ADDIS ABABA The African Union (AU) agreed on Sunday to consider a Senegalese proposal to resettle Haiti's earthquake homeless and possibly create a state for them in Africa.
The idea was first floated by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade who said the history of Haitians as descendants of African slaves gave them the right to a new life on the continent.
AU chairman Jean Ping told African leaders at its annual summit in Addis Ababa that they would discuss the proposal during the three-day event. The AU had opened an account for Haiti with the African Development Bank, he said.
"It is out of a sense of duty and memory and solidarity that we can further the proposal of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to create in Africa the conditions for the return of Haitians who wish to return after the effect of the disaster that ravaged Haiti," Ping said.
Wade said Senegal and other African states should naturalize any Haitians who sought new nationality, and he urged a mass adoption programme across the continent for orphans of the quake, feared to have killed as many as 200,000.
The idea for a new state is reminiscent of the 19th century creation of Liberia by freed U.S. slaves. The West African country is currently recovering from a 1999 civil war and is hoping to benefit from recent oil discoveries off its coast.
"We have attachment and links to that country," Ping said of Haiti. "The first black republic in 1804, that carried high the flame of liberation and freedom for the black people."
(Reporting by Barry Malone and Duncan Miriri; Editing by Angus MacSwan)