When Niankoro Yeah Samake lands in Mali on Friday, following a successful California fundraising campaign, to register as a candidate in the country’s upcoming presidential elections, he will be carrying a lot of baggage. There will be the requisite suitcase stuffed with gifts from the U.S. for his family back home. He will have a sizable check from an American hair-products magnate to help fund his campaign. And he will have his well-thumbed copy of the Book of Mormon, scripture that has been a constant source of strength since he converted more than a decade ago. He is likely to need it. Aside from his wife and children, Samake is Mali’s only Mormon. He’s not even sure which will be more difficult: running as a Mormon in a country that is 95% Muslim, or being President of a nation so weakened by corruption that the past 14 months have seen the government felled by a coup and two-thirds of its territory overrun by Islamist militants. “I am not running for President because of my faith, but my faith will help me be President,” he says, via Skype on a layover in Paris.
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