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Saturday, 22 December, 2001, 15:55 GMT
Africa mourns Senegal's Senghor
Senghor and Mao
Leopold Senghor (r) meets China's Chairman Mao in 1974
Leading statesmen from Africa and beyond paid tribute to the Senegalese poet president Leopold Senghor after his death was announced.

A hush fell on a summit of African leaders discussing regional cooperation and the creation of a single currency at an ECOWAS summit in Dakar, Senegal.

Outgoing ECOWAS president and Malian leader Alpha Konare asked the delegates to observe a minute's silence in memory of "Senghor, the eulogist of the black condition, man of francophony and statesman."

Senghor was the eulogist of the black condition

Malian president- Alpha Konare

"He was a fighter for Africa and for freedom," Mr Konare said of Senghor, the founding father of Senegal and one of Africa's best known poets, who had died in France aged 95.

The Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade declared 15 days of national mourning.

"I was his adversary, but admired him for all that" Mr Wade said of his political opponent, describing him as "a poet who understood the universe but remained deeply attached to the natural values of the black world".

French President Jacques Chirac summed up the role Leopold Senghor played in history.

"Poetry has lost one of its masters, Senegal a statesman, Africa a visionary and France a friend," President Chirac said.

I was his adversary, but still admired him

Senegalese President - Abdoulaye Wade

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was a "powerful champion of African dignity and an advocate of dialogue among civilisations".

Annan's predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, paid homage to "a statesman... a humanist and philosopher who gave us a brilliant vision of a world where cultures and religions would be reconciled enough to undertake a dialogue of peace".

Gabonese President Omar Bongo said he felt "this great man has left the African continent an orphan".

"For Africa, a voice has been stilled: the voice of a statesman, a poet, a humanist."

The president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, said Africa had lost "a poet of generous inspiration, who incarnated universalism and humanism".

Leopald Senghor
Senghor - "the poet, the visionary, the statesman"

He hailed Senghor as "a hero in the fight for independence in his native Senegal and in Africa" and said "his career as a statesman is a fine example for future generations of Africans."

Daniel arap Moi of Kenya echoed these sentiments, saying Senghor's death "is not only a great loss to Senegal, but to the entire continent".


Leopold Senghor will be remembered as one of the creative forces behind the Negritude movement.

"Many Nigerians...will remember Leopold Sedar Senghor as a politician and former president of Senegal, but many more will remember him as a poet, founder and leader of the Negritude Movement, a movement that emphasised Africanness and the beauty of being black," according to the Nigerian newspaper This Day.

He was a powerful champion of African dignity and an advocate of dialogue among civilisations

UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan

Leopold Senghor and Aime Cesaire of the Caribbean island of Martinique developed the concept of Negritude in the 1930s.

Negritude was against the imposition of French culture on its colonies in Africa and the Caribbean and has been reflected in the literature of black intellectuals as a reaction against colonialism.

"A giant leaf fell off the tree of Africa with the death of Mr. Leopold Sedar Senghor," This Day said.

But Nigeria's literary giant, the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, for many years rejected the Senghor's explanation of Negritude as being too romanticised and idealised.

Other critics saw contradictions between his ideology and the life he led.

"A giant leaf fell off the tree of Africa with the death of Mr. Leopold Sedar Senghor"

Nigerian newspaper - This Day

Born into a privileged family at a time when few Africans were given the opportunity to progress, he was educated in France, fought for France during World War II and worked there before becoming the president of Senegal.

Africans often referred to him as a "black Frenchman". Yet the movement for which he is most famous was born in the spirit of Afrocentricity.

But Senghor was often quoted as saying that he would rather be remembered as a poet than a statesman.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

20 Dec 01 | Africa
Senegal's 'poet president' dies
05 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Senegal
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