In Africa, there are many words for unit and working together in solidarity for the common good. In KiSwahili, it is ‘harambe‘, in the Bantu languages, it is ‘ubuntu‘. Whilst the rest of the world has responded to the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti that has killed around 150 000 people and left millions more homeless, with money and humanitarian support, African countries have also played their part. South Africa has sent some of their fire departments finest search and rescue crews and health specialists, whilst many other countries have pledged money to Haiti, even poor countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However the one that has really interested me has been the proposal by Senegals President Abdoulaye Wade. He has suggested that any Haitian that wants to leave the island in the Caribbean will have a home for them in Senegal, but after criticism at home, he moved to say that he would put it forward to the African Union where they would create a State for the Haitans.
Senegal and Haiti share some history, the dialect of the Haitian-Creole spoken in Haiti has elements of the Wolof language, the language spoken in Senegal. Haiti was created from enslaved Africans from the west coast, who were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in the 1700′s. A common practice was to separate tribes so that they couldn’t communicate together, but with the Haitian language containing Wolof, a significant number must have been from Senegal.
Abdoulaye Wade is known as an extravagant politician, he has created one of the most vibrant democracies in Africa, but similarly it is riddled with corruption, last year an IMF official was given US$200 000 as a ‘leaving present‘, whilst he has faced criticism for his African Renaissance Monument in Dakar that will cost around US$30 million. A sizeable amount when around 30% of the 14 million population live on less than US$1.25 a day.
Whilst this is a very interesting proposal, it is hard to see it being accepted, as laudable an idea it is. Firstly, if referred to the AU, where will the Haitians create their state? Africa is a continent like any other that guards their borders jealously, few will cede territory lightly. Secondly, with so much pressure already on resources, such as water, arable land, and scarce job creation in general, we have seen the results when one group thinks they are being left behind for another such as in the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Thirdly, who will bear the cost of this ‘Project Noah’? As it stands, in theory, if anyone from Haiti can afford the plane ticket, they can fly over to Senegal, but over 70% live on less than US$2 per day, many will therefore not be able to afford to migrate.
I suspect this proposal will somehow disappear very soon, Abdoulaye Wade will have had some good PR abroad, and many Haitians will remember the token gesture, but it is hard to see any Haitians migrating. What are your thoughts on this proposal? Leave a comment.