Senegal unveils colossal statue

Senegal on Saturday unveiled a colossal statue during a lavish ceremony amid reports of criticism over the monument’s construction at a time when the western African nation is struggling financially.

The 164-foot structure — about a foot taller than the Statue of Liberty — shows the figures of a man, a woman and a child, arms outstretched, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

President Abdoulaye Wade says the statue, which he designed, is a monument to Africa’s renaissance. Critics say the opulent copper structure is merely the product of the president’s own self-indulgent vision and poor governance.

A spokeswoman for the president sought to downplay criticism Saturday, saying the statue — valued at roughly $20 million — was made possible by a land deal between Wade and North Korea, and that proceeds from the monument will benefit Senegalese children.

The statue is “an affirmation to be proud of Africa — to be proud to be black,” said spokeswoman Gia Abrassart.

This renaissance statue is a powerful idea from a powerful mind,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson in remarks to the crowd of hundreds waving flags at the foot of the lighted monument. “This is dedicated to the journey of our ancestors, enslaved but not slaves.”

Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika praised Wade for constructing a monument that represents Africa.

“This monument does not belong to Senegal,” he said. “It belongs to the African people wherever we are.”

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