Ouéléssébougou was ranked 699 out of 703 communes (groupings of tribal villages) in Mali for governmental management and transparency.[11] Two years into Samaké's tenure as mayor, the city now ranks in the top 10 in the country, with a tax collection rate of 68 percent.[11] Samake's term as mayor has seen a significant rise in tax revenue as well. Prior to his election as mayor, less than 10% of the population were paying their taxes.[25] At the end of 2010, tax collection had risen to 68%, and is expected to reach between 80-90% by the end of 2011.[25] As Samake turned Ouelessebougou around, he was elected vice president of Mali's League of Mayors (704 mayors nationwide). In December 2011, Samake coordinated with the Utah League of Cities and Towns to bring several mayors from Mali to Utah so that they could experience better government practices.[4][26] He also lobbied for and got increased resources from the central government to build a new hospital, a first public high school in the region, a new water pump system to replace old water wells and a solar panel field, the largest in West Africa.[4][27] Included in his track record as Mayor, Samake with funds from the government has also provided funds in the amount of 5 million FCFA(about 10000USD) to repair and equip existing schools with school desks and supplies.[28]

Samake also helps facilitate medical and dental expeditions from US partners.[29]

On May 7, 2015, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appointed Yeah Samake to be the Ambassador of the Republic of Mali to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.

Empower Mali FoundationEdit

In February 2013, Samake created and became the Country Director for the Empower Mali Foundation.[30] Empower Mali, a US-based organization, focuses on working with rural communities in Mali, West Africa to meet the growing needs in the areas of education, healthcare, clean water and clean energy.[31] Empower Mali seeks to build permanent skills in its beneficiaries and not just solve temporary problems. This is the logic behind the investment the use. They seek to have the benefited communities involved in both the needs assessment and financial portion of their projects.[32] To date Empower Mali has been able to bring 6 additional middle schools, 2 teachers housings, 2 electric playgrounds, a tablet program for schools, host a governance summit between Mali and Utah and sponsored an after school program in 16 of the poorest schools in the Malian capital city of Bamako providing children with additional study/teacher aid.[33][34]

Mali Rising FoundationEdit

After graduating with a master's degree in Public Policy in 2004, Adrian Escalante founded the Daily Dose Foundation, now known as the Mali Rising Foundation and made Samake the Executive Director. The focus of the Mali Rising Foundation is to improve the educational opportunities of children living in rural Mali. They do this by building schools in villages where schools do not exist as well as providing teacher training and learning resources and materials.[35] Through his work with the Foundation, Samake has helped build 17 schools in Mali over the last nine years serving more than 2,500 students between the ages of 13 and 17.[36]

Political Party: Party Pour L'Action Civique et Patriotique (PACP)Edit

In 2011, Samake and his followers formed the Party for Civic and Patriotic Action (PACP) to support his Presidential run.[6] The PACP charter emphasizes the values of patriotism, citizenship, decentralization, freedom, democracy, human rights, and good governance.[37][38]

Candidate: Mali 2012 presidential campaignEdit

Yeah Samake speaking in front of crowd in Beneko, Mali

Samake ran on a platform of decentralization and anti-corruption. Based on his experiences as mayor, Samake stated that the most effective way to govern is to inspire the trust and participation of citizens at the local level.[39]

In an effort to fight corruption in the electoral system, Samake did not fund-raise in Mali, where political funds are connected to political favors, but instead in the United States and through online donations.[7]

Malians were scheduled to vote in a two poll race on April 29, 2012.[40][41]

However, the 2012 presidential election failed to happen due to a military coup d'état that overthrew the Malian government.

Candidate: Mali 2013 presidential campaignEdit

Elections were rescheduled for July 28, 2013. Samake was a candidate in the 2013 Malian presidential election.[42] In the first round of voting he placed 16th out of 27 candidates, receiving 0.56 per cent of the vote.[43]

Candidate: Mali 2018 presidential campaignEdit

Elections are scheduled for July 29, 2018. Samake is a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections. He announced his candidacy on January 22, 2018 after leaving his post as the Ambassador of the Republic of Mali to India.

Personal lifeEdit

Samake and his wife Marissa have two children: Keanen and Carmen.

Samake's wife, Marissa Coutinho Samake (b. 29 July 1983), is Indian but was born and raised in Bahrain. She attended BYU for her bachelor's degree in information systems. They married in August 2004.

Samake and his family are some of the few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Mali. Samake first encountered the church through his work with the Peace Corps and Ouelessebougou Alliance. One Peace Corps volunteer left him an English Book of Mormon, which he read.[5] Later, in the US, he wanted to be baptized, but was initially refused because of the LDS Church's policy on baptizing citizens of Islamic countries. Mali is 90% Muslim, and the church worried that if he converted to Mormonism his life would be in danger. After convincing church leaders that Mali is a country with religious freedom, he was baptized in 2000 in New York.[4] He reports that he faces no discrimination in Mali due to his faith.[44]


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External linksEdit