Senegal's controversial African Renaissance statue was unveiled Saturday, with leaders from across the continent calling for unity and the realisation of a "United States of Africa." President Abdoulaye Wade called for the continent to unite in an address to a large crowd and 19 African leaders at the foot of the bronze statue, built by North Korea and higher than the Statue of Liberty.
While African leaders vaunted the statue as a symbol for all black people around the world and its inauguration as a historical moment, thousands of local opponents protested at a wasteful extravagance in hard economic times.
Riot police patrolled nearby streets earlier Saturday as demonstrators held up banners demanding the resignation of Wade, 84, who has been in power since 2000.
Deputy opposition leader Ndeye Fatou Toure said the statue was an "economic monster and a financial scandal in the context of the current crisis," in a country where half the population lives below the poverty line.
Championed by Wade, the 52m (164ft) monument whose cost is estimated at more than 15 million euros (US$20 million) has caused a mixture of anger over its price tag, and bewilderment over its style.
The inauguration of the statue is the highlight of Senegal's 50 years of independence from France on April 4, 1960. It depicts a muscular man emerging from a volcano with a scantily clad woman in tow and holding a baby aloft in his left arm, pointing West towards the Atlantic Ocean.
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