Haidar El Ali (left) receiving a plaque to recognize his role in the development of the Global Greens Congress in Dakar, Senegal. The plaque is being presented by Frank Habineza, President of the Rwanda Democratic Green Party.
I was just lugging my overweight suitcase into my loft when I had an update about Senegal. Haïdar El Ali, president of the Senegalese Green Party, FEDES, has been named minister of the environment under Macky Sall's new government.
You have to start thinking it does not get much better than this, right now.
The Global Greens chose Senegal for the first Global Congress to be held in Africa and the event came to an end on April 1. Haider was a constant presence at the two Congresses (Global Young Greens and Global Greens) and, whenever we had a press gathering, Haidar was in constant demand in the post-event scrums.
The night before we left Senegal, we had a 'thank you' dinner for the volunteers who had been instrumental to the success of the event - and we had it at Haidar's Oceanium location - a couple of thousand hectares right on the Senegalese coastline and just down the hill from the presidential palace. He runs his environmental campaigns from here, dressed in rough cotton shirts and outdoorsy clothing - I have an immediate thought about whether he even owns a suit, or will he keep his inimitable style as minister.
Haidar, as host of last night's event, was passing amongst the group having a chat here and there. The location of Oceanium is prime real estate and he has been offered millions of CFA (hundreds of thousands of Euros) to let people build houses on the space - and he has constantly refused the offers. If life were about making money, Haidar would have had that solved a while ago.
I had never met Haidar before the Congress - which makes me pretty much on par with the overwhelming majority of people who flew in from different corners of the world for the event. But everybody knew him, would point him out, would pay extra attention when he spoke. And we have dozens of photos of Haidar in a media scrum, giving out interviews to the national and international press. He will be a force in the new government - and it has to say something about President Macky Sall's intentions.
It will clearly offer exceptional opportunities for FEDES to gain more presence in the country.
Getting home to this news is rather special.