• Germany's news in English

'I am Senegalese, but firstly I am German'

The Local · 13 Jun 2013, 07:43

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.

Story continues below…

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."


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Eurowings union threatens cabin crew strike for Thursday
Photo: DPA.

A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will start as of Thursday if ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

Obama to visit Berlin in last presidential trip to Germany
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel during a Berlin trip in 2013. Photo: DPA.

The White House announced on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama will be paying one last unexpected visit to the German capital - his last before he leaves office.

Hostility towards minorities 'widespread in Bavaria'
A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.

Hated RB Leipzig emerge as shock challengers to Bayern
RB Leipzig. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig's remarkable unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season has seen them suddenly emerge at the head of the pack chasing reigning champions and league leaders Bayern Munich.

Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd