More than two decades after two far-right youths attacked him there and smashed his glasses, Karamba Diaby hopes to represent the economically ailing east German city of Halle as the first black member of Germany’s parliament. Senegal-born Diaby often felt isolated as a student at Halle University in then-communist, and overwhelmingly white East Germany in the 1980s. Nowadays he feels very much at home but says Germany still needs to do better at integrating foreigners. “There is definitely some catching up to do,” Diaby, a candidate for the main center-left opposition Social Democrats (SPD) in Sunday’s national election, told Reuters. Diaby, 52, is clearly frustrated that media attention has focused on his skin color, not his politics. “If it’s so sensational that I am running for the Bundestag (lower house), after living here for 27 years, studying here and being politically active, that’s because it has dawned on people that this hasn’t happened before,” he said.
Diaby is one of two black candidates standing for election on Sunday – the other, Charles Huber, is from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). But unlike Diaby, Huber was born in Germany, to a German mother and Senegalese father.
Of the handful of blacks prominent in German public life, most are sportsmen. Three members of the national soccer team in the last World Cup in 2010 in South Africa were black.
Few German politicians have a foreign background. Those who do typically arrived as young children, such as Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, who was born in South Vietnam and adopted as a baby by a German couple.
The Bundestag has half a dozen members from the largest ethnic minority, Turks, including Cem Oezdemir, a leading Green lawmaker. Some three million of Germany’s population of 80 million are of Turkish origin.