One of Ghana’s foremost authors, Professor Kofi Awoonor, was among 67 people shot dead in Saturday’s terrorist attack at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
One of Africa’s most extraordinary poets, Awoonor also served in several political roles in Ghana. Until recently, he was the chairman of Ghana’s Council of State.
He was appointed to the Council of State by the late President John Atta-Mills and in 2009 was elected to chair that advisory body.
A source at the Ghana High Commission in Nairobi confirmed Awoonor’s death in the massacre of innocents in Nairobi that has sent shock waves around the world.
A Somali Islamist militant group, Al Shabab, has claimed responsibility for the gruesome attack in which 68 people perished. Many more victims sustained various degrees of critical injuries.
Our source said Awoonor’s son who was with him at the mall also sustained injuries but is currently responding to treatment.
A source at Legon told our correspondent that Awoonor’s death “has put Ghanaians in a big mourning mood. He was a very beloved man, an honorable writer who believed in lifting up all Ghanaians.”
At various times, Awoonor, who was inspired by his country’s most well known nationalist figure, Kwame Nkrumah, also served as Ghana’s ambassador to Cuba, Brazil. From 1990 to 1994, he served as Ghana’s ambassador and permanent representative at the United Nations in New York City, heading the world body’s committee against apartheid.
Awoonor was born on March 13, 1935, educated in Ghana, the University of London, and the United States.
A polyglot and renaissance man, he spoke English, Spanish, French and Portuguese in addition to several Ghanaian languages.
Awoonor held several positions including Head of the Ghana Film Corporation. He taught at universities in the US, the University of Ghana in Legon, and the University of the Cape Coast where he was head of the Department of English.
Awoonor was a gifted writer and passionate promoter of African literature through his critical scholarship. His book of criticism, The Beast of the Earth, is widely regarded as an important foundational text in the appreciation of the links between the oral tradition in Africa and the continent’s modern literary traditions.
In addition to several collections of poetry, Awoonor also authored the highly experimental novel, This Earth, My Brother.
He also wrote his second novel, Comes the Voyager at Last, though not as well known as his first, is regarded by some scholars as an important pioneering fictive work linking Africa and its New World Diaspora.
As a celebrated author, poet, playwright and educator, Awoonor was known for the range of references in his literary work.
His poetry reflected a deeply Afrocentric perspective rooted in his Ewe cultural identity and integrated with contemporary religious symbolism and Western literary devices. His works, especially his poetry, were once widely studied at by students taking their General Certificate of Education (GCE) examinations in English-speaking West African countries.
Our source said he was not aware whether Awoonor was on an official mission in Kenya.
The government of Ghana has issued a statement describing his death as tragic.
Ghanaian President John Mahama also sent a message of condolence to the Awoonor family in which he assured them of his government’s determination to get to the bottom of the matter.
Meanwhile, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to hunt down the perpetrators of the attack.
No fewer than 68 persons had been confirmed killed by gunmen who stormed the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital last Saturday.
Joseph Lenku, the Kenyan cabinet Secretary for Interior Ministry confirmed the figure while addressing journalists yesterday, saying 175 other persons were injured during the attacks and were receiving treatment at various hospitals across the city.
The cabinet secretary said an unknown number of persons were still being held hostage by the attackers, while more than 1,000 others, including foreign nationals had be evacuated from the mall.
He, however, gave the assurance that security agents were on top of the situation and urged Kenyans to remain calm as efforts were being intensified to rescue the hostages.
However, the Chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC), Dr Dlamini Zuma, has condemned what she described as “dastardly terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in a Nairobi shopping mall” which claimed many lives.
The condemnation is contained in a statement issued by the AUC Directorate of Information and Communication, made available to newsmen yesterday in Addis Ababa.
The statement noted that “this cowardly attack once again underlines the imperative for renewed and reinvigorated efforts to combat terrorism on the continent.’’
It quoted Zuma as reiterating the AUC commitment to work with AU member states and partners “to end all forms of terror attacks on innocent lives in different parts of the continent.’’
It also quoted the AUC chairperson as expressing the commission’s solidarity to the government and people of Kenya and condoling with families of the victims, and wished the injured speedy recovery.
The statement expressed the commission’s commitment to sustain efforts in countering terrorism throughout the continent, as well as pursue efforts to stabilise the situation in Somalia and other crises areas in Africa.
It would be recalled that the Red Cross on Saturday confirmed that 30 persons were instantly killed when gunmen stormed the West gate Mall in Nairobi, while more than 60 others were injured in attack.
However, yesterday, the Red Cross confirmed that the Nairobi shopping mall death toll has reached 68, after nine more bodies were brought out from the building.
Lenku said that the gunmen, numbering 15, are still holding a number of persons hostage in the building.
He added that more than 1,000 persons, including some foreign nationals, had so far been rescued between Saturday and the early hours of Sunday.
The secretary said the attackers had been isolated and were being monitored through the CCTV, while security agencies had cordoned off the mall in an effort to rescue the remaining victims being held by the attackers in the building.
He gave the assurance that security agencies were in total control of the situation and were planning on the best possible way to rescue those being held by the attackers.
He confirmed that one of the suspects had been arrested but declined further comments, saying “disclosing the details will jeopardise the efforts of the security agents.’’
He commended the efforts of the Red Cross and others involved in the rescue operations as he confirmed that many people had donated blood to the victims receiving treatment in the hospitals.
Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road
No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.
By: Taneh Beemene
Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank
The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.
Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms
Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.
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