Who/ What did we say goodbye to in Africa in 2013?

'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe
‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe

In the year 2013, we said goodbye to some people, some events, and some things.  Here are 10 of those:

– Well, in January, we said goodbye to rebels in Mali thanks to the French intervention with the Operation Serval (the Françafrique is back, and very well).

– The South African athlete, Oscar Pistorius made us almost regret ever celebrating Valentine’s Day with his arrest for the murder (or not?) of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on 14 February.

– On 5 March, El Commandante, Hugo Chavez left us.  Lots of tears cannot express how we all felt, and how many Africans felt about his passing.

Kofi Awoonor
Kofi Awoonor

Chinua Achebe made our world fall apart when he left us on 22 March.  We did cry, but above all we reconnected with his great work so that ‘Things [would not] fall apart.”

– On 3 July, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the army which was supported by millions of people.

– There were another rebels in Central African Republic (CAR) with the ousting of president François Bozizé.

– We said goodbye to yet another writer, this time Ghanaian writer/diplomat Kofi Awoonor who was killed during the scandalous Westgate shopping mall shootings in Nairobi on 21 September.

Tabu Ley Rochereau
Tabu Ley Rochereau

– In 3 October, a boat carrying 500 illegal immigrants toppled in the Mediterranean sea near Lampedusa killing 366 people.  Italy declared a national day of mourning.

– The M23 rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were defeated by the Kabila government with help from the UN troops (remember the UN used to be in the region, and never did anything – I wonder what changed this time) at the end of October and beginning of November.

Nelson Rohlilahla Mandela
Nelson Rohlilahla Mandela

– Le ‘Seigneur’ Tabu Ley Rochereau left us on 30 November 2013.  We are still celebrating the maestro’s work and his influence on generations of Congolese and African artists.

– We said goodbye to Nelson Mandela on 5 Dec. 2013Madiba left us, and we all cried for this great symbol of strength, forgiveness, and greatness in Africa.


Kofi Awoonor: Celebrating the Life of Ghanaian Poet

Kofi Awoonor
Kofi Awoonor

Today, I would like to talk about the legendary Ghanaian poet, writer, and diplomat Kofi Awoonor who lost his life this past weekend during the shootings at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Well, many articles would tell you all about this man who was born George Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor-Williams, but who will end up using Kofi Awoonor as his pen name.  Kofi Awoonor was a poet whose poetry was based on Ewe / Ghanaian mythology and imagery.  His writings include the oral traditions of African village songs, with their various communal forms, themes, and functions/ceremonies.  For instance, his poem ‘The Purification’ records a sacrifice to the sea-god in a time of poor fishing.  One can find a sense of melancholy in his writings.  Enjoy this snippet from one of his poem ‘Songs of Sorrow.’  To learn more about this man, check this very good article on The Guardian, the BBC, and don’t forget to go to The Poetry Foundation of Ghana to read the end of this poem and other pieces by him.

Songs of Sorrow

Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus
It has led me among the sharps of the forest

Returning is not possible
And going forward is a great difficulty
The affairs of this world are like the chameleon faeces
Into which I have stepped
When I clean it cannot go.
I am on the world’s extreme corner,
I am not sitting in the row with the eminent
But those who are lucky
Sit in the middle and forget
I am on the world’s extreme corner
I can only go beyond and forget.
My people, I have been somewhere
If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there the sun burns me
The firewood of this world
Is for only those who can take heart
That is why not all can gather it.
The world is not good for anybody
But you are so happy with your fate;
Alas! the travelers are back
All covered with debt.


By Kofi Awoonor