THE ARMENIANS will recognise themselves in Kosovo. They understand only too well a world that turns a blind eye to the structured violation of its kind, and then goes further to insult the claims and duty of memory by the manipulation of language, inventing a syntax of denial in the testaments of reality. They will be among the first to assert, and with unassailable truth, that because 1915 was denied, 1939 was made inevitable, and the once unthinkable of 1999 now confronts the conscience of the world in a wearisomely familiar replay. So would the Tutsi of Rwanda, albeit employing different reference points: that because Europe ignored 1994 - at least until much too late, 1999 was made inevitable.
All victim groups guard certain milestones on the road to amnesia, but we do not really have first to be victims, only to cultivate a virtually spontaneous habit of associations, and the warnings they provide. It takes no effort for me, as example, to make one subjective equation: in my mind, Kosovo equals Ogoni. That has an unavoidable immediacy. The assault of the Serbian government on Kosovar writers and intellectuals, scientists and human rights advocates, the callous executions of their most notable figures, immediately bring to mind the gruesome spectacle of the Nigerian writer and activist, Ken Sarowiwa, and his eight companions, dangling from the gallows. The silencing of individual voices, their routine storage as primary matter for elimination is only a symbolic summation of a wider project of mutilation, even annulment, of both culture and heritage, of identity and creativity of which such voices are the most committed exponents.
Outside one's personal immediacies, Kosovo also equates the Sudan, where a brutal, intolerant regime has waged similar war against a defiant culture and identity for more than two decades, attempting to cleanse what it considers the stronghold of impurities in religious and cultural doctrines that define the self-perception of one section in opposition to another. Kosovo, with the marked difference in organisation, systematic planning and focussed goals, also equates Sierra Leone. The violence against the Sierra Leonian populace by a so-called rebel movement is mind-boggling in its repudiation of all civilised modes of conduct, and its largely undiscriminating mayhem. …