Legendary Poet Kofi Awoonor killed in Kenyan attack

2013-09-23
Vanguard Newspaper

A Ghanaian poet of distinction, and one of Africa’s greatest literary icons, Professor Kofi Awoonor, is dead.

He died on Sunday morning from wounds sustained during Saturday’s ghastly and cowardly attack carried out by the Somali militant group – Al Shabaab, at the Westgate Mall, in Kenya.

Ghanaian government officials in the Capital, Accra, have confirmed news of his untimely demise.

“Prof. Awoonor died from injuries sustained during an attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi… a statement issued over the weekend, partly read.

His son, who was with him at the time of the incident, also sustained injuries. He is said to be responding to treatment.

Awoonor, 78, was in Kenya for the 2013 Storymoja Hay Festival – an event for the celebration of stories, ideas, writing and contemporary culture through storytelling, books, live discussion forums, workshops, debates, live performances and music.

The event, which was taking place from September 19 to 22, has since shut down, in what the organisers say is in solidarity with those affected.

A deadly incident that gained enough worldwide attention all weekend, the attack at the Westgate Mall, is the country’s deadliest in recent times.

The death toll stood at 59 on Sunday morning.

A beastly act that sought to attack the soul of the Kenyan people, the attack represents the massive Al-Shabab threat in the region.

On Saturday, hours after the attack, an official Twitter account of the group tweeted “the attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders. #Westgate

But the Kenyan government appear to have understood the group’s message and has promised to “punish them for this heinous crime.”

On his Facebook page, President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote:

“The despicable perpetrators of this cowardly act hoped to intimidate, divide and cause despondency among Kenyans. They would like us to retreat into a closed, fearful and fractured society where trust, unity and enterprise are difficult to muster. An open and united country is a threat to evildoers everywhere. With our values of solidarity and love for our homeland, we fought proudly and bravely to secure the freedom to lead our lives as we choose. Our choice is codified in our Constitution.

“We have overcome terrorist attacks before. In fact, we have fought courageously and defeated them within and outside our borders. We will defeat them again. Terrorism in and of itself is the philosophy of cowards.

“The way we lead our lives; in freedom, openness, unity and consideration for each other represents our victory over all those who wish us ill. We are as brave and invincible as the lions on our Coat of Arms.

“My Government stands ready to defend the nation from internal as well as external aggression. I urge all Kenyans to stand together and see this dark moment through. Donate blood. Provide information to the authorities. Comfort and reassure the affected families. Let us ashame the Devil and his works by demonstrating our timeless values of love, compassion and solidarity.”

Kenyan security forces he said “are conducting a multi-agency response to this attack as we speak and are in the process of neutralizing the attackers and securing the Mall.

“It is a very delicate operation as our top priority remains to safe guard the lives of innocent people held up in this unfortunate incident.”

He adds “But let me make it clear. We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get them. We shall punish them for this heinous crime.”

 

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