African leaders considered a proposal by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to resettle Haitians made homeless by the earthquake on 12 January during the three-day African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa from 31 January-2 February.
The proposal drew inspiration from the creation of Liberia in west Africa as an independent state by freed US slaves and their descendants in the mid-19th century. Speaking soon after the tragedy on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, President Wade said the history of Haitians as descendents of slaves from Africa gave them the right to return to the continent and promised parcels of land or even a whole region to prospective settlers, depending on demand. Senegal, like Haiti, is a former French colony.
On 1 February the African news agency Panapress reported that Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had voiced her support for the proposal, saying her country would take in all Haitians who chose to settle there. However the same source reported that other leaders were less enthusiastic, preferring to help Haitians in their own country.
The pan-African AU, which comprises 53 out of 54 African states (Morocco is the only country not to be a member), has already opened an account for Haiti with the African Development Bank for contributions from member states.
As many as 150,000 people are believed to have died in the earthquake in the area of Port au Prince alone. Damage to infrastructure and poor communications has made it difficult to establish the full extent of the devastation outside the capital.