First African Member of German Parliament Will Not Seek Reelection

Germany's first African-born member of parliament said this week that he would not run again in next year's general election. Although he downplayed racism as a factor, he made the announcement shortly after his staff released the contents of a series of hate mail and death threats his office had received.

The lawmaker, Karamba Diaby, a 62-year-old Senegalese first elected in 2013, said in a letter to his colleagues that he wanted to make room for a new generation of politicians and that racism was “not the main reason” for his decision. But he was outspoken about the abuse he has faced, which has increased in volume and tone in recent years.

In 2020, bullets were fired through the window of his district office, and last year the office was targeted by an arson attack.

“I can't undo all this,” Mr. Diaby was quoted as saying in an interview, according to the Funke Media Group, a major German newspaper and magazine publisher. “These are not small things.”

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

However, the far-right party Alternative for Germany, known as AfD, far outperformed its center-left party in its constituency.

Mr Diaby blamed the surge in racism and threats on the emerging AfD party, whose populist platform won it second place in Germany’s recent European Union elections.

“I’ve had to deal with several assassination threats over the past few years,” he said in a podcast interview with this week. “This has now crossed the line.”

“The hatred that the AfD sows every day with its misanthropic narratives is reflected in concrete psychological and physical violence,” he added. “This endangers the cohesion of our society. We cannot simply accept this.”

The city of Halle, represented by Mr Diaby, is located in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, one of the eastern states dominated by the nationalist, anti-immigration AfD party.

Just last year, Mr. Diaby took a very different tone toward those who had threatened him.

“More than 42,000 people in Halle voted for me,” he said in an interview with the magazine Der Spiegel. “Resigning would mean giving their votes less weight than those of a hateful minority.”

“I would never allow this to happen,” he added.

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed to the writing of the report.

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