A sad moment for Africans & Africa
As someone who has forged and maintained cordial, romantic and fraternal relationships with Africans of Kenyan nationality for some three decades, I was visibly horrified to learn about the brutal murder of a fellow Ghanaian in Maryland, here in the United States, by a fellow African of Kenyan nationality (See “U.S. Student Admits to Eating Ghanaian's Heart, Part of Brain” CNN/Ghanaweb.com 6/1/12).And I am also quite certain that if he has already learned of the same, President Barack Obama must be having a quite difficult time coming to terms with such heinous crime linking two of his favorite African countries; one, of course, being his fatherland, and the other, a leader of the modern African liberation struggle that he has always admired.
Another angle that makes this crime even more horrifying is the morally repugnant element of cannibalism, for the murder suspect, Mr. Alexander Kinyua, is also reported to have quartered up and devoured parts of the remains of his victim, notably his heart and a part of his brain.
And while there have been several similar reported incidents of murder and cannibalism during the past thirty years, or so, that I have lived and worked in the United States, involving culprits of European-American descent (remember Geoffrey Dahmer and Jim Gacy?) this particular incident hit especially hard home for me, perhaps, largely because of the lingering and perennial image of Africa as all that is representative of the quaint, odd, bizarre, primitive, barbaric and outright benighted.
And on preceding score, I cannot begin to inform the reader about how my African ethnicity and Ghanaian nationality have deftly and viciously conspired to render me a virtual pariah at several levels of my civic existence in this mega-nation and global superpower.
This year, for example, I decided to forgo applying for promotion at my job because of recent-past attempts by some administrators and “shared-governance” colleagues to use my “peculiar” pedagogical rhetoric as a source of professional misdemeanor. I would also be awarded the evaluative grade of “unsatisfactory teaching” because I had dared to introduce peanut-butter soup, a Ghanaian staple, to a class party that was partly in celebration of Professor George Washington Carver.
My “unsatisfactory teaching” grade would be shortly quashed by the powers that be; but by then, I would have dearly paid for it emotionally. I am still emotionally traumatized and may never go up for promotion to full-professorship.
I am also quite certain that even the most successful American citizens of African descent among us, including President Obama, of course, have their own heart-rending stories to tell. Needless to say, those of us avid observers of the U.S. political scene cannot gainsay the vicariously traumatic odyssey that most Americans of African descent experienced during both the lead-up to and in the wake of the Obama Presidency.
We need to also commend and commiserate with the father of the murder suspect, Mr. Antony Kinyua, and his other unnamed son who, allegedly, made the grisly discovery of the butchered and lidded remains of 37-year-old Mr. Kwadwo (Kujoe) Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie in both the basement and apartment of the building in which the suspect and his victim lived and shared.
The bad and almost morally indelible publicity and notoriety brought to bear on the Kinyua family staggers the imagination. And it is hoped that their prompt alerting of law-enforcement agents to this horrible affair by one of their own blood, and the confession of the suspect to the crime, would bring some modicum of spiritual redemption to the Kinyua family.
To the victim's family, relatives and friends, on the other hand, we can only hope for strength and fortitude, as well as healing, in both the short- and long-term.
Obviously, 21-year-old Mr. Alexander Kinyua is a clinically troubled soul; the problem here, though, regards his family's awareness of the same and, particularly, why the Kinyua family members, if they were aware of the suspect's apparent psychosis and/or dementia, had not warned the eventual victim of murder and cannibalism.
Then also, there appears to have reigned an element of acute envy and jealousy on the part of the criminal suspect for his victim. For, needless to say, it takes quite a remarkable bit of intellectual inferiority complex for one human being to murder another and then decide to devour part of the brain of his victim.
We observe this because we are informed that the victim, Mr. Kwadwo (Kujoe) Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, had earned multiple graduate degrees from universities and colleges in Ghana which, at 21 years old, Mr. Kinyua had yet to match.
Significantly and interestingly, however, we are also informed that the criminal suspect was an engineering student of such notable accomplishment as to have been among some “175 students showcased in an August 2011 symposium run by the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory.” And also that Mr. Kinyua's course of study “focused on the cost-effectiveness and productivity of 'comfort control' systems regulating heating, ventilation and air-conditioning.”
In other words, the suspect was academically and professionally oriented towards significantly contributing to the general quality of life in post-industrial American society.
And being that Mr. Kinyua has, so far, been charged with the felonious offences of first-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault, it appears that both murder suspect and victim had a close enough relationship which had facilitated the sharing of confidences, thus the possibility of the much younger Mr. Kinyua's feeling somewhat relatively inadequate.
As for the suspect's decision to devour the heart of his victim, we can only speculate a la Chinua Achebe's classic novel Things Fall Apart (1958), that Mr. Kinyua must have found something unusually and, perhaps, even unbearably admirable about the poise with which the much older and more mature Mr. Agyei-Kodie deported himself and his personal affairs.
Whatever the outcome of the legal and judicial aspects of this nightmare, the certain trauma that Mr. Alexander Kinyua has caused civilized, global humanity is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Sounds of Sirens: Essays in African Politics and Culture” (iUniverse.com, 2004).