World

First African-Born Member of German Parliament Won’t Seek Re-election


Germany’s first African-born member of Parliament said this week that he would not seek office again in next year’s general elections. Although he played down racism as a factor, he made the announcement in the wake of a slew of hate mail, death threats he said he has received, as well as multiple violent attacks on his office.

The lawmaker, Karamba Diaby, a 62-year-old Senegal native first elected in 2013, said in a letter written to his colleagues that he wanted to make way for a new generation of politicians, spend more time with family and that racism was “not the main reason” for his decision. But he has been outspoken about the abuse he has experienced, which has markedly increased in volume and tenor in recent years.

Bullets were fired through the window of his district office in 2020, and the office was a target of arson last year.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Diaby reiterated his stance but acknowledged the attacks he had weathered were a factor in his decision. Particularly troubling, he said, was the feeling his staff were also in harm’s way. “That cannot be brushed aside,” he said. “However, I have stressed that I will never allow myself to be intimidated.”

The election over a decade ago of Mr. Diaby, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and emigrated to East Germany in 1985, was at the time hailed as a major win for equality. Mr. Diaby, who belongs to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrat party, cited a desire to spend more time with family as a main reason for his departure.

Yet the far-right Alternative for Germany party, known as AfD, has been far outpolling his center-left party in his constituency.

Mr. Diaby has blamed the rising AfD, whose populist platform won them second place in Germany in the recent European Union elections, for the spike in racism and threats. The AfD regularly traffics in anti-immigrant rhetoric, a call that has become louder in recent years, and even begun to bleed into the mainstream. Mr. Diaby has faced death threats he said, and increasing harassment.

“The speeches are full of hate and denigration and inhumane statements about minorities in Germany. That is very, very noticeable, and the atmosphere is also palpable,” Mr. Diaby said in an interview the day he announced his decision. “I am of the opinion that what we are observing on the streets is an increase in violence. The breeding ground for this is the aggressive and racist speech.”

The city of Halle, which Mr. Diaby represents, is in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, one of the eastern states where the nationalist and anti-immigrant AfD dominates.

Mr. Diaby vowed to make his remaining time in office count. He said he was not worried about giving the impression of retreating from the rising forces of racism, with his move — citing his long and barrier-breaking career.

“On the contrary, it is an encouragement to many young people,” he said. “Because only if you join in can you change something. So my message is quite the opposite: get involved, help change this society.”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.



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