Mark John, Reuters, April 4, 2010
Senegal inaugurated its giant “African Renaissance” monument on Saturday, brushing aside complaints that the $28-million personal project of President Abdoulaye Wade was a waste of money and un-Islamic.
Wade arrived at the statue of a man, woman and child to the sounds of African drumming and dancers in traditional costume as hundreds of his supporters watched, some waving banners urging him to seek another term in 2012 elections.
He said the monument was for all of Africa. “It brings to life our common destiny,” he said. “Africa has arrived in the 21st century standing tall and more ready than ever to take its destiny into its hands.”
Slightly bigger than New York’s Statue of Liberty and built by North Korea, the monument perched on a hill overlooking the capital Dakar has been criticized as a waste of money in a country with crumbling infrastructure and welfare provision.
One imam in the mainly Muslim West African state issued a fatwa on Friday condemning the statue as idolatrous, a charge dismissed by Wade’s allies.
“In 2010, Africa has to be reborn,” said 36-year-old Thierno Dienj, who was among the crowd at a small anti-government rally on Saturday.
“But this monument doesn’t take into account the rising cost of living here,” he said, repeating a common complaint about price increases in basic foodstuffs and public transport.
The notion of an “African Renaissance” came to the fore in the 1990s amid optimism that the continent was shaking off the effects of colonialism and Cold War-era meddling by superpowers.