Karamba Diaby was born and bred in a small South Western Senegalese town, Marsass. He lost both of his parents while he was only 7yrs old, thus was raised by his sister and her husband. During his time at the University in Dakar, he teamed up with a few friends and campaigned for institutions and schools to be renamed after famous Senegalese who had fought for independence. While still at University in his activism activities, he came into contact with a left-wing student organization that granted scholarships to students to study in the Eastern Germany Block.
He applied and got the scholarship. In 1985 he moved to Leipzig for a language course then on 6th July 1986, he moved to Halle where he studied Chemistry. He remained active in politics even at his new Uni becoming the head of the International Student Committee but he experienced discrimination as he was denied access to the lounge because he was a foreigner. On complaining and terming the act racist, he was told: “Racism doesn’t exist in socialism, you’ll have to call it something else”.
On failing to find a job after the fall of the wall, he decided to proceed and get a PhD. During the time, he got to combine both his loves, science and politics by helping save one of the major gardens in Halle. A real estate investor had claimed that the gardens were contaminated and want to destroy them but Karamba did his own analysis and found that the whole story was a hoax. This stopped the planned destruction and today many in Halle remember the Senegalese chemist who saved their gardens.
In July 1991, the same year he became German, two young boys punched him in the face and ran after him in a racist attack in Halle, a town with a significant neo-Nazi problem.
After close to three decades in Germany, he was this year 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. Experts predict a sure win and most media outlets are running stories of him as the First African MP in Germany.
Karamba who avoids to talk of his skin colour and the issues of campaigning as a black candidate in Germany, agrees there’s a problem but doesn’t want to focus on it. He maintains he prefers to talk of his pet projects (education, social justice and the environment) and plans of what he’ll do when elected instead of his skin colour which he can’t do much about, nor does he want to accuse all voters of racism either.
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.”
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
Diaby is married to a German and has two children.