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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 10:48 GMT
What did you think of Senghor?
The founding father of independent Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor, has died at the age of 95.
Mr Senghor, who was the country's first president after it gained independence from France, died at home in France on Thursday.
Tributes to Senghor have been flowing in. French President Jacques Chirac said: Senegal has lost a statesman, Africa a visionary, and France a friend.
What do you think of Senghor? Was he a great democrat, a great poet and a good role model for other African leaders, or was he far to close to Senegal's former colonial ruler, France?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The main thing I retain and care for in the man's work, is his incessant battle in favour of the dignity of the Black man. Indeed, Senghor has succeeded in eradicating many clichés that were wrongly labelled on Black people and Africans. By robbing shoulders with western intellectuals(see his admission into the Académie Française) he has shown the whole world that Black could also help build up the human thought. Never put out this fire!
Peter Kenah, Sierra Leone
What legacy? Senghor's only legacy to African leaders was the one of not practising what he preaches. He wrote about the beauty of the black woman; he married a white one. He wrote about having pride in Africa, and the black race; he became a French citizen and spent his latter years in France. This is his true legacy to African leaders: saying one thing and doing the opposite.
Mr. Senghor, like many African leaders before him and since, have great difficulty grasping the concept 'democracy'. Their idea of it, perhaps inevitably, always has an African twist that turns up 'king'. Old customs die-hard. Perhaps Africans need to derive a system of government that takes into account the benefits of kingship, yet guards against it's abuses.
As a student I was interested in his views of pan-Africanism. As one of the founders, he has always been a visionary for democracy and independence for all of Africa.
That fact he gained independence for Senegal in 1960 from the French was a great achievement. He was one of Africa's Heavyweights and he did the right thing by going into retirement in the eighties.
When a man earns the kind of honour and platitudes that have been bestowed on Senghor by supreme Europe you must know whose interest his life and work served - the continued imposition and dominance of European thought and practices throughout the world to the enforced exclusion of all others.
These are true African statesmen who led their countries at the most critical times and eventually handed power to their successors through democratic elections. They represent the true face of Africa unlike African despots like Qaddafi of Libya, Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Toroitich arap Moi of Kenya who have clung to power even when the writing is on the wall in black and white that their citizens have had enough of them.
Sengor also represents another rare quality which is evidently lacking in the leadership of this crucial continent-Education.
If only we had twenty Senghors! May the Lord receive him kindly.
Michael Kanyingi, Kenya/Maryland, USA
With all the respect, young African owed to him, I think Senghor appreciated France more than Africa. That is very regrettable from an African leader.
Andy Hanson, USA
Mr Senghor, contrary to what is being said about him now, was a tyrant who abolished all opposition parties in 1962. He then imprisoned his own prime minister. As an aspiring African writer myself, I find his concept of négritude, negative and rooted in a bygone era, the colonial era. A concept that alienates the black man from the "universal civilisation" to which Senghor himself aspired, negritude reduces the black man to just his "blackness", his race.
Leopold Senghor was indisputably one of the world's great statesmen. When one considers the times he lived in (before 1960), Senghor's achievements as a black man in a white world stand out glaringly. He is directly responsible for the stability Senegal enjoys today because of the groundwork he laid. I think he was able to keep a balance between his relationship with France and his responsibility to Senegal. May he rest in peace.
Omar Ngarigari, USA/Burundi
Most African leaders prefer to die in office. They basically do not care about the future of their countries. Senghor may have looted some from his country but he did not insist on remaining in office until death. May his soul rest in peace.
Senghor the politician was a disaster. He completely failed to develop Senegal and betrayed the interests of his own people. His ideas were great but unfortunately his actions never reflected them. He claimed he loved his country yet ruined it and then fled to France, leaving us Diouf to further precipitate our downfall.
However, Senghor the poet has made us Senegalese proud and this is what I want to remember of him. May he rest in peace.
Critics may accuse him of being too friendly towards France (Senegal's former colonial ruler). Well, his explanation must be understood; and I sincerely believe in what he said, that a poor country like Senegal needs good friends, even neo-colonial ones. May he rest in perfect peace!
Jeremiah Karanja, USA
This is an inevitable moment in all our lives but I feel a great loss. I've known and read Senghor's work since the late 60's. I feel very lucky that I've kept my writings because most are out of publication. He has influenced my (visual) art, along with Wole Soyinka, Zora Neale Hurston and others. I'm grieving...
A true statesman; a pioneer; a man who peacefully stepped down rather than being put down. A lesson that many African leaders never seem to learn. A true loss to Africa and Africans.
I think Senghor was a great poet. However, I also think that he and Houphouet are the ones who sold Africa so cheaply to France. No great African lived after each country's independence. They have either been killed or silenced for good.
President Leopold Sedar Senghor
was a great leader and statesman who helped democracy grow in Africa.
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