BYU grad ran for president in Mali


A BYU graduate and Mormon ran for president of his country, an African nation that is 90 percent Muslim.

Yeah Samake was a 2013 presidential candidate in Mali, a country better known for the tragic effects of Islamic extremism than its Latter-day Saint population, but Samake is a BYU graduate and a member of the only Mormon family in Mali. The native Malian has served as mayor of Ouéléssébougou, Mali, according to TheBlaze.

BYU graduate Yeah Samake ran for president in Mali, a country that is 90 percent Muslim. AP photo.
BYU graduate Yeah Samake ran for president in Mali, a country that is 90 percent Muslim. AP photo.


Samake began life at the bottom, growing up in a very poor African country in a family of 18.

“My mother would tie her handkerchief around our bellies to quiet our (hungry) stomachs,” Samake told

His father sacrificed everything so his children could go to school so they could serve their communities. Samake and all his siblings are educated, and he attracted the attention of Jeff and Gretchen Winston, a missionary couple from Colorado. They sponsored Samake’s master’s degree at BYU, where he married Marissa Coutinho, a BYU undergraduate from India. The couple then joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to

He followed the BYU motto of “Enter to learn, go forth to serve” when he returned to Mali and became mayor. He organized his municipality to promote transparency and trust, and he says he’s based his new system off an even more familiar LDS element — an elders quorum.

Yeah Samake’s campaign ad features locales that should be familiar to Cougars everywhere, such as the Harold B. Lee Library.

The Deseret News reported that his run in the election was not successful, although the election did have record participation nationally. Samake has not yet indicated whether he will run again, but he has congratulated the new president of Mali.

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