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Posts tagged ‘Algeria’

Nigeria’s Retrogressive Anti-Gay Law By Abiodun Ladepo.

By Abiodun Ladepo

This past Wednesday, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan elevated crassness and primitiveness to the highest level imaginable by signing into law a bill banning homosexuality in Nigeria.  I deliberately crafted the previous sentence so unambiguously.  He did not just ban homosexual marriage; he banned homosexuality as a whole!  Perhaps if the law had only stopped at “persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” one might not feel so much outrage.  But it went on to state that “any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison”!  In essence, only heterosexuals are allowed to hold hands in public, sit on each other’s lap, hump each other while dancing in clubs or kiss publicly.  What, in the name of God, just happened to Nigeria?

Let me state upfront that I am a Straight (heterosexual) guy who is happily married to a beautiful woman.  So, this write-up is not about me or my sexual preference.  It is about Nigeria’s lack of originality and lack of creative instincts.  We the people, along with our leaders, fail to do the deep thinking, the due diligence, in many respects that will take our country farther and more quickly than we have hitherto done.  Lethargy is irredeemably ingrained in our psyche.  Otherwise, how does being openly gay draw our country back?  We already have thousands of gay people in our midst!  How does their gayness prevent those of us who are not gay from going about our businesses?

This law assumes that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community just arrived in Nigeria yesterday.  No, the LGBT has been with us since, at least, when I was a young boy over 50 years ago.  I recall growing up in (yes) Zaria, Kaduna State, of all places, and going to watch evening dances of members of the LGBT.  We used to call them “Dandaudu.”  We, the kids, used to marvel at their public display of amorous acts.  This was in the early 60s.  They were not hidden behind the walls of any clubs in the middle of the night; they danced in open spaces and in early evenings.  I have also personally witnessed “Dandaudus” doing their dances in Bukuru, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri in the 70s.  And if you lived in the hostel during your secondary school years, don’t tell me that you did not catch a few of your guy friends “doing it.”  I have heard from some of my secondary school female friends of the sexual trysts that went on in their hostel.  Let’s not even talk about what happens in the dorms of our universities.  So, why are we just now finding out that their presence in our midst is anathema and antithetical to our moral fiber?

Reuben Abati, that formerly celebrated anti-bad government champion, who is now a turncoat and who I now detest with so much passion, defended the law with the pedestrian argument that since 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage, “…the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs.”   Ninety percent?  First, how did we come up with that percentage?  When did we poll the country to ascertain that 90 percent of our people oppose same-sex marriage?  And even if they do, what right does the majority have to trample on the basic right of the minority – the fundamental human right to freedom of association?  What right does the majority have to deprive the minority of having sex with whomever it wants as long as it is consensual?  The worst that the Nigerian government should have been able to do should have been the denial of official recognition of such a union. But to criminalize it is akin to despotism, especially in a democratic dispensation.

And by the way, since when has this government or any past Nigerian government taken a decision in favor of an issue perceived to have received the support of the majority of Nigerians?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the removal or Stella Oduah as Aviation minister, Diezani Madueke as Petroleum minister and Reuben Abati as adviser?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the banning of government officials, especially the President, from seeking medical attention abroad until our medical facilities and personnel are of the same standard as those they use when they go abroad?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the supply of 24/7 uninterrupted electricity to all corners of Nigeria?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the revamping, rejuvenating and reinvigorating of the EFCC so it can better fight corruption?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support a massive overhaul of our educational infrastructures from elementary all the way to university systems?  Don’t 90 percent of our people oppose the blocking of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by mega-churches and mega-mosques?  Have our lawmakers crafted any laws that criminalize the failure by government to do the things mentioned above?  No.  But these nosey people are eager to get into the bedrooms of Nigerians.

I find this homophobic inclination that is so rampant in our country as yet another example of religious zealotry and self-righteousness that have been the bane of our society.  Everybody is stampeding and trampling each other today in their quest to out-do one another as they condemn homosexuality.  But we will find out one day – tomorrow maybe –  just as we have found out in Europe and America that even family members of influential government officials can be (and are indeed) gay!  In fact, we will soon find out that membership in the LGBT community cuts across all spectra of our society – from the ranks of elected politicians, to traditional rulers, military officers, police officers, teachers, technocrats, pastors, imams, babalawos, traders and what not.  And what are we going to do when we find out that one of these influential people whom we had thought was heterosexual was indeed bisexual?  Would we throw OBJ or IBB or GEJ or Mama Iyabo or Dame Patience or any of their children into 14 years of prison terms if any of them turns out to be gay? What would we do when we discover that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye or his wife, Folu do engage in homosexual acts (with other partners, of course)?  What about Sheik Muhammad Yahaya Sanni and his many wives?  Are we going to give them immunity against prosecution?

This is why I stated earlier that our leaders did not subject this law to a rigorous and intellectual discuss before allowing their emotion, religion and communal bandwagon mentality to overtake their sense of reason.  Before the bill was adopted by the Senate in 2011, a few Nigerian members of the LGBT community, supported by some civil rights activists, appeared before the Senate to argue against enacting such a law.  The lawmakers and religious zealots in the chambers of the Senate booed and heckled these gay folks till they cried and left in disgrace.  Among the booing and heckling crowd were men who maintain two, three, four or more wives – wives who are subjugated, mentally and are physically abused.  Among this crowd were women who cheat on their husbands with their pastors and imams to the extent of making babies out-of-wedlock while their husbands thought the babies were theirs.  These people, in my opinion, lack the moral right to tell a gay man or woman whom to love and whom to cavort with in public.

Believe me, gays are the least of Nigeria’s problems.  Graft in high places, greed in high places, hired assassination, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, neglect of rural areas, neglect of urban areas, lack of functioning basic amenities like electricity, water, hospitals, education, transportation, youth unemployment – all take precedence over what my neighbor is doing in his/her bedroom.  I am ashamed that my leaders do not see this.

And I get it. I get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  Even if I wonder how truly religious we are when we watch our religious leaders steal from the religious houses and sexually abuse the laity; even if I sometimes wonder why our religious leaders live in obscene opulence while they watch their followers wallow in abject poverty, I still get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  It is the reason why an issue such as gay rights should have been thoroughly debated intellectually.  I hope the passing of this primitive and retrogressive law begins the rigorous discussion of how we allow members of the LGBT to bask in their rightful sense of belonging.  We should lead Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia out of the comity of nations still wedded to the archaic tradition of segregating their own people on the basis of sexual preferences.

We should join South Africa, Zaire, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali (yes, Chad, Niger and Mali), Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in the comity of nations that embrace the diversity of their people’s sexual preferences and have legislated to protect the rights of their LGBT people.

By Abiodun Ladepo

Los Angeles, California, USA


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

State Dept: African-Based Terror Group Poses Greatest US Threat.

The State Department says the Africa-based Murabitoun terror group, led by Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, poses the “greatest near-term threat to U.S. and Western interests” in the Sahel region of Africa, The New York Times reported.

ObamaCareYou Can Win With The Facts 

Belmokhtar is described as “adventurous,” “reckless” and with a “penchant for carrying out headline-grabbing attacks against Western interests,” according to the Times.
The notorious Belmokhtar who lost an eye to shrapnel, fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan and returned to Algeria in the 1990s where he became a leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
He broke with the al-Qaida affiliate in 2012 to form the Mulathameen Battalion. Over the years, Belmokhtar has been behind the kidnapping of a Canadian diplomat, the attack on an Algerian gas plant that killed 38 civilians, among them three Americans, and other deadly attacks in Mali and Niger.
In August 2013, Belmokhtar merged the Mulathameen Battalion with the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa to form Al Murabitoun or “Those Who Sign in Blood Brigade.”
In declaring the merger, the groups said they wanted to unite jihadists from the Nile to the Atlantic “to confront the Zionist campaign against Islam and Muslims,” according to the Guardian.
“Splinters can become even more consequential than their parent organization,” terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told the Times.
This new Al Murabitoun group “concerns us more than any in the region,” a State Department source told the Times.
Some analyst think Belmokhtar still takes orders from the central al-Qaida leadership despite breaking with its North African branch, according to The Long War Journal.
Belmokhtar’s new faction has been officially designated as a foreign terrorist group by the United States. No decision on targeting Belmokhtar militarily has yet been made by the Obama administration, the Times reported.
Meanwhile, Fox News reported that the reward for Belmokhtar stands at $5 million. His precise whereabouts are not known.

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 

Belmokhtar’s zone of operation, the Sahel, stretches across the African continent from Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Chad and Eritrea in the east and is home to 50 million inhabitants.
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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Elliot Jager

US Sends 2 High-Risk Gitmo Prisoners to Saudi Arabia.

Two Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been transferred to Saudi Arabia as part of a renewed effort to close the offshore U.S. prison.

U.S. officials say the two Saudis have been transferred to the custody of their own government after a security review. The men are 35-year-old Saad Muhammad Husayn Qahtani and 48-year-old Hamood Abdulla Hamood.

Neither man had been charged with a crime. U.S. records show both were suspected members of al-Qaida and were considered to be at high risk of rejoining the terror group if released. Dozens of prisoners have been transferred to Saudi Arabia and later released after going through a rehabilitation program.

The Pentagon said Monday the transfer brings the Guantanamo population to 160 prisoners. Two Algerians were released earlier this month and additional releases are expected.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

US Repatriates Algerian Gitmo Prisoners Who Fear Going Home.

The United States has repatriated two Algerians held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a decade, the Pentagon said on Thursday, in what the men’s attorneys described as an involuntary transfer that ignored their pleas to go elsewhere.

Djamel Ameziane and Bensayah Belkecem did not want to go back to Algeria because they fear being persecuted there, their attorneys said.

“Hopefully this won’t be a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire,'” Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security & Human Rights Program, said in a statement.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented Ameziane, said the repatriation to Algeria violated international law. Rob Kirsch, an attorney for Belkecem, described the transfer as involuntary.

“The U.S. has compounded one injustice against him with another. He deserved better from the United States,” CCR attorney Wells Dixon in a statement.

The transfers reduced Guantanamo’s prisoner population to 162 detainees, part of a slow-moving effort by President Barack

Obama’s government to close the detention facility.

Obama promised to shut it down during his 2008 presidential campaign, citing its damage to the U.S. reputation around the world. But he has been unable to do so in his nearly five years in office, in part because of resistance from Congress.

Prior to the latest transfers, the United States has repatriated 14 detainees to Algeria, seven under President Obama and seven under George W. Bush’s administration, a Pentagon spokesman said.

“We have received no credible or substantiated information to suggest that any of these former detainees have been targeted by extremists operating in Algeria,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale said.

Breasseale also said the United States had coordinated with Algeria’s government to ensure the transfers took place with “appropriate security and humane treatment assurances.”

The concerns extend beyond targeting by extremists.

Kirsch said the U.S. decision would keep Belkecem from seeing his family. Belkecem’s wife and daughters, who live in Bosnia, will not move to Algeria.

“His wife will not take their daughters to Algeria, out of concern for her daughters. The U.S. knew this would deprive (Belkecem) of his family,” Kirsch said.

The Guantanamo prison camp was established during Bush’s presidency to house foreign terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States.

Some 15 detainees are waging a hunger strike and lawmakers have blasted the prison’s cost, about $2.7 million per prisoner per year, compared with $70,000 per inmate at maximum-security federal prisons. (Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami; Editing by Bill Trott)

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Gitmo Inmates Rejecting Repatriation in Algeria.

The Obama administration may be pushing to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, but that doesn’t mean all the prisoners want to go home.

Two Algerian prisoners being held at the Cuban naval base are fighting against being transferred out because they fear Islamist extremists will try to kill them when they discover the repatriated men don’t share their views on violence, a lawyer for one of them told The Wall Street Journal.
Robert Kirsch, who represents detainee Belkacem Bensayah, said sending him and the other Algerian detainee, Djamel Ameziane, back to the North African country is “the most callous, political abuse of these men,” and is being done so the Obama administration can show progress on closing the prison.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited both prisoners for their exit interviews this week, said Kirsch, and has asked the United States to reconsider sending them back to Algeria, a claim the Red Cross has not yet confirmed.
They would be returning to Algeria as Islamist violence is growing there and in other North African countries. According to government reports, North Africa now houses 15 al-Qaida affiliates, according to a recent Forbes report, and there have more than 1,000 attacks in Algeria, LIbya, Tunisia, and Morocco since 2010.
Cliff Sloan, the State Department’s special envoy on the Guantanamo closing, refused comment on specific cases, telling The Wall Street Journal that State is “moving ahead on the president’s commitment to close Guantanamo responsibly, and we are making progress.”
The Cuban prison, which former President George W. Bush opened in 2002, holds 164 prisoners, with 84 already cleared for release with restrictions. The government held a review last week for 21 more prisoners who are eligible to seek clearance, and nine others are either serving sentences or facing charges.
U.S. officials said they have already put off repatriation to some countries, including Tunisia, Syria, and Uzbekistan, along with Algeria, when detainees fear mistreatment upon going home.
Human rights activists say detainees’ fears must be taken seriously.
“When you hear people say they would rather spend the rest of their lives in Guantanamo than go to a particular place, you have to take that seriously,” said Andrea Prasow, a counterterrorism counsel with Human Rights Watch.
On Thursday, a senior Obama administration official, who was not named, said the United States does consider a detainee’s concerns, but 14 detainees have already been sent back to Algeria without incident.
Bensayah, 51, is one of six Algerians who were arrested in Bosnia for plotting to blow up U.S. and British embassies, and was turned over with the others to the United States in January 2002, shortly after Bush opened the prison. The other five have already been released, but a judge ruled Bensayah was an al-Qaida “facilitator” who planned to go to Afghanistan, but later backed away from the claims, ruling him eligible for release. Bensayah wants to return to Bosnia where his family lives, but the U.S. prefers returning prisoners to their own countries.
Amezian, 46, was caught trying to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion that came after the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks. He has been fighting repatriation to Algeria since 2009 and wants to be resettled in Canada.
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© 2013 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

92 Nigeriéns Die Of Thirst In The Sahara Desert.


By SaharaReporters, New York

About 92 Nigeriéns who died of thirst in the Sahara Desert on their way to Algeria after their long vehicle broke down were buried today by government officials of Agadez State.

A foreign journalist who covered the event told SaharaReporters that some of the corpses, who were mostly women and children, were eaten up by animals and birds in the desert. Some of the bodies are yet to be found.

The reporter also said that the government of the Republic of Niger has declared three days of national mourning over the tragedy.

Some of the survivors explained that their vehicle developed technical faults that could not be rectified, and that they wandered in the hot weather without water to quench their thirst, leading to their death.

The survivors are presently being treated for malnutrition and dehydration.

PHOTONOEWS: Wole Soyinka And Other International Writers Pay Tirbute To Kofi Awoonor In Lagos.


Remembering Kofi Awoonor: Humanity And Against By Wole Soyinka

I am certain there are others who, like me, received invitations to the recent edition of the Storymoja/Hay Literature Festival in Nairobi, but could not attend. My absence was particularly regrettable, because I had planned to make up for my failure to turn up for the immediate prior edition. Participant or absentee however, this is one edition we shall not soon forget.
It was at least two days after the listing of Kofi Awoonor among the victims that I even recollected the fact that the Festival was ongoing at that very time. With that realization came another:  that Kofi and I could have been splitting a bottle at that same watering hole in between events and at the end of each day. My feelings, I wish to state clearly, did not undergo any changes. The emotions of rage, hate and contempt remained on the same qualitative and quantitative levels. Those are the feelings I have retained since the Boko Haram onslaught overtook the northern part of our nation. I expect them to remain at the same level until I draw my last breath, hopefully in peaceful circumstances like Chinua Achebe, or else violently like Kofi. As becomes daily clarified in contemporary existence, none of us has much control over these matters.

Two earlier commitments were responsible for my inability to attend the Festival. One was a public conversation with a very brave individual, Karima Bennoune, an Algerian national, whose trenchant publication – YOUR FATWA DOES NOT APPLY HERE – is of harrowing pertinence to the events of Nairobi, a pertinence that continues to ravage our, and other nations. The other preventive factor was the annual conference of International Investigators in Tunis, doing battle with the monster of Corruption. The link of the former event is obvious enough, but if you think the latter has no relevance to what has happened in Nairobi, or is taking place in the northern part of this nation, permit me to correct you.

Yes, we all know of material corruption, we confront it all the time. Tragically neglected however is what we should learn to designate as spiritual corruption. Those who organized and carried out the outrage on innocent lives in Nairobi are carriers of the most lethal virus of corruption imaginable – corruption of the soul, corruption of the spirit, corruption of that animating humanistic essence that separates us from predatory beasts. I am no theologian of any religion, but I aver that these assailants delude themselves with vistas of paradise after life, that their delusion is born of the perverted reading of salvation and redemption. Those who attempt to divide the world into two irreconciliable parts – believers against the rest – are human aberrations. As for their claims to faith, they invoke divine authority solely as a hypocritical cover for innate psychopathic tendencies. Their deeds and utterances profane the very name of God or Allah.

Let us however abandon theology and simply designate them enemies of humanity, leaving a very real question that the rest of us must resolve – whether this breed even belongs to the human race, or should be seen as a mutant sub-species that require both moral and scientific definitions. We cannot continue to pretend that those who have set their sight against that enabling spark that we call creativity, those who arrogate to themselves the right to dispose of innocent lives at will, belong within the same moral universe to which you and I belong. Without a moral universe, humanity exists in limbo.

Not since Apartheid has our humanity been so intensely and persistently challenged and stressed on this continent. History repeats, or more accurately re-asserts itself, as a murdering minority pronounce themselves a superior class of beings to all others, assume powers to decide the mode of existence of others, of association, decide who shall live and who shall die, who shall shake hands with whom even as daily colleagues, who shall dictate and who shall submit. The cloak of Religion is a tattered alibi, the real issue – as always – being Power and Submission, with the instrumentality of Terror. Let us objectively assess the true nature of the dominion that they seek to establish in place of the present ‘dens of sin and damnation, of impurity and decadence’ in which the rest of us supposedly live. We do not need to seek far, the models are close by – they will be found in contested Somalia. In now liberated Mali.

Fitfully in Mauritania. In those turbid years of enchained Algeria, and her yet unconsolidated business of secularism. Theirs is the dominion of exclusion. Of irrationality and restraints on daily existence. A loathing of creativity and plurality. It is the dominion of Apartheid by gender. Of the demonization of difference. It is the dominion of Fear. Let us determine that, on this continent, we shall not accept that, after victory over race as card of citizen validation, Religion is entered and established as substitute on the passport, not only for citizen recognition, but even to entitlement to residence on earth.
After the deadly calling card of these primitives, the rest of the Nairobi Festival was cancelled. Understandably, but sadly.  I have however written to the organizers not to even bother to renew my invitation for next year’s edition – life permitting, I shall be there. We must all be there. And we must learn to smother loss in advance, not just for that Festival but for all Festivals of Life and Creativity wherever in the world.  Resolve that, no matter the tragic intervention, such events must run their course. Let us accept, quite simply, that a force of violent degeneracy has declared war on humanity. Thus, we are fated to be ever present on the battlefield until that war is over.

I submit that we were all present at that concourse of humanity in Nairobi. We were present by the side of every maimed and fallen victim, among who was a distinguished one of us, one of the very best that have defined us to the world. We were present in Mali even before this nation, to her credit, joined in stemming the tide of religious atavism and human retrogression. We were beside the students of Kaduna, Plateau, Borno, the school children of Yobe, the mangled okada riders and petty traders of Kano, beside all those who have been routinely slaughtered for so many years past in this very nation. In Nairobi’s hub of commerce we were present, confronted yet again with that same diabolical test that was applied to school pupils in Kano many years ago, where those who failed to recite the indicated verse of the koran were classified as infidels, and led away to have their throats serially slit. We have been present at the travails of Algeria, recorded for posterity by that lady Karima Bennoune  in YOUR FATWA DOES NOT APPLY HERE. We were beside Tahar Djaout, author of THE LAST SEASON OF UNREASON, cut down also by religious fanatics. We are the mere survivors who continually ask, when will this stop? Where will this end? The ones who echo Karima and that miraculous survivor Malala in declaiming – No indeed, your fatwa can never apply here. We have been beside the children of Cherchyna in the Soviet Union, innocents who, taken hostage, were reduced to drinking their own urine, then deliberately gunned down as they made their way out of a school gymnasium that had turned into an inferno. We continue to remain beside all who have fallen to the blight of bigotry, religious solipsism and spiritual toxicity. We shall continue to stand beside them, denouncing, condemning, but most critically, urging on all who can to anticipate, stem, and ultimately eliminate the tide of religious tyranny. We have taken the side of Humanity against those who are against.
At this very time of the latest outrage, the world body, known as the United Nations Organization was actually convened in General Assembly. We must instigate  that body to evolve, through just, principled, but severe and uncompromising action, into a United Humanity Organisation, that is, thinking not simply ‘nation’, but acting ‘humanity’. It means going beyond pietisms such as – this or that is a religion of peace, but obliging its members to act aggressively in neutralizing those whose acts pronounce the contrary, so that Humanity is placed as the first and last principle of nation existence and global cohabitation. The true divide is not between believers and unbelievers, but between those who violate the right of others to believe, or not believe.

Memories that span fifty or more years are difficult to distill into a few words. Suffice it to stress for now that Kofi Awoonor was a passionate African, that is, he gave primacy of place to values derived from his Ewe heritage.  That, in turn, means that he was thoroughly imbued with the spirit of ecumenism towards other systems of belief and cultural usages – this being the scriptural ethos that permeates belief practices of most of this continent. We mourn our colleague and brother, but first we denounce his killers, the virulent sub-species of humanity who bathe their hands in innocent blood. Only cowards turn deadly weapons against the unarmed, only the depraved glorify in, or justify the act. True warriors do not wage wars against the innocent. Profanity is the name given to the defilement of the sanctity of human life. We call on those who claim to exercise the authority of a fatwa to pronounce that very doom, with all its moral weight, upon those who engage in this serial violation of the right to life, life as a god-given possession that only the blasphemous dare contradict, and the godless wantonly curtail. This scalp that they have added to their collection was roof to a unique brain that a million of their kind can never replace.

A few months ago, in New York, on a joint platform of the United Nations and UNESCO, I entered an urgent plea into the proceedings of that International Conference on the Culture of Peace: Take Back Mali!, I urged.  At home, I impressed that urgent necessity on our own government. I know that Kofi Awoonor, poet, diplomat and democrat, would approve my commendation – in this specific respect at least – of the action of our and other ECOWAS governments – albeit after France had taken the critical lead – in taking back Mali. I especially applaud the outgoing Foreign Affairs Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru, who hearkened to that imperative of speedy intervention and urged it with vigour and urgency on the African Union. We salute the courage and sacrifices of the soldiers who reversed the agenda of the interlopers – al Queda and  company – with their arrogant designs on those freedoms that define who we are in this region, and on the continent itself. Safeguarding freedoms, alas, goes beyond even the most intense passion and will of the poetic Muse, and we must never shy away from acknowledging this cruel reality. Those who believe that a tepid, accomodative approach to fundamentalist rampage can generate peace and human dignity should study – as I have often urged – the experience of Algeria, captured with such chilling diligence in Karima Bennoune’s work. The cost of ‘taking back Algeria’ is one that will be reckoned in human deficit – and unbelievable courage – for generations to come. Today, I urge all forces of progress to – Take Back Africa! Rescue her from the forces of darkness that seek to inaugurate a new regimen of religious despotism, ruthless beyond what our people have known even under the imperial will of Europe.

These butchers continue to evoke the mandate of Islam, thus, we exhort our moslem brother and sister colleagues:  Take back Islam. Take back that Islam which, even where it poses contradictions, declares itself one with the Culture of Learning, one that honours its followers as People of the Book, historic proponents of the virtues of intellect and its products. There is no religion without contradictions – it is the primacy of human dignity and solidarity that serves as arbiter.  We call upon the fastidious warrior class of the intellect, steeped in a creative contempt and defiance of enemies of the humanistic pursuit. We speak here of that Islam that inspires solidarity with the Naguib Mafouzes of our trade, with the Tahar Djaouts, with the Karimas and the Mariama Bas, not the diabolism of al Shabbab, Boko Haram and their degenerate ilk. Let us join hands with the former, and enshrine their mission as the history prescribed destination of our creative urge. What Nairobi teaches – and not just this recently – is that there is no place called Elsewhere. Elsewhere has always been right here with us, and in the present. I urge upon you this mandate: seize back your Islam and thus, take back our continent and, in that restorative undertaking – take back our humanity.
—Professor Soyinka delivered this tribute today at a gathering of Nigerian writers at the Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos.


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