What happened at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi on the 21 September 2013 is NOT the world that was imagined when the theme ‘Imagine the world’ was coined for the Story Moja Hay festival. None of us could imagine a world that within seconds could turn a harmless shopping spree into a nightmare of terror, blood, death and mayhem. Certainly not Prof Kofi Awoonor, poet and diplomat, who had come to Kenya to support and give his wisdom to the greatest of causes; the education of children and the wider community into the culture of reading and the acquirement of knowledge through books – Not when he and his son walked into the Westgate Mall on that tragic day to be confronted with an armed attack that resulted in his demise.
It is hard to accept, to imagine, that because of this heinous act we have lost such a great and powerful literary personality. This is a great loss, not just to the African continent, but to the whole literary world. His death is proof of the senselessness of such acts. Sadly in taking his life, those who did this also took away a part of their own heritage. Because what Prof Awoonor gave with his work was not exclusive to his homeland Ghana, nor to the African continent. It was and is a contribution to the enrichment of our world as a whole.
Let Prof Kofi Awoonor’s death not be in vain. Despite what has happened we cannot stop believing that we can imagine a world that will one day achieve a level of global literary exposure that will bring us closer together instead of tearing us apart. We must not!
May his soul rest in peace.