Protests cloud opening of Wade's 'African Renaissance' statue
Protesters called for the resignation of Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade on Saturday as the country prepared to inaugurate a multi-million-dollar monument to “African Renaissance” on the 50th anniversary of its independence.
AFP - Thousands of opposition protesters marched in Dakar on Saturday to demand President Abdoulaye Wade's resignation as Senegal prepared to inaugurate a contested multi-million-dollar independence statute.
The Soviet-style bronze colossus, higher than the US Statue of Liberty, was intended by Wade to mark 50 years since Senegal's independence but has been attacked as a wasteful extravagance in hard economic times.
The Dakar protest kicked off three kilometres (two miles) from the controversial African Renaissance Monument, on a hill overlooking Dakar, which was to be inaugurated later in presence of several African heads of state.
Riot police patrolled the streets clad in helmets and shields as demonstrators held up banners calling for Wade to resign over the statue, whose cost is estimated at more than 15 million euros (20 million dollars).
"The people demand ethical governance and reject the gangster management of the Wade clan," read one placard.
Marchers included the head of the former ruling Socialist Party Ousmane Tanor Dieng, former prime minister Moustapha Niasse and ex-president Macky Sall.
Deputy opposition leader Ndeye Fatou Toure said the statue was an "economic monster and a financial scandal in the context of the current crisis," in a country where half the population lives below the poverty line.
The Dakar protest went ahead after a ban imposed on Friday was lifted.
"The government retreated," Ibrahima Sene, a leader of the opposition coalition Benno Siggil told AFP. "They know that by banning the march it will only help us in our cause, because people are even more determined to march."
Senegal's opposition called on Friday for a boycott of the inauguration.
It called on visiting Senegalese and foreign dignitaries not to "be associated with a fraudulent operation designed to satisfy Abdoulaye Wade's fantasies about our country."
Built by North Koreans, the monument looks more Soviet in style than Senegalese and has provoked anger over its cost, as well as bewilderment over its style.
The 50-metre ( 164-foot) monument depicts a muscular man emerging from a volcano with a scantily clad woman in tow and holding a baby aloft in his left arm -- pointing towards the West.
Its depiction of a woman with a whisp of fabric covering her breasts and skirting her thighs has been attacked as sexist, but has also baffled many in the overwhelmingly Muslim country, where women dress demurely.
Muslim leaders have added to the chorus of criticism, saying the monument is not in keeping with Islamic values and amounts to a symbol of idolatry.
Opposition supporters object not just to the monument but to plans by Wade to profit from the income it generates.
Wade provoked anger after he said he should be entitled to a third of the tourism revenues expected to be generated from the site since, he argues, he came up with the concept.
The president has previously described the statue in stirring terms.
"This African who emerges from the volcano, facing the West ... symbolises that Africa which freed itself from several centuries of imprisonment in the abyssal depths of ignorance, intolerance and racism, to retrieve its place on this land, which belongs to all races, in light, air and freedom," he has written.
He hopes the monument will lure tourists, becoming an African version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Statue of Liberty.
Senegal's independence day is on Sunday and military parades have been planned with some 30 heads of state invited to attend.