Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Senegal fiasco

It's been almost a decade since Senegal's president swept to power with an election campaign slogan of change. Sound familiar? Anyway, Senegal's new 160-foot African renaissance monument as yet again triggered concerned over government mismanagement and nepotism and a towering, multimillion-dollar presidential indulgence.

The $27 million statue-project is that of a mighty Soviet-style bronze statue of a man, woman and child overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and dominates the horizon of the capital, Dakar. Built by North Koreans it is supposed to symbolize the triumph of African liberation from centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism.

Senegal’s economy has collapsed, the education system is in a crisis, and the health system is in crisis. And yet the government is squandering public money on a huge monument that no-one really likes. Sound familiar?

In September last year, Senegal was awarded a $540 million grant from the United States as a reward for — and to encourage — good governance. Isn’t that special? How about it you Americans out there, feel proud over helping out paying for a statue that looks like this:

Muslims, of course, are protesting. The female is kind of half-naked, and presenting the human form as a sort of object of worship isn’t really a part of the Islamic faith. And from their point of view, you cannot really blame them. The statue is neither Islamic or becoming nor aesthetically African. I’m no art critic; I just see the waste of money and think that it can be put to better use. I don’t care if it is a statue of Muhammad riding a dog or of a palm tree. Still a waste.

But just to make things funnier, Abdoulaye Wade, the Senegal president, says he's entitled to 35 percent of any revenues generated from tourism from the monument.

This is almost too comical.

About 30 heads of state are set to attend the inauguration on today, and I cannot wait for some of those getting back home ordering their own set of statues.

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