Survivors offered return to 'land of ancestors'


SENEGAL REPATRIATION:HAITIANS WHO survived the earthquake have been offered the opportunity to come back “to the land of their ancestors” by Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade.

Mr Wade told French radio he wanted Africa to make room for victims of the disaster as it was from there that many Haitians’ ancestors had originated.

From the 16th to the 19th century many Senegalese and other west Africans were enslaved and deported to Haiti.

“The repeated calamities that befall Haiti prompt me to propose a radical solution – to take measures to create somewhere in Africa . . . the conditions for Haitians to return,” Mr Wade said.

He cited Liberia as an example of where similar measures had been taken before, in the mid-1820s, when the USA shipped freed slaves back to a settlement there.

He added: “[The Haitians’ enslaved ancestors] did not choose to go to that island . . . It is our duty to recognise their right to come back to the land of their ancestors . . . Now the problem is to know how, and who will bear the cost.”

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have been left homeless by the earthquake, but it has yet to be ascertained how many of the victims would want to start a new life in Senegal. However, large numbers of people have begun to leave Port-au-Prince due to the slow distribution of food and aid, and the onset of lawlessness.

Presidential spokesman Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye told reporters that Mr Wade had shared his plans with senior aides, and they involved offering voluntary repatriation and plots of land to any Haitian who wanted “to return to their origin”.

“Senegal is ready to offer them parcels of land – even an entire region. It all depends on how many Haitians come. 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,” he said.

Mr Wade had stressed, he said, that those who chose to take up the offer would be given fertile land, as opposed to land in the vast deserts to the north of the country.