The story, “Africa Kills her Sun,” written by Ken Saro Wiwa, was first published in the year 1989. It is a satirical and an epistolary story. The work is based on the occurrences of the 1980’s. It is set in Nigeria. Characters in this story are Zole, Sazan, Bana, Jimba, the high court judge, the prison guard and a German prostitute. It belongs to the genre of a short story. It is based on the African politics, capital punishment, hypocrisy, corruption, death and dying, honesty, prison and prisoners, and robbery and robbers.
The story is of a man condemned to death. He is writing a letter to a former girlfriend. The story talks about the hidden corrupt deals that surrounded Nigeria. It involves the looting of public funds and finances during the dictatorial leadership from 1983 to 1999. The author of the book died before the era of corruption had come to an end. He had been captured in prison in 1993 and 1994 for being a political activist and defending the rights of people. The writer, Ken Saro Wiwa, was sentenced to death for his participation in the activism.
The writer refers to his letter as a celebration and a final act of love. It is a letter of love to his lover, whom he had not seen for the last ten years. He says that she has probably forgotten him, but he thinks of her every day. He explains the difficulty he went through to make sure the letter was delivered to her. The prison guard is said to have been heavily bribed, and that assured him that the letter would be delivered. The author shows understanding that the prison guard might be in the team that may execute him the following day, but he understands his job and pities him.
The letter shows the hatred towards the system of governance when the writer refers to the high court judge as ‘the other thief’. He shows the acts and levels of corruption in the governance by speaking of the prison guard as ‘a bribe-taking friend’ who delivered what they wanted after being offered bribes. He shows this by telling how they got the newspaper. His hatred for the Europeans and Americans, and the ignorance of the Africans is shown by his observation on how Africans ask the questions on the loss of lives in their country over their bottles of beer and the cheap televisions, which are rejects from the Americans and the Europeans. The Africans will afterwards forget the cruelty in the nation thus showing the ignorance.
The writer shows a character of bravery and standing out for the right as he explains his situation when he first stood the high court judge. He and his friends pleaded guilty to a crime whose sentence was death. His two friends and he did want to waste time with a long trial. They all wanted the same sentence so they had decided to plead guilty together. He showed an act of honesty by saying that they were honest to their country and themselves by pleading guilty to the charges and accepting the death sentence. They also showed an act of unity among the three friends. They yelled to the judge to sentence them to death immediately. He tried to explain the situation to his girlfriend as to why he pleaded guilty to charges of armed robbery. It all started when he met a prostitute in Hamburg when he was in the merchant Navy. She had challenged him by saying that she was in prostitution as a career choice, and that made him question why he was in the Merchant Navy. That is why he stopped working for the ship and became a clerk at the Defense Ministry.
It was at that job that he witnessed the corruption and looting of public revenue. He showed his anger towards the corruption deals that happened there where everyone had the knowledge of the dealings but did not say or do anything about it. He showed the ignorance of the affected people when he said that anytime he tried to complain or share his sentiments with someone, they always had the same answer, “if you can’t beat them, join them”. It is then that he realized he needed to act. His character as an activist then revealed. He felt that he could not take the corruption anymore. The story shows the elevated levels of corruption and how far they would go to continue with their corrupt deals. This is seen when the writer says that he was dismissed from his job. After his dismissal, the writer says that he decided to join them but in a different way. He decided to be an armed robber. He showed the character of a risk taker. He said the risks of his new job were clear to him, but he had taken the words of the Hamburg prostitute into consideration and had made a choice to become a robber.
The author is seen to be a man of a hardened spirit. He does not care much what people think about him. He talks about his new career as a robber when being in a good company. He agrees it is antisocial behavior, but at the same time, he says that presidents, ministers and other big and important government officials are also robbing the public of huge amounts of money. He is clear in his letter to his lover that he does not need sympathy or understanding. The author is also seen to be an educated man. This is seen when he tells his former girlfriend that she may think that a man as educated as he is should not be a robber. He seems to encourage other professionals to get into robbery business. He says that they can bring romantic quality and proficiency. Such ideas would make one think that he is gone mad, but he ascertains that he is not mad. He insists on his point that educated people become robbers by giving an example of the leaders of the African nations. He says that the current African leaders are well-educated and are doing a very good job at looting public property.
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The story shows the state of prisons and prisoners. It shows the inhumane treatment of prisoners and the poor conditions of the prisons. He tells his former girlfriend about his friends snoring on the cold and smelly prison floor. This shows that the prisons did not have beds or mattresses to sleep on. He refers to his friends as men of courage. They are snoring in their sleep with the knowledge that the following day they would be facing their death sentence by being killed by a firing squad. Saro Wiwa sees their death as a waste of talent and non-recognition of heroism. He refers to their life as, ‘one big disaster’. Saro Wiwa tries to show his girlfriend that his friends and he treasured life. He says that they had vowed never to kill in their operations. He exposes the corruption deals that happen between the police and the robbers. He says that the police are always in on these robberies. In his attempt to prove his value for life, he says that they did not commit the particular offence that they are held for. They had gone into a deal with the police boss that he should have kept his men away as they robbed the salaries of the rich. He insists that his friends and he were the bosses so they had sent the ‘boys’, and that day the ‘boys’ killed a policeman in a shooting.
The author talks of Africa being held up in slavery. He says that the earlier men sold slaves for simple things such as beads. Today, they sell their people for big things such as cars and bank accounts. He shows of their plight as prisoners, he says that their clothes have not been washed for one month, and that those are the same clothes they will be executed in at the stadium. He imagines their last moments and the things they will ask for when the priest is brought to pray for them and ask for their last words. At this part, the author shows his hatred towards the priests. He says he will call him a fornicator, a hypocrite and an adulterer. The author shows pity to the people of Nigeria. He says that the priest should be praying for the living rather than their souls as the life out there is a ‘daily torment’.
Saro Wiwa shows his feelings towards his friends. He shows the love he had for his two friends and also his girlfriend. He says that he will miss them. He refers to the spectators as miserable wretches. He says they will go back to their homes on empty stomachs but with tales to tell. The author talks of the newspaper making a recording of his execution and says that if his picture appears, his girlfriend Zole should cut out the picture and use the money he left in his bank to make a sculpture of him.
The author ends his letter by asking his girlfriend to create a grave site for him and write an epitaph on it with the phrase, “Africa Kills Her Sun”. He says that is why Africa will remain a dark continent, because they always kill their sun. He ends his letter by sending Zole all his love.