'Haitians must return home'

DAKAR - Senegal and other African nations should offer victims of Haiti's earthquake the chance to resettle on the continent, possibly in a newly created state of their own, the West African nation has urged.

DAKAR - Senegal and other African nations should offer victims of Haiti's earthquake the chance to resettle on the continent, possibly in a newly created state of their own, the West African nation has urged.

"Africa should offer Haitians the chance to return home. It is their right. There is nothing to haggle about," President Abdoulaye Wade said.

Television images of black, French-speaking Haitians in distress have touched a nerve across Francophone west and central Africa.

Local media quoted Senegalese officials as saying the country was ready to offer parcels of fertile land to Haitians, many of whom are still waiting for aid after Tuesday's earthquake believed to have killed as many as 200000 people.

The idea for a new state is reminiscent of the 19th century creation of Liberia by freed US slaves.

The West African country is currently recovering from a 1999 civil war and is hoping to benefit from recent oil discoveries off its coast.

Wade argued that Haitians are the descendants of slaves and so had the right to repatriation on the African continent.

Senegal has also pledged $1million (about R7,4million) emergency aid and begun preparations for a televised fund-raising event.

The country of around 13million straddles both the arid Sahel area and the lusher region around its southern border.

While one of the more stable countries in West Africa, it suffers high unemployment and acute deficiencies in basic infrastructure including roads and electricity supply.

Democratic Republic of Congo, which has just been told by the International Monetary Fund that its debt levels are fiscally unsustainable, pledged $2,5million (about R18,5million) aid at the weekend. - Reuters

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