Senegalese-born Karamba Diaby, 55, faces a surge of racist and incendiary speech online for seeking re-election. He has been beaten up, received death threats and hundreds of insulting emails, but Karamba Diaby is not giving up.
Born in Senegal, he won a scholarship to study in then communist East Germany thanks to his membership in a left-leaning student organisation.
Life for an African immigrant was not easy in the former Communist East Germany, where there was little effort to integrate Africans, many of whom were students from socialist countries. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, racism in the region exploded as unemployment shot up. One night in 1991, as Diaby got off a bus, he was set upon by neo-Nazis. But he went on to get his doctorate in chemistry, marry a German, and in 2001, obtained German nationality. In 2013, he stood for a seat in the Bundestag.
After winning a seat four years ago as the first African-born black MP in Germany, Diaby, 55, is now seeking re-election. “To all racists: I’m not your negro!” he wrote on Facebook after receiving a torrent of vitriol online ahead of the September 24 general elections.
I won’t be intimidated,” the Social Democrat lawmaker. Diaby has noted that on social media, “the commentary has become very, very aggressive.” Germany has experienced a surge of racism and xenophobia particularly since the arrival of more than one million asylum seekers since 2015.
After the far-right NPD party called him a “black monkey” and used “the N-word” which he refused to pronounce, Diaby filed a lawsuit.
“There is no freedom of expression when one insults someone else,” he said, adding that it was “the duty of all society” to combat such hate. “The dignity of an individual is written in our constitution,” said Diaby, who speaks fluent German, French and Mandinka.
Diaby says he won over Halle locals after understanding deep into what makes them tick. It was his doctoral thesis that laid the groundwork, as it focused on soil pollution in garden allotments — something Germans hold dear to their hearts. Curious fellow gardeners came over to chat, and that was how Diaby broke the ice with the community, the beginning of his long road into politics.