Karamba Diaby, from a small town in Senegal to Germany’s Bundestag


The recent election in Germany brings us a new Shared Societies Champion: Karamba Diaby, who has won a seat in the Bundestag. This 51-year-old chemist writes a new page in the History of the country by becoming its second Black parliamentarian.  Diaby, representing the Social Democrats, was born in a small farming town in Senegal. He finished his studies in Eastern Germany in 1986, and he decided to stay in the country. Since then, he has lived in Halle. And now, the city wants him as their representative.

Halle’s scenario adds a special value to Mr.Diaby’s election. Because it can help to fight the image of racism that sometimes is associated with Eastern Germany. It’s a positive milestone to overcome negative aspects, like the success of the extreme right in Halle (in 2011 regional elections; the neo-nazi party NPD obtained 10% of the votes).

I feel accepted”, said Mr.Diaby after the victory. And this acceptance is very meaningful. Because, due to the colour of his skin, Mr.Diaby has received many offensive letters, death threats and he was even beaten in 1990 by a group of right-wing extremists. But he has always maintained his commitment to Halle, being active in local politics since he moved to the city. One of his greatest successes in the 90s was to stop investors from bulldozing private garden plots. His neighbours first recognized his efforts by electing him for the city council in 2009, and now taking him to the Bundestag.

His election campaign was followed closely by the international media. A hype that, as he told to Newsweek, has something to do with “the fact that the public has realized what a deficit [Germany have] in terms of political participation of people with immigrant backgrounds”. About 10 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born, but their political representation is not proportional with this number.

Anyway, Mr.Diaby refuses to be regarded only as an example of good integration or a model for other immingrants. “I want to be recognized for being good, not for the colour of my skin”, he claims. And also jokes about his integration in Germany: “I’m only 95 percent integrated. When it comes to food, I’m probably not as integrated, because I love African food with spicy, flavourful sauces. I love to have that with rice and okra.”

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