DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- Senegal is offering free land to Haitians wishing to "return to their origins" following this week's devastating earthquake, which has destroyed the capital and buried thousands of people beneath rubble.
Senegal's octogenarian President Abdoulaye Wade told a meeting of his advisers that Haitians are the sons and daughters of Africa, because the country was founded by slaves, including some believed to have come from Senegal.
"The president is offering voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to their origin," said Wade's spokesman Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye late Saturday following the president's announcement.
"Senegal is ready to offer them parcels of land - even an entire region. It all depends on how many Haitians come. If it's just a few individuals, then we will likely offer them housing or small pieces of land. If they come en masse we are ready to give them a region," he said.
He stressed that Wade had insisted that if a region is handed over it should be in a fertile area - not in the country's parched deserts.
Senegal, a nation of 14 million roughly the size of South Dakota, is considered one of the most stable and developed in the sub-region. Still nearly half of working-age adults are unemployed and the country has been burdened by high food prices, frequent blackouts and spiraling energy costs.
Many have criticized Wade for being a dreamer, proposing lofty projects that do little to alleviate poverty or address endemic corruption. Others see him as a statesman who dares to have a vision for Africa.
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