LDS forerunner in Mali’s presidential elections coming to town

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The U.S. isn’t the only country where a Mormon is running for president: Mali’s Yeah Samake, a BYU alum, is the forerunner in the country’s presidential race for 2012 and, in an effort to garner support, will speak in Orem next Monday to the local public.

The site hosting the event, eventbrite.com, said Samake will speak on “how he grew up in one of the poorest villages in one of the poorest countries in the world, how he came to live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, found the LDS Church, and then returned to serve his people.”

Bryce Johnson, editor-in-chief of BYU’s Political Review, said he looks forward to the event and the election at large for what it represents regarding the Mormon community.

“It’s encouraging,” Johnson said. “I think one of the most important outcomes for a win for Yeah in Mali is that it would underscore the fact that Mormons actually belong in politics. … We’ve had dozen of Mormons in the House and Senate: President [Howard W.] Hunter served simultaneously in the Quorum of the Twelve and the White House Cabinet, and heck, if you count Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, there have been Mormons in politics since 1844.”

The potential president was first elected mayor of Ouelessebougou in 2009 when he won 86 percent of the vote from a people that are 90 percent Muslim.

Since his inauguration, the city rose in its ranking in terms of economic development from 170 out of 174, to number 10.

On his site, Samake said his beliefs heavily influence his politics in terms of the importance of integrity and equality.

Samake has even established a group of  tribal leaders elected to represent their village that he refers to as his “Elder’s Quorum.”

If elected, Samake will face the responsibility of presiding over a country where, according to the CIA’s World Factbook, is among the 25 poorest countries in the world with an illiteracy rate of more than 50 percent.

According to Deseret News, Samake is touring Utah to generate support for his campaign.

“I consider Utah my second home,” Samake told the news agency.

The event will take place Monday, Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the UCCU Events Center at UVU. Tickets to the event are free and can be booked at eventbrite.com. For those interested in meeting with Samake before the main event can purchase tickets for $50 at the same site.

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