Senegal unveils colossal statue amid criticism





Senegal on Saturday unveiled a colossal statue during a lavish ceremony amid reports of criticism over the monument's construction at a time when the western African nation is struggling financially.

The 164-foot structure -- about a foot taller than the Statue of Liberty -- shows the figures of a man, a woman and a child, arms outstretched, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

President Abdoulaye Wade says the statue, which he designed, is a monument to Africa's renaissance. Critics say the opulent copper structure is merely the product of the president's own self-indulgent vision and poor governance.

And though it dominates the skyline of Senegal's capital, Dakar, the monument falls far short of the president's claim that it is the world's largest. Several other statues are listed by multiple sources to be taller, including China's Spring Temple Buddha, which stands just under 420 feet.

Opposition group Benno Siggil Senegal called on the Senegalese people to "refuse to associate themselves with a fraudulent scheme designed to satisfy the fantasies of Abdoulaye Wade and to lay the foundations of dynastic reign of Wade on our country," according to the African Press Agency.

A spokeswoman for the president sought to downplay criticism Saturday, saying the statue -- valued at roughly $20 million -- was made possible by a land deal between Wade and North Korea, and that proceeds from the monument will benefit Senegalese children.

The statue is "an affirmation to be proud of Africa -- to be proud to be black," said spokeswoman Gia Abrassart....

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