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Cablegate: President Wade's Monument to the Rebirth of Africa: Looking

VZCZCXRO2022
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDK #0649 1571248
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051248Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0592
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1127
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0354
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 0849
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0024
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC

UNCLAS DAKAR 000649

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID EFIN PINS KDEM SG
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT WADE'S MONUMENT TO THE REBIRTH OF AFRICA: LOOKING
FORWARD IN RETURN FOR A MESS OF POTTAGE?

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. In an effort to leave a legacy for himself that
identifies with the glories of Africa's past achievements and even
more with Africa's future, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has
mobilized Pierre Goudiaby Atepa, a Senegalese architect and
businessman, to arrange the construction of several monuments in
Dakar, most importantly the "Monument of the African Renaissance."
However, the circumstances of the deal with North Korean architects
and builders for the $30m project are dubious, especially in an
extremely poor country which is currently having difficulty feeding
itself. END SUMMARY.

MONUMENT OF THE AFRICAN RENAISSANCE
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On 21 April, EMBOFFS met Pierre Goudiaby Atepa, President
Abdoulaye Wade's architect and a successful businessman charged with
being the creator and guardian of the President's monumental
heritage, to enquire about the structure emerging from a hill along
Dakar's western shore. Construction of the new monument, called the
"Monument of the African Renaissance," is already underway. It is
being built by a North Korean firm. According to Goudiaby Atepa and
the multicolored plan/blueprint of the monument, the west side of
the monument facing the sea will have a foundation and statue made
of a bronze and concrete alloy designed to withstand the relentless
Senegalese wind, seawater, and sand. The statue features a bare
torsoed, muscular African man, with a child in his left arm and his
right arm around the waist of a woman in African cloth draped
halfway over her shoulders and body to her thighs in the style of a
painting on an ancient Greek urn or perhaps a Soviet-era tribute to
the masses. The man and woman attempt to rise Rodin- or
Michelangelo-like from uncut rock, but the statue is really
socialist realist, at once heroic and sterile. The visitor will
enter from the seaside up stairs on either side of a fountain into a
multistory building with a high-ceilinged space, a boutique, a
museum, and a VIP lounge. The lineage between the statue at the
Place du Souvenir and the Monument to the African Renaissance is
obvious: Goudiaby Atepa indicated that they are in contact with the
foundation that administers the Statue of Liberty in the U.S. and
wish to learn about its experience in the management of museums.

WHO WILL PAY
------------

3. (SBU) Goudiaby Atepa said that Senegal would offer North Korea
approximately USD 30 million worth of land for development in
Almadies, the most expensive neighborhood in Dakar, in exchange for
materials and construction and that North Korea could do anything it
wanted with it, from developing to selling it. This is another of
the frequent examples of Wade assuming the role of the state in
apportioning land, having already declared that he alone can
negotiate and approve any projects along Senegal's coast, and, more
recently, determining how vast the site will be. EMBOFFS visited
the site, in the very early stages of construction. Two North
Korean workers encountered at the site told us it would take two to
three years to finish the monument. An interesting sidebar to the
financing arrangement is that fact that the North Korean gambit was
resorted to only after an ill-conceived scheme to persuade African
American sports and entertainment stars to back the project fizzled
upon launch.

COMMENT: CAN'T EAT A WHITE ELEPHANT DURING THE HUNGRY SEASON
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (SBU) According to President Wade and his architectural
spokesman this monument is supposed to represent Africa's rebirth
and its future and will serve as a way out of the discourse that too
often focuses on the wrongs inflicted on Africa in the past without
reference to what contribution Africa and Africans can make to its
own future. However, trading some of the county's prime real estate
in a non-transparent way to the world's most repressive regime to
build a monument ostensibly in honor of Africa's future, but really
a monument to the sitting President of the Republic, is nothing more
than typical post-colonial African big-man politics akin to the late
Ivorian President Felix Houphouet-Boigny's basilica. It is east to
question the wisdom of President Wade's decision to build what many
regard as a white elephant at a time when many Senegalese are eating
one meal a day due to the inexorable rise in food and fuel prices.

SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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