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In conversation with Rotimi Babatunde, Nominee for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing
The short story ‘Bombay’s Republic’ by Rotimi Babatunde, Chair of the Nigerian PEN Centre’s Writers for Peace Committee, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing… Babatunde’s ‘Bombay’s Republic’ tells the story of an African soldier of the ‘Forgotten Army’, who served on the Burma front during the Second World War, before returning home as a decorated veteran. 
(via Pen International – In conversation with Rotimi Babatunde, Nominee for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing)

In conversation with Rotimi Babatunde, Nominee for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing

The short story ‘Bombay’s Republic’ by Rotimi Babatunde, Chair of the Nigerian PEN Centre’s Writers for Peace Committee, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing… Babatunde’s ‘Bombay’s Republic’ tells the story of an African soldier of the ‘Forgotten Army’, who served on the Burma front during the Second World War, before returning home as a decorated veteran. 

(via Pen International – In conversation with Rotimi Babatunde, Nominee for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing)

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Rotimi Babatunde is the winner of the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Bombay’s Republic”, a gripping tale of a young Nigerian man swept into World War II as a soldier in the Allied “Forgotten Army.” Babatunde is a playwright and author, as well as the Chair of the Writers for Peace Committee at the Nigerian PEN Center.


Bombay’s discoveries of the possible would come faster than the leeches in Burma’s crepuscular jungles. At first, Bombay’s tasks were limited to mule driving and porting baggage. If there are people trying to kill me, it would be stupid of me not to be in a position to kill them also, he repeatedly grumbled to his superiors. To shut him up, he was posted to a combat unit.

The campaign to recapture Buthidaung was in progress. Bombay’s unit was deployed to a swampy pass of the Kaladan Valley where they got isolated from the main army for weeks. Their situation got dire and it seemed they would have to feed on wild bananas lined with pawpaw-like seeds but tasting like detergent. Then Bombay’s squad ran into enemy ambush. They had no option but to dive for cover as hostile gunfire reduced the vegetation above their heads to shreds. Their ammunitions had already gone too low to mount a credible resistance but Bombay thought it wiser to go down fighting and his squad agreed. They charged shrieking at the machinegun position with pangas raised, their common howling and bawling coming as if from a primeval horde of lunatics hell-bent on murder. The firing stopped. Perhaps a freakish mistake damaged the enemy’s equipment mid-operation, anyone would have assumed. When the manic charge Bombay led reached its destination, the enemy was gone. The squad met three machineguns and several abandoned magazines, the operators of the weapons long melted into the greenery like frost crystals blown into the jungle’s humid oven. To Bombay’s astonishment, all the firearms were in excellent working condition. The captured guns ensured the squad’s return to base. On arrival Bombay was made a lance corporal, the first of the promotions that would elevate him to the rank of sergeant and carrier of the regimental flag, and given the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery, one of the three medals he would be awarded on the front.

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photo by US Army Africa on a CC license

reprinted with permission from the Caine Prize for African Writing

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Rotimi Babatunde, Chair of the Nigerian PEN Center’s Writers for Peace Committee, recently won the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing for his story “Bombay’s Republic”The Prize was founded in 2000 to celebrate the richness and diversity of African writing in English.

“Bombay’s Republic” tells the story of an African soldier of the “Forgotten Army” who served on the Burma front during the Second World War before returning home as a decorated veteran. At its height, the “Forgotten Army” had approximately a million soldiers, most of whom were drawn from British colonies in Africa and Asia.  We asked Babatunde to share his journey as a writer and inspirations for “Bombay’s Republic.”


PEN International: What was the inspiration for your story, “Bombay’s Republic”?

Babatunde: The lore of the Burma veterans which endures in the Nigerian folk consciousness. My first memorable encounter with it occurred in childhood, when I stumbled on my older siblings discussing an anecdote relating to a particular veteran. On return from the war, some schoolchildren asked him to tell them about the Black Hole of Calcutta since he had been to Asia. But the veteran didn’t visit Calcutta while abroad and he did not want to appear ignorant to the students. As a way out of his quandary, he simply literalized the phrase, replying that the Black Hole of Calcutta is the name of a bottomless, pitch-dark hole which he saw with his very eyes in Burma.

Read the full interview here.

Published with permission from PEN International

diaryofafyt:

Chimamanda Adichie illustrates the dangers of a single story and the prejudices and stereotypes that often result. 

“When we reject the single story, when we realize there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

I plan to use this video in my history classes to better explain perspective.

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I am not pessimistic, but I am not optimistic. I don’t see any dialogue in which all these different people can talk to one another. The Boko Haram situation is so fundamental. I don’t think it’s deep enough to lead to civil war, but I think this is the greatest danger we have faced in 50 years, bigger than the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta militancy can be solved by listening to what they are saying. Theirs is not a quest to break away from Nigeria; it is really a question of justice. Boko Haram is different. It’s an issue of a totally different way of looking at the world, a different way of looking at how societies are run. I am not saying it’s impossible, but until something is done about it, [things] will get worse. There is so much bombing and shooting of children in classrooms that can go on before people react. I am surprised it has not gone up in flames already. It shows there is a deep reluctance for another bloodbath.
Ben Okri, winner of the Booker Prize, on present conflicts in Nigeria 

(Source: mg.co.za)

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Olaolu Sunkanmi Femi behind bars

While international observers balked at the most recent parliamentary election, the Verkhovna Rada is now set for the coming session and will include a record number of politicians from the country’s biggest nationalist, fringe right-wing party Svoboda (Freedom). Svoboda’s progress could signal future setbacks for human rights in the country, which has a history of racist and nationalist violence targeting migrant laborers. Neo-Nazi aggressors also targeted foreign students attending university in Kyiv and Luhansk.

One of these students, Olaolu Sunkanmi Femi, left Nigeria for Luhansk to pursue higher education. Instead he found a jail cell and now faces prospect of a life behind bars.

In November 2011 Femi was attacked by five drunk men shouting racist slurs. Femi managed to fend off his attackers with the help of a broken bottle he picked up off the ground. Instead of arresting the attackers, police handcuffed Femi and threw him behind bars. A year later he remains in police custody, charged with attempted premeditated murder motivated byhooliganism. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Femi should be testifying on the witness stand, not sitting in a jail cell…

See updates on Femi’s status via the Facebook page established by his supporters.

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Supreme Court Weakens Key Protections for Human Rights Defenders

In 1995, PEN campaigned for the release of the writer and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his fellow activists who had been jailed under the military dictatorship of Sani Abacha for peacefully protesting the despoliation of the Niger Delta wetlands by Royal Dutch Shell and other international oil conglomerates. Saro-Wiwa, a co-founder of Nigerian PEN, had been threatened and jailed several times for his activism, and other campaigners had been imprisoned, tortured, and even killed, yet he was fearless in his campaign to bring global attention to the environmental damage in his homeland. It was a campaign that would end tragically.
On November 10, 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged along with eight other members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. 
Over the past decade, PEN also closely watched the progress of the Wiwa v. Shell lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the families of Saro-Wiwa and the eight others who were executed for their advocacy. 
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This week, the U.S. Supreme Court blunted the Alien Tort Statute into a butter knife. In a unanimous decision, the [U.S. Supreme] court denied Nigerian plaintiffs in Kiobel v. Shell from pursuing their claim under the statute. Kiobel v. Shell was a parallel lawsuit to Wiwa v. Shell (such was the extent of the alleged violations in Nigeria by Shell and its subsidiaries that its alleged actions led to multiple claims), but this time there would be no relief for those who suffered rights abuses in the Niger Delta.

Supreme Court Weakens Key Protections for Human Rights Defenders

In 1995, PEN campaigned for the release of the writer and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his fellow activists who had been jailed under the military dictatorship of Sani Abacha for peacefully protesting the despoliation of the Niger Delta wetlands by Royal Dutch Shell and other international oil conglomerates. Saro-Wiwa, a co-founder of Nigerian PEN, had been threatened and jailed several times for his activism, and other campaigners had been imprisoned, tortured, and even killed, yet he was fearless in his campaign to bring global attention to the environmental damage in his homeland. It was a campaign that would end tragically.

On November 10, 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged along with eight other members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. 

Over the past decade, PEN also closely watched the progress of the Wiwa v. Shell lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the families of Saro-Wiwa and the eight others who were executed for their advocacy. 

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court blunted the Alien Tort Statute into a butter knife. In a unanimous decision, the [U.S. Supreme] court denied Nigerian plaintiffs in Kiobel v. Shell from pursuing their claim under the statute. Kiobel v. Shell was a parallel lawsuit to Wiwa v. Shell (such was the extent of the alleged violations in Nigeria by Shell and its subsidiaries that its alleged actions led to multiple claims), but this time there would be no relief for those who suffered rights abuses in the Niger Delta.