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OKIGBO, THE AFRICAN STATE, GENOCIDE AND THE PEOPLES

OKIGBO, THE AFRICAN STATE, GENOCIDE AND THE PEOPLES

(Paper presented at the Christopher Okigbo International Conference, Harvard University, Boston, Mass, United States, 22 September 2007)

The state in Africa demonstrates a glaring inability to fulfil its basic role. It does not provide security and welfare nor does it enable the growth and expression of society’s transformative capacities. It is virtually at war with its peoples, having murdered 15 million in Biafra, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, Darfur and southern Sudan, the Congos and elsewhere on the continent between 1966 and 2007.

The typical African state, 51 years after the so-called restoration of independence, is essentially a genocide-state. Christopher Okigbo’s incisive scholarship, to the poet’s eternal credit, not only anticipated these developments, but it rigorously interrogated their tragic consequences. This is evident across Okigbo’s works, especially Silence, Limits, Distances, ‘Laments of the Masks’, ‘Laments of th…