Earlier this year, I was emailed by a Malian woman named Coumba. She was trying to get in contact with Bruce Whitehouse about a post he had written, in which I was quoted. His post linked to my site and she ended up writing to me thinking that I had authored Bruce’s larger post. I gave her Bruce’s email, but as I also found her points interesting, we began a conversation (you can see her original email in the comments section of the post from Bruce).
After talking over email, we decided to meet for lunch. Coumba invited me to eat with her and her dad at her family’s house, which was just around the corner from me in Badalabougou. Over a delicious tigadigana, we talked about many things but kept returning to the topic of Mali’s political crisis. Coumba remarked that she had never thought about politics in Mali until the coup. She explained that she voted in past elections, but was otherwise apathetic. Now she found herself worried about her country’s future and unsure of what could be done about it.
Towards the end of our rendez-vous, Coumba proposed forming an association that would work to engage people on the topics of democracy and governance while also pressuring the Malian political class and the Malian government to move towards greater transparence and more open communication with citizens. It sounded like an excellent idea to me and I told her I would assist in any way possible.
The following week we scheduled the group’s first meeting. Coumba and I each invited 5 friends who we thought would be interested in the project. It was clear from the beginning that the group had great ideas and much enthusiasm. Many projects start this way and fail soon after, or they never actually get off the ground. But things started happening. We formalized membership, submitted paperwork to the government, organized internal elections, and drafted a plan of action. We then started working with Yeredon (you can read about my experience at Yeredon here) on a sketch comedy. Recently, we held our first “day of action and awareness” in a Bamako neighborhood. Yeredon performed the finished sketch and the group had a town style meeting with members of the Fadjiguila community (I was in the States when this took place, but from all accounts it was very well received).
The plan is to turn SOS Democracy into a nationwide campaign. But we have no funding. So far, all events and activities have been covered with money pooled by the members of the group themselves. Today, we have launched a crowdfunding campaign that will help provide the means to meet our objectives.
Transforming Mali’s political culture will not be easy, but the country’s current situation provides a unique opportunity to take a step towards better governance. Mali cannot afford another government that is not representative of its people. Consider supporting SOS Démocratie in their efforts to help Mali build a credible democracy.
So, yes, help us make this happen. Throw in some money, spread the word, spam your facebook etc.