By Kemo Cham
When Senegalese President Abdoulie Wade unveiled his ‘‘radical’’ proposal, offering Haitians land to return ‘home’ to, his idea was bound to meet with criticism, especially so from his political opponents. Needless to say that such criticism was never in short supply here in Senegal, especially in the press. The criticism appeared even greater at the international level. But there were a few but coherent write ups in support as well. However, one very important thing that seemed to have escaped everyone was the need to give Haitians themselves the chance to say what they think about the offer. That is exactly what the Bahamas based Tribune did. It turned out that even though Haitians weren’t likely to take the offer, they are not as dismissive as many people would prefer thinking. The reasons were varying but convincing – distance, poverty, among others. “For me that is a good idea. Every black comes from black Africa. Haitians come from Africa,” one Haitian-Bahamian parent whose son had been living on the streets in Port-au-Prince since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed their home, said. President Wade, in addition to a monetary donate of $1 million in emergency aid, also offered, in the words of his spokesperson, Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye “voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to their origin. If it’s just a few individuals, then we will likely offer them housing or small pieces of land. If they come en masse we are ready to give them a region.” Even though Marirm Jean would want to stay put in the country she has known all her life, she told The Tribune that she was touched by the president’s desire to help. Her concern, apparently, is not only about the economic prospect here in Africa but also the distance. “They have poverty over there too, and it is too far away. People might want to visit their family, but it is too expensive,” she said. Quite a genuine and well put view. A Haitian businessman, who obviously doesn’t sound like anyone who would fall in for the offer, shared Marirm’s view about distance. “For me, I think that is too far away. Africa is too far.’’ But unlike Marim, this man is concerned about what will happen in the future. ‘‘They care now, but later on what is going to happen? They might feel different later on and then what will happen. I think it is better to send them closer.” There is some poignant reality about that last statement. Abdoulie Wade is a personification of a typical African politician. He made a statement he knew quite well was bound to attract the media attention it got. But was he driven by that? We will never know for now. Not in a long time even if his proposal comes to pass. But one thing we can say for certain is that Senegal is home to hundreds, if not thousands of refugees from neighboring countries, who equally need the very same support the Haitians look for, yet they are no near to getting it. Already, reports are emerging that the president has began to backtrack on his offer, hinting that he is planning to put his proposals to the 53-nation African Union.
Haitians respond to Wade’s proposal
By Kemo Cham