Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade announced this week that 50 Haitians displaced by last month’s devastating earthquake have taken him up on his offer to resettle in Senegal.
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
Johannesburg, South Africa
As African leaders meet this week at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, they will consider, among other issues, a proposal by Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, to resettle Haitians who have been displaced by last month’s devastating earthquake.
The proposal, initially greeted with a stunned silence, simply didn’t appear serious. How could a country with a 54 percent poverty rate, provide land for desperate foreigners an ocean away? Even so, Mr. Wade announced this week that 50 Haitians had taken up his offer, and African Union leaders will look into whether there are other ways the continent can reach out and help their brethren in the African diaspora.
"Haitians want to come to Africa,” Wade told reporters at the African Union summit. “Twenty five of them have registered at our consulate in Kingston, Jamaica, and 25 others over the internet.” Wade urged African nations to do more to accept the more than 1 million Haitians whose own homes now lie in ruins. “My proposal is therefore not unrealistic. They have a right to return to Africa, their original land. They were colonized by the Americans. We will find them land.”
While many in the West see Haiti as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, a country plagued by corrupt or dictatorial leaders, many Africans see Haiti as the country that set the example for their own liberation.
Haitians threw off French colonial rule in 1804 and declared themselves the first black republic. When, a century and a half later, African colonies took their own steps to independence from Europe, they found inspiration and unity with their Caribbean and American brethren, and called that unity Pan-Africanism. It’s an ideal that sums up the very essence of the African Union, and which defines African leaders of a certain generation, such as Wade.