Monday, 12 April 2010

Statue of Pride or Shame

It stands taller that most buildings in the world including that of the statue of Liberty. It cost in excess of 25 million dollars. It was built by the North Koreans; I refer not to a building in the United States nor that in Europe or any where in the Middle East.

Africa's most controversial figure, President Wade of Senegal has instigated, supported and overseen the building of this monumental structure. It symbolizes Senegal´s 50 years of independence from French colonial rule.

This structure has been controversial with many from the faith communities in Senegal and around the world angered. Christians were in receipt of a public apology from the president after he compared the statue with Jesus Christ. Many Muslims are appalled and ashamed resulting in a religious fatwa declared and the president resignation demanded.

There have been angry seen on the streets in Senegal, with demonstrations from the general population including members of the parliamentary opposition party.

The image of this statue is of a half dressed man pulling his wife, spouse or girlfriend virtually naked with a baby aloft also wearing very little clothing.

Many Senegalese claim the sculpture has nothing to do with their customs, religion or way of life and it has very little affiliation with what Senegal is all about.

President Wade's decision to erect this structure could stir much needed debate on degrees of tolerance, understanding, freedom of expression and clear thinking.

Senegal like so many African countries is poor with large unemployment amongst the general populace. It defies belief how President Wade could justify the use of the public money in this fashion. Especially as local labour was not used during the construction of this symbolic image. It remains to be seen if this structure will become a tourist attraction attracting much needed cash back into the economy.

President Wade has also made it much more difficult for the full benefits of tourism to filter back to common Senegalese. He has declared that he would pocket personally; over a third of all income generated by the sculpture as it was his idea in the first place.

It shows a President who is out of touch with his people. This could also spell an opportunity for the opposition; to capitalize on an elderly statesman whose decision making seems off the mark. Especially as the country is less that 24 month away from a general election.