Statue casts shadow on Dakar's African Renaissance

Wed Aug 19, 2009 11:39am GMT

By Diadie Ba

DAKAR (Reuters) - Soaring above the Dakar skyline, the nearly finished monument to the African Renaissance in Senegal's capital is billed as a symbol of Africa's rise from "centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism".

But critics of the bronze family of man, woman and infant -- at 50 metres tall just higher than New York's Statue of Liberty -- say it only goes to show that even one of the continent's strongest democracies must put up with the whims of its rulers.

President Abdoulaye Wade, who has long styled himself a champion of the poor on the world stage, sparked the furore by declaring himself the "intellectual owner" of the monument and so entitled to a 35 percent cut from future tourist revenues.

"The Senegalese would be just as proud (of the project) as the Greeks of Athens were when Pericles built the Acropolis," said Oumar Sarr, spokesman for the liberal Rewmi party formed by former Wade ally Idrissa Seck.

"But Pericles didn't take 35 percent."

Local media, some of which already chide Wade for autocratic tendencies since starting his second and final term in office last year, have had a field day. The topic has become a mainstay of political chat in the capital.

"I have never seen a president being in a business deal with the same state of which he is the highest representative," said Ousmane Sow, a high school teacher in the capital.

"There is something immoral there."   Continued...

<p>President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade during a plenary session at the 1st World Policy Conference in Evian, October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>
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