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"Terrorists are just perverts and cheats," says Soyinka

City News

Wole Soyinka, the 1986 Literature Noble laureate has sounded the battle cry.

“It is time we took the battle to the infidels,” he fumes. “We have a profound call to arrest and neutralise any hand that is raised to cut it (the tree of liberty) down.”

Soyinka made these remarks on Saturday September 20 at the 2014 Storymoja Festival held at the Nairobi National Museums.

His comments were directed at terrorists, whose diabolical acts at the Westgate mall last year led to the death of his poet friend, Ghanaian Kofi Awoonor. The attack led to the premature cancellation of last year’s Storymoja Festival.

It is interesting to note that by using the word ‘infidels,’ the man of letters is simply giving terrorists a taste of their own medicine, for it is them who like using the word.

“Writers understand that the tree of liberty provides the roof under which we shelter in the forest of creativity,” he observed.

Jealously guarded

Interestingly, the title of his speech was Parables from Wangari’s Trees, which was a tribute to his fellow Nobel laureate, the late Prof Wangari Maathai. Like the true creative he is, Soyinka brilliantly weaves the imagery of trees, which were Wangari’s life passion, with the freedom that needs to be jealously guarded from the ‘infidels’ that felled a creative like Kofi.

Thus, he, with one blow, manages to pay tribute to both Wangari and Kofi.

He compares the wave of terrorism as espoused by Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and lately ISIS, to a new form of slavery that must be resisted at all costs.

“We must protect that tree, or we cease to be what we claim to be,” he says. “Let us ask ourselves some questions...those who gunned down Kofi – are they different from the plantation masters of the Americas?

Are their ideologues different from the Ku Klux Klan of the United States of America?

Are they different from the slave merchants of Aleppo, Cairo and Marakesh, whose pre-European enterprise littered the Sahara with bones of our ancestors?

Are they different from the torturers, gaolers and murderers of apartheid South Africa?”

Flowers of evil

He compares the ancient slave camps with the situation of Nigerian school girls who are being held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists in the northern Nigerian state of Borno.

Employing the imagery of a growing tree, Soyinka says spores of religious fundamentalism are everywhere “watered by past masters of extreme indoctrination, until blossoming time... when they belch out their flowers of evil.”

“And the process continues, those spores momentarily vanish into one obscure spot, only to erupt on the other side of the globe – Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and all – generic mutants of one another, striving to outdo the last degree of butchery, human degradation and insolence.”

He is not fooled by the terrorists’ claim to higher glory in the hereafter. “Do not be deceived...that this present world holds no attraction for them – they are liars!” he explains. If the terrorists find the world to be so impure as they keep alleging, why can’t they take the option of silent abandonment of the ‘impure’ to their ways till Judgment Day in the hereafter?

He urges writers to debunk these pretensions. “We must tell them they lie in their teeth, that the domination of their quest is not in the hereafter, but in the power of domination in this most palpable present,” he says.

Most telling however, Wole Soyinka thinks terrorists are nothing but perverts. “They are more than tawdry; material speculators...their heads and minds swollen with the promise of sensual pleasures in the afterlife...”

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