Page last updated at 20:10 GMT, Saturday, 3 April 2010 21:10 UK

Senegal inaugurates controversial $27m monument

The Monument of African Renaissance
Sexist, un-Islamic and costly have been some of the criticisms

Senegal has inaugurated a massive $27m (£18m) monument - higher than the Statue of Liberty - that has drawn huge criticism over its cost and symbolism.

The 49m (160ft) Monument of African Renaissance has been unveiled in Dakar as the highlight of the nation's 50th anniversary of independence.

Some scholars have labelled its scantily clad figures un-Islamic, while others said it was a waste of money.

Supporters say it represents Africa's rise from "intolerance and racism".

In the hours leading up to the inauguration, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Dakar to voice their opposition.

The Soviet-style bronze statue, built by North Korean workers, is the idea of President Abdoulaye Wade.

It depicts three figures - a man holding a woman behind him and a child aloft, pointing out to sea.

'Monument of shame'

Mr Wade also attracted fierce criticism for saying he should take 35% of the revenue generated by the monument because it was his idea.

Protest in Dakar
Protesters carried a mock statue through the streets of Dakar

Riot police patrolled the streets during the protest rally, which the authorities initially banned, before relenting.

The demonstration was called to protest against "all the failures of Wade's regime, the least of which is this horrible statue".

Deputy opposition leader Ndeye Fatou Toure said the statue was an "economic monster and a financial scandal in the context of the current [economic] crisis," AFP news agency reported.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by 19 African heads of state, North Korean officials, and a delegation of 100 African-Americans including the Rev Jesse Jackson.

Guests were given a tour of the monument ahead of the ceremony.

The vast staircase leading up to it was lined with hundreds of people wearing yellow and blue, the colours of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party.

"Africa has seized this monument," presidential spokesman Mamadou Bamba Ndiaye told AFP.

"It is rare to have one country hosting more than a dozen heads of state for this kind of event. That testifies to their support."

The statue has divided opinion in a country where half the population lives below the poverty line.

Every architectural work sparks controversies - look at the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Senator Ahmed Bachir Kounta

Some Muslim scholars have called the monument idolatrous.

On the eve of the celebrations, the Reuters news agency quoted a leading imam, Massamba Diop, as telling worshippers at a mosque in the capital: "We have issued a fatwa urging Senegal's imams this Friday to read the holy Koran in the mosques simply to ask Allah to preserve us from the punishment this monument of shame risks bringing on Senegal."

The statue has been mired in controversy from the outset.

President Wade - who at 83 has announced he will seek re-election in 2012 - had to apologise to Senegal's Christian minority after comparing the monument to Jesus Christ.

Its architect also said he had received complaints about the woman's naked legs.

However, its supporters stood by the project.

Senator Ahmed Bachir Kounta told Reuters: "Every architectural work sparks controversies - look at the Eiffel Tower in Paris."

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