The Saturday's Review section had a half-page review of Soyinka's You Must Set Forth at Dawn (newly published in the UK) by Margaret Busby.Fast forward to today, and Soyinka is on the cover of The Guardian's G2 section. Inside is a profile by Maya Jaggi.
An excerpt that touches on tomorrow's inauguration of a 'new' Nigerian President...
Tomorrow's inauguration of Nigeria's new president, Umaru Yar'Adua, is, for Soyinka, such a throwback. Along with international observers, he deems last month's presidential elections "no elections at all", so baldly were they rigged. "In some states there were no votes," he says. "We have videos of police commissioners carting off ballot boxes, and police looking on as thugs carted them off." Though the outgoing president, Olusegun Obasanjo, ended military rule in 1999, Soyinka sees his rule as "civilian dictatorship". He has now "made himself life chairman of the ruling party to dictate policies", he says.
On the situation in Darfur...
Soyinka presided as chief judge at a mock trial last November when Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir was found guilty in absentia of crimes against humanity in Darfur. For the playwright, poet and novelist, who is also an actor-director, the symbolic court was "play-acting, but of a very serious kind". During the tribunal set up by Genocide Watch, Soyinka heard searing testimony, he says, from "witnesses flown out from southern Sudan, people whose families had been killed, or who had been raped or seen relatives raped or maimed - some broke down. They testified to the war crimes of the Janjaweed [the government's proxy militia], saying they raided villages and killed Nuba at any time."
Soyinka quoted a Yoruba saying, "Sooner death than indignity" (iku ya j'esin) to underscore his belief in dignity as the basis for human freedom. There's much to nod along with WS on, as always. But he still lets Tony Blair off too easily, in my view.
- Soyinka who was also in discussion with Helen Oyeyemi courtesy of The Telegraph recently, will be giving the first ever South Bank Lecture in London on 7 July.