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Senegal offers free land to Haitian earthquake survivors

President Wade, pictured here at the 2002 World Economic Forum, wants to grant Haitian earthquake survivors free land in Senegal (image source: Wikipedia)

President Wade, pictured here at the 2002 World Economic Forum, wants to grant Haitian earthquake survivors free land in Senegal (image source: Wikipedia)

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, politicians and citizens around the world have scrambled to join the global outpouring of solidarity for Haiti, and poor countries, including many in Africa, are no exception.  Rwanda, Liberia, South Africa, Gabon, Nigeria and many others have already pleged financial aid.  However, it is the 84 year-old Senegalese president, Abdoulaye Wade, who has been making headlines.  Wade is offering free land to any Haitian earthquake survivors who wish to “return to their origins,” according to a spokesperson.  Online, the proposal has been received with almost universal ridicule.

Although Blog Politique au Senegal has yet to comment on either Wade's offer or the earthquake, it did post this commentary by Dr. EL Hadji Malick Ndiaye [Fr] on the importance of “South-South” solidarity, published before Wade's announcement:

Il arrive des moments dans l’histoire d’un pays où les citoyens ont l’occasion de donner une leçon d’éthique à leurs élites. Il arrive des moments qui sonnent comme des opportunités pour un peuple de montrer sa grandeur morale. Nous ne pouvons pas nous complaire dans le fatalisme et la position de l’eternel assisté. A nous seuls, le Sénégal, nous ne mettrons pas fin aux souffrances du peuple haïtien. Cela ne nous dispense pas d’agir, cela n’excuse pas notre indifférence en acte. En ce moment même en Haïti des gens sont en train de crever et c’est cela réalité profonde de ce tremblement de terre. Tous les discours de solidarité sont bien dérisoires à cet instant, si on ne fait pas notre possible pour nous rendre utiles. Donnons un peu au reste du monde, car nous avons déjà beaucoup reçu du monde et nous en aurons peut-être besoin un jour. Les citoyens des grandes puissances qui se tournent aujourd’hui vers Haïti, au-delà de la simple valeur éthique de leurs actions, nous donnent une leçon de plus sur le sens de l’intérêt collectif. C’est moralement indigne de prétendre être un peuple magnifique, avec des valeurs magnifiques, un peuple prompt à fustiger les tares de l’Occident, à brandir les valeurs de solidarité religieuse, et de ne jamais lever le moindre petit doigt pour diminuer arithmétiquement la souffrance du monde.

There are moments in the history of a country where its citizens have the chance to give their elites a lesson in ethics.  There are moments that ring out as opportunities for a people to show its moral greatness.  We cannot wallow in fatalism and forever be in the position of the recipient [of help].  Senegal alone cannot put an end to the suffering of the Haitian people. But that doesn't get us off the hook from acting, that doesn't excuse our indifferernce.  At this very moment, in Haiti, there are people dying and that is the deep reality of this earthquake.  All of our talk about solidarity means nothing at this moment unless we everything possible to be of help.  Let´s give a little to the rest of the world, because we have already received much from the world and we may be in need one day.  Citizens of powerful countries who turn toward Haiti, beyond the simple moral value of their actions, offer us a lesson on the meaning of the common good.  It is morally outrageous to pretend to be a magnificant people, with magnificant values, a people quick to condemn the defects of the West, to flaunt the values of religious solidarity, and then not lift a finger to diminish, arithmetically, the suffering of the world.

However, offering to emigrate landless Haitians is not the kind of material solidarity many envisoned.

Serigne Diagne, who has been closely following Senegal's response to the earthquake, had this to say about the scheme (edited from the original English version):

…Dakar, which has trouble taking off and solving its many problems related to sanitation and urbanization, whose suburbs are wading in flood waters from years past, by what means can she accommodate a population or a whole country at the other end of the world?…[Without explaining where the funding will come from] Abdoulaye Wade, in a [gesture] of solidarity and pan-Africanism, proposes to depopulate Haiti, thereby forgetting that charity begins at home…

…[It must be assumed that] Abdoulaye Wade, very nostalgic [of] the 19th century, believes that Marcus Garvey is still alive, and that the “Back to Africa” movement is still valid. One day, he will eventually tell us is that[it was] the Ku Klux Klan who made the earth tremble in Haiti…each country has its own calamities. Haiti has its own, which generate a lot of compassion, and we have ours, which do as much damage as an earthquake, such as statements by a president who has trouble staying above the fray, and whose[record] is a source of controversy. The Haitian people, as was said and reiterated by the President ¨”Are entitled to the African soil”. The question remains, if they want it.

PascaleBoulerie, a reader at tak2.00221.info writes:

C'est une idée bien stupide, parce que le Sénégal souffre aussi de manque de terres cultivables, de surpopulation * et d'émigration.

It's a really stupid idea, because Senegal also suffers from a shortage of cultivatable land, overpopulation, and emigration

Phillipe Souaille, coming on a post at the Tribune de Geneve, writes:

Cher Gorgui, j'ai le sentiment que ton président a perdu une occasion (de plus) de se taire. Je ne crois pas que les Haïtiens crèvent d'envie de se réfugier en Afrique. La solution est forcément de trouver le moyen et les moyens de les aider à prospérer chez eux. Au moins pour parvenir au même niveau de vie que celui des îles voisines, tout de même supérieur à ce qu'il est en moyenne en Afrique, Sénégal inclus.

Une telle réflexion est même carrément effarante en ce qu'elle révèle des capacités d'analyse, de proposition et de réalisation pour le moins émoussées du bonhomme. La sénilité n'est-elle pas en train de faire son oeuvre? Il est temps qu'il laisse place à la relève, s'il n'a plus d'autres solution à proposer à un peuple qui souffre que l'abandon et l'exil !

Dear Gorgui, I have the feeling that your president has (once again) lost a chance to keep quiet.  I don't believe Haitians are dying to seek refuge in Africa.  The solution is to find a way to help the prosper in their own country.  So that they can at least achieve the same standard of living as their neighboring islands, which is at any rate higher than the average in Africa, Senegal included…

…Is this not the work of senility?  It is time that he makes way for a replacement, if he has no other solution to offer to a peole who suffer from abandonment and exile!

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  • Marcus Allison

    When I heard of the offer made by the Senagalese president I was quite pleased to see that an African politician was reaching out a hand to his Caribbean Brethren. I am quite shocked to read that the offer is not taken seriously, and that there has been wholesale ridicule of it by others. Frankly, this is an indication of what is wrong with the African Diaspora. I need to find out more about this, because if it is the case that Haitians are choosing the type of help that they receive, and defer to take the alms of those whom have oppressed them for generations in the stead of doing for themselves, then my own enthusiasm to give money and time will be severely handicapped.

    If it is the case that the Senagalese offer is deemed unrealistic because of the lack of resources that the country truly has, then the offer should be viewed in that context.

  • Bravo

    Bravo President Wade!

    Now that’s leadership and Brotherhood! If African Leaders opened their arms to Africans throughout the diaspora to return to build and unite, Africa would prosper much faster. White nations like France, Canada and the US are primarily responsible for the Haitian conditions. They have been waging military and economic war against Haitians since Toussaint defeated Napolean! It’s about time that African Leadership take a close look at the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Great Men Like Marcus Garvey, Malcom X, Kwame Nkruma, and Abdoulaye Wade understands that African Unity is the way forward. Africans and her descendents throughout the world must ban together to build Africa. Not Europeans, Asians, or Americans. Africa for Africans! Ashe!

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