In Copenhagen, President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade lashed out at the industrially advanced countries over what he called their unkept promises. He wants Africa to take itself in hand. This is also an Africa reaching out to its suffering diaspora he says, offering to play its part in helping with the Haiti earthquake aftermath by welcoming Haitians back to their ancestral continent. The Senegalese head of state was interviewed in Dakar.
François Chignac, euronews: About a month ago you were at the Copenhagen summit and you were rather harsh towards the western powers. You said, notably, that the western leaders didn’t keep their promises. According to some specialists Copenhagen was a failure. I’d like to know if, one month later, you’re still angry.
Abdoulaye Wade: When in Copenhagen I see promises of money and all that, I said to myself we are wasting our time again. That’s where I said I have the feeling that the big powers use what one could call a strategy of the promise. That’s to say, one makes promises, new promises, in order to make one forget the old ones. This method has to be changed, we have to change our orientation and our terminology.
euronews: What do you mean by ‘change orientation and change terminology?
Abdoulaye Wade: We have to stop asking for money like that. Firstly, because no one’s going to give it to you. Money you’re given in aid goes into projects. So, when I say that we in Africa have to change our ways, primarily: talk specifics. The Atlantic wall project against coastal erosion which threatens Africa from Casablanca to the Gulf of Guinea… well, no one’s ever done anything about it. We planted palm trees and when the tide comes in it washes them all away. We in Senegal, over a stretch of TWO kilometres, we’ve erected a wall forty centimetres wide so the sea water doesn’t pass. I am the coordinator of environment at NEPAD [the New Partnership for Africa’s Development]. It’s for that reason I ventured to construct the Great Green Wall, which is a wall that goes for 7,000 kilometres from Dakar to Djibouti, and is 15 kilometres wide. And this green wall… it is not for Senegal, it is not for Mali but for humanity, because the desert is advancing. And we have received many scientists’ contributions, from far away, from Australia, from Sweden, from the United States. We Africans have to begin with our own modest means. Senegal HAS begun, but we can not do the 7,000km. Mali has also started its wall. So has Chad. Sure the westerners will come, but, as we say, they risk arriving like the doctor after the patient has died. Things are too slow. It’s not for want of good will to intervene, it’s too complicated for the European Union for example. It seems things could do with some simplification. But that’s the way it is. And I am happy about the fast response for Haiti.
euronews: Must Africa also step in with this sort of…
Abdoulaye Wade: Absolutely. It is heart-wrenching to see this African diaspora, this country of people of the diaspora repeatedly victim of natural calamities. We must look at a radical solution. And I would go so far to say this, with the agreement of the people of Haiti, of course, but President Préval is a friend and he will know what I say is from generosity, we must consider the transplantation of some of the population to Africa. Because it’s not the first time we do that. Liberia: African Americans were transplanted, and today its a population which is integrated with the African population. Because, after all, these people are the descendants of Africans, who were sent against their will to the Americas. So it’s not asking too much to transplant those who want it. Find a territory somewhere in Africa where the international community helps create a city or create a country, why not, which will integrate with what we are in the process of doing. Israel was desert. Palestine was desert. People were transplanted who today are building a country.
euronews: You think that the African continent, and a country or some countries, would be capable of integrating these people economically while some people on the African continent are seeking only to flee? Does the African continent or do African countries have the means to take these people in?
Abdoulaye Wade: You do have to see where Africa’s come from. Things can’t be upturned like that. Africa’s come a long way. Five centuries of slavery. Two centuries of colonisation. That is to say the forced stripping of identity, or dispossession. You speak of abject poverty in Africa, but, you know: when one spends one’s life in pursuit of power one doesn’t have the time to take care of the poor and the miserable. Africa is always looking for power.
euronews: About this problem of power, I’d like to have your feeling on the crisis in Guinea-Conakry. You know that a UN report has talked about a “crime against humanity” committed at the end of September, in Conakry stadium. You took a close personal interest in the matter. So, how do you feel about this? Are you optimistic? What do you expect the future holds for Guinée Conakry?
Abdoulaye Wade: I have to tell you that at a certain moment last year, since Daddis Camara sought my advice every day, I urged him to accept leaving. We had already programmed elections for 27 November. He would leave beforehand. I felt the danger coming.
euronews: Do you think we’re on the verge of a civil war in Guinée Conakry?
Abdoulaye Wade: Absolutely. Unfortunately, in Guinea, confrontations are very violent, every time.
euronews: And what do you think of the UN report asking that Captain Camara perhaps be brought before the International Criminal Court.
Abdoulaye Wade: I’m a lawyer. And I always want the principle of the presumption of innocence to be respected. But the guilty must be prosecuted. The crimes… more than 180 people killed, some 100 women raped… we can’t let that go by without reacting.