• Germany's news in English
 
German of the Week
'I am Senegalese, but firstly I am German'
Photo: DPA

'I am Senegalese, but firstly I am German'

Published: 13 Jun 2013 07:43 GMT+02:00

Diaby is campaigning under the slogan "Diversity Creates Values" for a seat in the German parliament which, if successful, would make him the country's first lawmaker of African origin.

Many miles away from his birthplace in Senegal, the 51-year-old with a PhD in geo-ecology has made his home in Halle, a city in formerly communist East Germany, and now wants to represent it at the federal level.

"I am Senegalese, it's true, but firstly I am German," Diaby told news agency AFP in an interview.

Third on the Social Democratic Party's (SPD) list of candidates for the region of Saxony-Anhalt, his chances of winning the hotly-contested seat for Halle in Germany's Bundestag lower house of parliament are seen by his party as good.

German voters go to the polls on September 22 when the centre-left Social Democrats will seek to unseat conservative Angela Merkel at the Chancellery after two terms at the helm of Europe's top economy.

Halle, with its 230,000-strong population, is grappling with an unemployment rate that, at 13 percent, is twice the national average. It is also viewed as a hotbed of far-right extremism.

The married father-of-two took German nationality 12 years ago after finding himself "by chance" in East Germany in 1985 as a student, having won a coveted scholarship to learn German and study chemistry in Leipzig.

One of his first political victories came when the detested Berlin Wall fell in November 1989.

Then, as the spokesman for foreign students at his university, he pushed for the situation of exchange students facing deportation with the disappearance of East Germany to be shored up.

Well before joining the Social Democrats in 2008, Diaby, who previously was also a spokesman for striking students in Dakar, says he had always "made justice the fight of his life".

"I would like to be judged on my competence and my experience rather than on the colour of my skin," he said, describing his political journey as a "progression".

Though he was physically attacked in 1991 because of his origins, Diaby, who is also a former president of the Federal Council of Immigrants, believes that today xenophobia no longer poses as big a problem in Germany as 20 years ago.

"East Germany has changed a lot," he said.

Nevertheless the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany has lawmakers in the eastern state assemblies of Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and has secured a seat on Halle's city council.

Rüdiger Fikentscher, former head of the SPD's regional federation, said he recalled being won over by Diaby's experience which, he said, had always surmounted challenges "with flying colours".

"He has all the requisite qualities. He is kind, very intelligent, grasps things very quickly and above all, he's not looking to stand out," he said.

Diaby always walks around his home turf and is a well-known face locally.

"People stop me on every street corner and tell me their stories," he said. "That's part of my work."

His personable manner lends itself to campaigning as the Social Democrats gear up to try to win back the seat from the socialist The Left party which triumphantly took it in elections four years ago.

"Karamba's great strength is his easy contact with people," Thomas Stimpel, one of his campaign officials, said. "You put him in a room with people and 10 minutes later he knows everyone."

AFP/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Wrong but legal' claims child porn case ex-MP
Edathy preparing to face questions in Berlin Photo: DPA

'Wrong but legal' claims child porn case ex-MP

A former rising star of German politics who resigned after pictures of naked children were allegedly found on his official laptop said Thursday what he did was "wrong, but legal." READ  

This week in history
A Brandt name to relaunch a country
Willy Brandt being sworn into office in 1972 Photo: DPA

A Brandt name to relaunch a country

We know him as Willy Brandt - but that was just a pseudonym the former chancellor took to avoid the Nazis. READ  

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find
A similar bomb defused in Potsdam in September 2013. Photo: DPA

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find

Local authorities evacuated some 10,000 people from central Potsdam after an unexploded Second World War bomb was found on a building site. READ  

Sunny outlook for business this winter
Photo: DPA

Sunny outlook for business this winter

German business confidence rose in December on the back of falling oil prices and a weak euro, the Ifo economic institute said Thursday, as the prospects for Europe's biggest economy grew sunnier. READ  

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'
Photo: DPA

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Thursday that sanctions against Russia remain "unavoidable" until Ukraine regains its sovereignty and independence. READ  

Reus fined €540k for no driving licence
Photo: DPA

Reus fined €540k for no driving licence

Germany and Dortmund football star Marco Reus was hit by a €540,000 fine Thursday, after state prosecutors in Dortmund confirmed he has been driving for years without a licence. READ  

British and German troops relive Xmas truce
Soldiers in World War One period uniforms watch the football match. Photo: DPA

British and German troops relive Xmas truce

Teams from the British and German armies played a friendly football game in Aldershot on Wednesday in memory of the Christmas truce of 1914. READ  

Germany hails Obama's 'courage' over Cuba
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Photo: DPA

Germany hails Obama's 'courage' over Cuba

Berlin has welcomed the thaw in US-Cuban relations partly brokered in secret by Pope Francis at the Vatican. READ  

American guilty of killing Hamburg student
Diren Dede's grieving parents outside the court in Missoula Photo: DPA

American guilty of killing Hamburg student

A US court has found a man who shot and killed 17-year old German exchange student Diren Dede guilty of deliberate homicide. READ  

Cabinet agrees road toll for foreigners from 2016
Photo: DPA

Cabinet agrees road toll for foreigners from 2016

After months of bickering among the coalition parties, the cabinet finally agreed to put a road toll for foreigners before parliament, but open questions about its financial viability and legality remain. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,174
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd