Senegal's President Wade: Best President for Diaspora Africa Ever

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[Global: Africa]

I just returned early this morning from a 5-day visit to Senegal to attend the World Summit of Mayors, where many Black Mayors from the United States met with their counterparts from different African countries. 

The visit reminded me hat I was just in Senegal in May with the Africa Travel Association's 36th Congress on tourism to Senegal in particular and Africa in general. I have yet to write the type of article I normally write when I return from such Congresses, including Tanzania, Egypt and the Gambia last year, where the articles normally run between 8 to 12 or even 16 pages in the case of Tanzania.

What prevented me from writing was the fact that just two weeks after we left Senegal in May, there was a major demonstration against the government of President Abdoulaye Wade on his attempt to change the constitution so that he could run for a third term.  He was forced eventually to rescind the bill for a vote in the Senegalese House of Assembly.

It would be silly to say that I don't know what the political domestic situation in the country is; but this article is about President Wade's work for the African Diaspora.
 Very often, some of us are so blinded by one side of an individual's character that we overlook the good deeds they are doing in other areas.

I can categorically state, without fear of contradiction, that President Abdoulaye Wade has accomplished more for the African Diaspora than any dead or living African president at this time. Some African presidents or prime ministers have made all kinds of statements regarding the African Diaspora, but in terms of concretely following their words with deeds, they are yet to approach even 2% of what President Wade has already accomplished.

The World Summit of Mayors is a case in point where African American Mayors, accompanied by some heavyweights in the Pan-African dialogue, were brought to Senegal to meet with their Senegalese as well as other African counterpart mayors to discuss issues of beneficial importance to the two communities. The issues include good governance, trade, tourism, twinning of cities, economic development, the response to AIDS, education, and media, which according to the President of the National Conference of Black Mayors, Mayor Robert L. Bowser of East Orange, New Jersey, are "the foundational belief of the summi that unified work on the development challenges facing cities on the global landscape is essential to the improvement of the well-being of all citizens in urban areas."

Since I was at the conference, I could see the positive impact on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean that surprised me.  Specifically on the issue of HIV/AIDS, there is no doubt that both sides gained some major insight on how the other side has been able to deal with this scourge of the African people all over the world.

Secondly, every September, African leaders troop to New York City to attend the United Nations General Assembly meetings. Most of them not only avoid their own citizens, but even refuse to step out of the comfort zones of the United Nations area.  Some don't even know where Harlem, the Black capital of the world, is located. 

Last September, President Abdoulaye Wade became the first African president to hold a major event in Harlem at the iconic Schomburg Center for Black Literature, which brought together political, cultural, business and Black historians to exchange ideas on the African Diaspora and towards the realization of the African Renaissance as well the much talked-about United States of Africa.

Let's not forget that Senegal, under the directives of President Abdoulaye Wade, is the African country that has its Consulate-General in Harlem, the capital of Black world. The politiclal, cultural and economic impact that this has already created is immeasurable. 

Just imagine what would happen if 15 of the 54 African countries were to establish their Consulates-General in Harlem. 

In April this year, the African Renaissance Monument was unveiled in Senegal to the applause of thousands of cheering Senegalese people and more so from leaders of the African Diaspora especially from the United States and other parts of the world. 

There has been a lot of criticism of the Monument, about its $27 million cost, especially from Senegalese citizens who believe that the money should have been spent on schools and other neglected infrastructural areas of the country. 

Yes, that is a valid argument. But as I have always observed the Monument has brought pride to the more than 150 million Africans living in the Diaspora, as a welcoming symbol of Africa in reaching out to its sons and daughters sold into slavery to realize that they are welcom back to Africa without reservations. 

As I have observed many times, the price tag of $27 million might be staggering in an economy such as Senegal's but when compared to the public relations bonanza that the Monument has brought to Senegal, $100 million in advertising costs would not have brought such impact to the country.

Moreover, it would just have been seen as promotion and nothing else.  Again, the number of tourists who are making decisions to visit Senegal because of the Monument could become quite significant, not only in terms of economic growth but as well as job creation and the Senegalese would in later years see the Monument as a major pride to the country just as the French view the Eiffel Tower and the Americans the Statue of Liberty.

President Abdoulaye Wade's establishment of the "U.S. African Renaissance and African Diaspora Network," through the able leadership of its coordinator, Dr. Djibril Diallo, has become the vehicle through which the practical realities of the African Renaissance are being put into practice, and not just rhetorical pronouncements. 

Inviting and entertaining hundreds of African Diaspora leaders from all over the world to FESMAN 2010; to the unveiling of the African Renaissance Monument in April, 2010, the event in Harlem, and now the World Summit of Mayors, are seen by the African Diaspora leaders as an attempt to at least recognize that they are welcome back to Africa. 

No African leader has been able to set out such a welcoming mat for our brothers and sisters. 

It could be argued that Senegal has always been in the forefront of championing the African Diaspora. After all the first Festival of Arts of the Black World was conceived and held in Senegal in 1966 under the leadership of President Leopold Senghor. 

It is for one of these reasons that the Board of Directors of the Celebrate Africa Foundation decided in 2006 to recognize Senegal as "The Best African Country of the Year 2006," using indices such as the fact that here is a country which is 95% Muslim, yet its first President Leopold Senghor for 20 years was a Christian. Here was a country that had never experienced military takeover of government in the West African region rife with coups and counter coups with horrific murders of political leaders; a country though 95% Muslim but boasts the best gender equality regulations where a woman had served as Prime Minister. 

There are some Senegalese who cried out alleging political motivations, but nevertheless President Wade with his wife, accompanied by former President Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar with his wife, attended the ceremony to receive the award on behalf of Senegal.

Unquestionably, there is no doubt that African leaders are trying to reach out to the African Diaspora, but practically all of them are more interested in their own respective country Diaspora.  What is needed are African leaders who are willing to join in empowering the African Diaspora like President Wade has done and is doing. 

There should be less discussions and meetings upon meetings and more actions.  If I were asked to cast my vote right today, I would cast it for President Abdoulaye Wade as the champion of the African Renaissance and as the President of the United States of Africa that we are yet to have.
"Speaking Truth To Empower."

Dr. Chika Onyeani is the author of the highly controversial and brutally frank No.1 bestselling book, "Capitalist Nigger: The Road to Success - A Spider Web Doctrine," as well as the blockbuster novel, "The Broederbond Conspiracy", adapted by San Francisco State University to teach students how to write a spy novel.

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