German Election

Candidate Could Become Germany's First Black MP


Halle constituency candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Karamba Diaby in September.

Halle constituency candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Karamba Diaby in September.

In July 1991, two youths punched Karamba Diaby in the face and chased after him in a racist attack in Halle, an eastern German town with a significant neo-Nazi problem. Now he's about to campaign in the city to become the first black member of the German parliament in the September general election.

Diaby, 51, who has a PhD in chemistry, was born in Senegal and has spent almost three decades in Germany. He moved to East Germany in 1985 before the fall of the Wall to study at the University of Leipzig before moving to Halle a year later. He has been nominated as the candidate for the center-left Social Democratic Party. The fact that he has been given the third slot in the party's list of candidates means he has a very solid chance of securing a seat in the Bundestag, or federal parliament, in Berlin.

"It could be that some people have problems with the color of my skin," he told SPIEGEL. "But I hope I will be accepted because I am involved in many projects."

Diaby gained German citizenship in 1991, is married to a German and has two children. He doesn't like talking about what campaigning is like for a black person in Germany. He doesn't want to belittle the problem of racism in eastern Germany, but he doesn't want to accuse all voters of racism either. He'd prefer just to be able to ignore his origins and to focus the campaign on his pet issues like education, social justice and the environment.

Rampant Racism

That may not be possible though. Two years ago, the right-wing newspaper Junge Freiheit printed a photo of him on its front page and shortly afterwards Diaby, who was working on a project to help immigrants integrate into German society, was showered with abusive letters calling him a "Nigger" and telling him to "get back into the bush."

These days, he says he doesn't suffer from neo-Nazi violence. "I can take a taxi when I'm in an uncomfortable neighborhood," he says. In some districts in the city, the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) scored almost 10 percent of the vote during the last state election in 2011. And some parts aren't even considered safe for people with darker skin at night.

As a campaigner, he says he's going to get out and meet many people. "I'm not naïve," he says. "I don't rule out that someone might feel provoked."

But he adds that he won't let himself be intimidated. "I'm an authentically eastern German politician," says Diaby.

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