Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:16 pm
by ’Bode Modupe
– Rwandan President, Paul Kagame has extolled the virtues of Nigeria’s Nobel Laureate and literary icon, Professor Wole Soyinka, describing him as a “tireless fighter”, who he said has “ruffled many feathers, and paid a steep price for his outspokenness; but did not surrender or fall silent”.
President Kagame stated this in his remarks at the launch of “Crucible of Ages” – a Collection of Essays, to commemorate Soyinka’s 80th birthday.
“I have very good reasons for wanting to pay tribute to Wole Soyinka”, said Kagame a special guest at the ceremony.
“What first comes to my mind is his moral clarity, in particular his firm solidarity with the people of Rwanda. At the height of the genocide in 1994, he wrote: “All notions of sovereignty with respect to Rwanda should be completely forgotten and we should just go in and stop the killing.”
Describing further the instrumental role of the literary critic at the peek of the Rwandan crisis, Kagame said: “Truer words were never spoken. The only debate within the international community, was about how quickly the peacekeepers could be removed from Rwanda.
“In the years after 1994, Professor Soyinka has visited Rwanda several times, and acquired a deep understanding of what we went through, and how we rebuilt our country.
“This conviction is especially significant for us as Rwandans, and it goes a long way toward explaining why Professor Soyinka is so well-positioned to appreciate not only the root causes of Rwanda’s collapse, but more importantly the choices we have made in rebuilding our nation on a new foundation.“
The Rwandan President said, talking about the literary icon “inevitably leads to a conversation about Africa’s journey, which he has so passionately chronicled.
“Wole Soyinka’s life spans practically the entire course of Africa’s liberation struggle, from the absurd indignities of the colonial era, to the tragic failures of the early years of independence.
“For this ideal, in part, he spent nearly two years imprisoned in solitary confinement.
He said, Soyinka will remain a beacon for young Africans having contributed immensely in calling attention to the difficult work of liberating the mind.
“He has been an unapologetic exponent of the universality of African value. He will remain, and his works should be requisite reading in schools around the continent,“ he said.
Playing host at the event held at the State Banquet Hall in Accra, the Ghanian capital on Tuesday, President John Mahama of Ghana, eulogized Prof. Soyinka for having demonstrated “intellectual rigour” in his works using the power of the pen to advocate social change in Africa.
“Love him or hate him, Wole Soyinka always speaks his mind without fear or favour…Wole Soyinka will never die,” he declared.
In his remark Soyinka emphasized on the need for writers in the continent of Africa to “show the economic underpinnings of social problems on the continent,” he said.
He praised the Rwandan President for the transformation in Rwanda , which he said “is founded on the respect for human rights and freedom.”
The Collection of essays was edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah and Ogochukwu Promise with contributions from notable authors and African leaders.
They include Nobel laureates- Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott; South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ngugi wa Thiong o’, Sefi Atta, Ali Mazrui, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Toyin Falola, Nicholas Westcott and Prof. Atukwei Okai.
Nigeria’s foremost diplomat, former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, wrote the fore-ward of the rich collection of essays.
Professor Soyinka, Nigeria’s playwright and poet was born on July 13, 1934.