Books Fiction Issues Reviews

A walk into the dark side of power and wealth

TITLE: Old Money

AUTHOR: Charles Chanchori

PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press

REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

Old Money by Charles Chanchori slowly brings you in, wraps its hands on your throat, grips you and does not let you go until the end where it lets you down slowly, heaving and coughing as you try to crawl back into its pages but it is sadly… the end.

                The story revolves around Rita the billionaire matriarch of the Mugambi family. She has made it her life’s goal to run her family the same way her heart runs… like a business; without emotions and with an eye on the profits.  People tremble at the mere mention of her name and scamper to perform her demands. She has everyone at her palm, the rest in her pocket. Her sons. Her husband. Politicians. The police.

                Her husband attempts to get away from her only to realise that you never get away from Rita Mugambi. Her sons, Zain and Bahati, in a bid to seek freedom, also realise just how hard it is to get away from the mother. Because once Rita has sunk her claws into your skin, you will have to crawl far and even bleed before she can let go.

                The characters are well developed with the author able to garner support and empathy for all his characters. As much as you try to hate the main antagonist, you can still understand her, respect her and even empathize with her.  The writer also helps you see how the extremely rich in Nairobi live as well as how the poorest in the slums survive.

                Set in the city of Nairobi, the book aptly captures the country we live in. Where who you know matters and where mnyonge hana haki. Where police brutality is rampant and where power reigns supreme with humanity taking a backseat. Different themes such as politics, ambition, power of the internet and social media, corruption, justice and power are explored.

                If you are looking for an easy but well-crafted read, then this is just the book for you. The emotions are well balanced so you are still able to walk away without feeling like your soul just got darker.

Moraa is a young woman navigating life. Author of Beautiful Mess… Co Author of Dreams and Demons, I’m Listening 2021 edition and This Heart of Mine. She is also the winner of Kendeka Prize of African Literature-2022. She can be found with a book or two. When she’s not fighting to stay afloat, she is daydreaming, writing poetry or reading.

Books News

Nuria is now at Naivas

Good news for Kenyan writers as Nuria Bookstore takes over the distribution of books at Naivas Supermarkets. Abdullahi Bulle, the director of Nuria says the move followed the successful handover ceremony that took place on Monday morning, “where ‘All African Books’ were transferred the Kenyan books to Nuria.”

What this means is that Kenyan writers, who distribute their books through Nuria, have more convenient outlet for their books. The Naivas chain of supermarkets has branches all over the country.

This is a win for Kenyan writing as Nuria has the largest database of Kenyan books, especially those written by self-published writers, who ordinarily would find it difficult stocking their books in other book outlets.

“We appreciate the partnership and support in promoting Kenyan literature and culture,” explained an excited Bulle. “We look forward to serving you with quality and affordable books at Naivas Supermarket outlets.

Arts Culture Events

The Affordable Art Show, a collector’s dream

The Affordable Art Show (AAS) is probably the most exciting event in the calendar of Kenyan art events.

This is probably the only art show where rank amateurs get to share the same exhibition space with established professionals in the industry. And just like the title indicates, this is about the only place, art lovers can acquire a solid piece of art for as little as sh6,000, with the maximum price being sh150,000.

This is quite something, considering that good art does not come cheap. Art pieces, done by Kenyans, have been known to fetch as much as sh2 million. The AAS is therefore a collector’s dream.

Now, AAS took place from Friday October 27 to Sunday October 29 at the Nairobi National Museum where a total of 386 artists brought in 750 pieces. Most artists submitted the allowed maximum of two pieces.

Maisha Yetu’s experience at the event was much smoother as we had Lydia Galavu, curator of the Creativity Gallery at the National Museums of Kenya, as our guide. She explained how the pieces of art were arranged according to themes. As one entered the venue, the artworks one came face to face with had the dominant theme of women.

Here, the pieces were as varied as they were interesting. There was a particular nude piece that was quite thoughtful in its depiction. The woman with her head bent backwards, clutching pieces of grass, sat in the woods, with an owl flying close to her. Although her face is not visible, she appears to be in pain, probably why the owl was close by.

In most African cultures, sightings of owls portend a bad omen.

Further down, to the left, were pieces that featured landscapes, seascapes, village and city life. This was followed, towards the courtyard, by the big paintings. Also on exhibition were sculptures. Lydia explained that there is a growing number of entries by young artists, as exemplified by the styles they employed in their pieces. One of the techniques that caught the eye, was a unique mosaic featuring Lupita Nyong’o, which echoes famous Obama Hope mosaic.

While the Obama mosaic was entirely made up of flowers, this one consisted of intricately woven threads of different colours. “This style, threads on wood, is not entirely new,” explained Lydia. “It has however been making a slow comeback, since 2018, courtesy of young artists.”

She added that collages, made popular by Rosemary Karuga, in the eighties, were also making a comeback, again being driven by the young artists, who are now injecting youthful dynamism and creativity.

Among the notable artists who graced the opening night was Michael Soi, who had two pieces, a small one and a bigger, more exciting piece, which depicted a skimpily dressed woman of easy virtue, flashing three fingers to signify the ‘mambo ni matatu’ slogan, made popular by President William Ruto.

While Ruto’s three ‘things’ have to do with the fight against corruption, Soi’s woman was outlining the three preferred modes of payment: Cash, Mpesa and Bitcoin.

This piece was quickly snapped up.

Soi said that AAS holds a special place in his heart. “It is here that I sold my first ever piece in 1996. The reason is too sentimental,” he explained.

He was also on the lookout for Risper Achieng’s work. “I love her work; I have collected three of her pieces. I try get her work when I can afford it,” he added.

Kivuthi Mbuno, had two pieces on exhibitions, which were also snapped up, probably by collectors who know the uniqueness of his art. Mbuno belongs to the older generation of artists, most of whom are exiting life’s stage. They include the late Jak Katarikawe and the late Ancent Soi.

In a few years to come, their artworks will be rare collectors’ items and will be selling for a pretty penny.

AAS is an event organised by the Kenya Museum Society and founded by Marla Stone. “The Kenya Museum Society supports projects of the National Museums of Kenya,” explained Marla.

It was an event of the Society from the mid-1990’s when it was held in conjunction with the annual visual and performing Art Festival. Starting 2021, AAS has been held twice a year, May and October, as requested by artists; which is testament to the Show’s growing popularity.

Proceeds from the event go towards supporting projects of the National Museums of Kenya. Each artist is allowed to submit a maximum of two art pieces, which would include a painting, a 3D art piece or a sculpture. “We limit the number of entries per artist so as to allow as many artists as possible to participated,” added Marla.

A total of Ksh9 million was raised from the sale of artworks.

Buyers were mostly foreign nationals living in Kenya, a sizeable number of tourists popping in to get a piece of Kenyan art. Kenyans too are increasingly appreciating art and are letting their wallets speak.

The three-day event attracted 2,700 visitors.

Books Fiction Reviews Short Stories

The strange way loss brings forth new beauty

TITLE: A Surreal Journey of Discovery

AUTHOR: Eric Rugara

REVIWER: Simiyu Barasa

AVAILABILITY: Nuria Bookstore

Loss. Not your usual ways of the way stories of loss are written, but the deeper thoughts that assail us when we are alone and we go through losses of loved ones, of loved things, of loved times, of great sex. How loss can be beautiful and still be sweet in its pain that we keep living through it, deformed in our souls but outwardly taking steps towards more losses. That is the overriding journey that Eric Rugara takes you through in his short stories collection, A Surreal Journey of Discovery right from the first story of the loss of his pet bird as a child all through to the loss of the fear of writing in his rather masturbatory nod to self in the story at the end that gives the collection its title.

A fine reading that is unusual in most of the Kenyan writings that one comes across, Rugara oscillates between reality, laying bare the dreamy thoughts in one’s head (that we all have learnt to camouflage for it is all not very normal to speak our unfiltered imaginative brains), and rapidly moves into magical worlds of dreams, ghosts, android filled earth, dystopian end world visions, as well as re-imagination of dreams. From the regular ‘everyone can relate to’ losses of a pet (bird, Bob’s cat Asha), to girlfriends of our desires like Mona who come with their doses of madness when one gets to know them, to the market woman who loses her son in riots, loss of sounds like cricket sounds, thoughts and desires, Rugara skilfully weaves tales that are as exciting as they are intriguing. You can feel the loss, see your own loss, and yet from these strange losses you realise a new beauty comes with it: Life changes. You smile and live on, but you are affected.

Maybe because alcohol and sex are the most common run away to whenever we experience loss and seek happiness, is the reason that makes the stories heavily peppered with bars, casual sex and escapades of thrills as the characters seek to fill the voids. But just like in real life, these escapades are full of momentary gap filling, yet create more emptiness and the rush to plug the real emptiness of unrequited love and sense of loss.

The unrequited love which we all have experienced are visible in among others Mona, in Janice’s friend Mary. Some of it is thrilling in its illicitness, like the high-octane desires between Tanui and Vivian whose fuel is that she is married, and whose fire retardant is the same fact that she is married. Such risky loves end in losses, we all know, deaths at the hands of others or self. The kind of lusts that burn with physical desire but Rugara elevates them such that they can only be consummated in synchronized dreams like Laura’s, which surreally tiptoe back and impact on the real life in weird ways. Love making with ghosts, and with self in another world, with mythological figures. Yet even in these, the loss from rejections and failures are made up for with a frenzy of sex with other real life women mostly picked from bars, only to lead to more emptiness and loneliness and a burning desire that can only be filled by another attempt at the target, prized, elusive love – be it ghosts, imaginations, android figures, or dystopian last humans on earth mutants. Yet once one gains it, death embraces. And loss of self.

It is in the segueing of the normal to the paranormal that Rugara shines as a writer. A wonderful one at that, especially for those who spend a lot of time in their own thoughts and wonder if it is normal to have such thoughts. Very simply written, but the verisimilitude styles with their free flow of self-consciousness that break the boundary and leap into crazy imagination reminds one of Zimbabwe’s Dambudzo Marechera’s wild thoughts in House of Hunger. The power of his character’s physical traits that somehow gain surreal powers in another world which cyclically totters between gain and loss in the here and now vibrates as is in the Kenyan Idza Luhumyo’s 2022 Caine Prize winning short story Five Years Next Sunday. His Ordinary Lives that is told from the Point of view of a Hundred Shillings Note gives echoes of Alice Hatcher’s prize winning ‘The Wonder that was Ours’ written from the Point of View of a cockroach.

Delving into the unconscious mind; the juxtapositions of opposites like life and death, sweetness and sorrow; complete with dreams and fantasies rooted in real world issues that trigger them including a (covid anyone?) virus attack, Rugara’s short story collection is a slow burn: It starts off with some rather not so exceptional stories rooted in real life kind of narratives but quarter way through fully takes off when his imagination runs wild into fantastical, irrational kind of realms. He is at his best when oscillating between reality and sci-fi (some Japanese accented speaking robots in The Making of a Terrorist), mythology, a dystopian world where water is a currency for sex at the pain of death in ‘For a Drink of Water’, ghosts like Waitherero, and surrealism. You will not forget the priest who doesn’t believe in God anymore but still carries his rosary, or the soldier who has no bullets for his gun but still cannot leave it behind. We often do refuse to not let go of the most useless things in our lives, maybe because their loss would be too overwhelming in a world where uselessness it the only useful thing around.

Perhaps not trusting his readers enough, Rugara kind of spoils it in some sections with over-explanations or pre-emptive narrative explanations as to what is going on or is going to happen with where he is going especially in the first few paragraphs of each story. Yet, he also gets very skimpy in giving the narrative world descriptions of tiny details to build his worlds, rushing rather blandly to the ‘this is where I am going’ speeds and you are left without texture, touches, smells, colours, and all those tiny nitty gritties. In the existentialism kind of world the stories populate, we are just speeded along with words. No pauses to imbibe the tiny details. He has the mind of Marechera, the storytelling art of Idza, the playful introspectiveness and imagination of Hatcher, but falls a little short on the craft of welding a formidable story. For non-Kenyans, there are quite a number of instances where one would struggle to understand what boda boda, madondo, mitungis, gunias, etc are as they are mentioned and no creative ways to explain them. The majority of the characters in the diverse stories also kind of speak the same to just pass the message across. There are no idiosyncrasies either of actions or dialogue that differentiates a lot of them. Infact, they all are Monas in different genders and situations: All well read, whose favourite hobbies include dropping quotes of philosophical proportions and namedropping Socrates, Stockholm Syndrome etc in explanatory diversions. They love mentioning literary world figures etc maybe as a way of the writer paying homage to other authors. Hence we have thugs who can quote Jack Zollo and Millie (an ode to John Kiriamiti ‘My Life in Crime’?) etc.

In one of the more intriguing stories, Chep asks Elias her lover,”Why can’t you let me go?” to which he replies, “I can’t” and yet they , and we the readers, both know it would be the best loss for more would be gained, or else a bigger loss would come if the situation continues as it is. One feels if Rugara gets braver in his subsequent works, letting his imagination go even freer and embrace more craft in his moulding the stories, he would be more than just the wonderful writer he is. He’d be astounding.

Definitely, this is a book every lover of stories should have.

Books Issues Non-Fiction Releases Reviews

These harrowing tales will make you a better person

TITLE: Confessions of Nairobi Women Book Two

AUTHOR: Joan Thatiah

REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

There’s something about secrets and confessions that makes everyone’s ears perk up, listen a little harder and be more curious. That is what Joan Thatiah’s books do. They make you crave what is inside the pages. They make you pay attention

 Confessions of Nairobi Women Book Two is a sequel to the first series. It contains twelve, raw, painful but brilliantly written stories. They are also page turners. You just can’t stop reading; every story just keeps you yearning for a little bit more.

As harrowing as the tales are, in the end, they are worth it because they leave you looking at the world differently; Looking at the women you meet in different situations with kinder eyes. They are a harsh reminder of the adage, ‘walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you dare to judge’

From a woman who tried so hard not to be like her mother only to end up realising the path her mother chose was the best, to a lawyer whose life was destroyed in car jack; the stories leave you trembling with horror. Because they are just ordinary women who you wouldn’t look at twice if you met them. You would actually think they are pretty well off and have no reason to complain. From the horrors of addiction, prostitution, FGM, crime, and many more; there is no dark place the writer has shied away from.

These stories deserve to be here. If you come across this book, pick it up, immerse yourself in it. When you bring your head up for air, you will be a changed person, I hope a better and kinder person too.

And that is what books are meant to do. Make us better.

This book comes highly recommended.

Books Fiction Releases Reviews

Thought-provoking stories to charm the mind

TITLE: A Surreal Journey of Discovery

AUTHOR: Eric Rugara


REVIEWER: Godfrey Kogie

Life is beautiful when its non-linear. No one wants to leave when living is a surreal journey of discovery. 

A collections of stories coming from the author who is a widely published contributor of short stories, the book is dedicated to storytelling.

It is a fantastic voyage that truly captures you from the first page to the end. With stories that makes someone stare at the wall and start questioning his/her own levels of imaginations, to which level it can extend.

The feeling these stories gives the reader is so profound that in my view you will want to re-read the book.

The author is descriptive in each story, in a rich way, yet also precise with beautiful wordplay that makes the reader admire being a writer. 

It takes you on an unimaginable journey into dreamland, with each story leaving you with questions that will linger in your mind for days.

The book also acts as an eye-opener with insights into what we believe, the power of the mind; the whole idea of living and existing, as well as life after death.

Written in a majorly in the realm of dreams, the book also has elements of humour, beauty, magic, love and deception. I particularly found The happy land experience being an inspiration.

At 208 pages and with 22 stories, some rendered in two parts, you can read the book in one setting.

My favourite stories were Waitherero, which left me with a thrill, only to find it has a second part, which was even more interesting; and A new earth for its apocalyptic theme. 

Being his first book and crafted absolutely well can be surprising how the stories complimented each other, and that feeling the author wanted to achieve of your mind can give you wings as far being imaginative and creative is concerned. 

To any book enthusiast who has not read the book, you are missing a lot. I rate it 5 Star 

You can find A Surreal Journey of Discovery at Nuria store.

Books Events Issues News Non-Fiction Personalities

How harassment by government forces ‘dynasties’ to join politics

By Mbugua Ngunjiri

In 2021, when the Pandora Papers ‘scandal’ broke, Kenyans learnt that the Kenyatta family has stashed funds in foreign accounts. Now, there are a number of reasons why certain people chose to spirit their monies in those tax havens. Chief among the reasons such people hide their money, whether clean or dirty, in secret accounts, in my view, is security.

Patriotism comes later.

On Friday, July 21, an angry Uhuru Kenyatta was on TV complaining bitterly that William Ruto’s government was targeting his family. This was after it was reported that police officers had raided one of his son’s home in Karen, ostensibly to search for ‘illegal firearms’.

During the media interview, the retired president challenged Ruto to ‘come for him’ and leave his 90-year-old mother alone. A few days earlier, it had been reported that Mama Ngina Kenyatta’s security had been withdrawn.

Uhuru said he is capable of ‘protecting’ his family’s property. Well, your guess is as good as mine, where he would take his money should harassment by government persisted.

It should be remembered that a few months back, goons suspected to have been funded by the Kenya Kwanza regime, raided Northlands Farm, owned by the Kenyatta family, stole sheep and set trees on fire.

Kenyan politics is replete with examples similar harassment. I will use the late Simeon Nyachae’s example to illustrate my point. In his book, Walking Through the Corridors of Service (Mvule, 2010), Nyachae says that he entered politics to protect his property.

Now, let that sink for a bit.

When he retired from the civil service in 1987, upon attaining the age of 55, Nyachae was already a successful businessman. “…my intention was to go into farming and to concentrate on my other businesses… I had no intention whatsoever to join politics,” he wrote.

Moi’s government meanwhile, had other plans; they wove a narrative to the effect that Nyachae was ‘a dangerous rich man, who wanted to dominate the Gusii community and Kenya.’ A sinister plot was then hatched to cut him down to size, beginning with his vast business empire. To begin with, public health officials would be dispatched, almost on a daily basis, to his Sansora Bakery with bogus allegations that it was operating under unhygienic conditions.

It also became increasingly difficult for him to import spare parts for his Kabansora Flour Mills, which had to be sourced from Germany. He had to find a way round it. “The supplier would send the parts to the German Embassy, in Nairobi, as samples, and then we would collect them for our own use,” wrote Nyachae.

At the time of his retirement Nyachae decided to reward himself by importing a brand new Mercedes 500. That is where his problems started.

When the vehicle arrived at the Mombasa Port, he was told, flat out, that it could not be cleared into the country. When his son Charles Nyachae went to ascertain what the fuss was all about “a customs official told him that the car I had imported would not be cleared because nobody in the country was ‘allowed’ to import a car that big, unless he or she wanted to have powers like those of the president!”

He had to go to court to have the car released. When it was finally released, seven months later, the Mercedes Benz had been so badly vandalised, he had to order for new parts from Germany. “This experience heightened the pressure from my friends that I should join politics to defend my investments,” wrote Nyachae.

The kamati was not yet through with him; they sent thugs to throw a dead rat into the compound of Kabansora Mills, in Embakasi, in the dead of night. The following morning health officials demanded to allowed into the compound to conduct an ‘inspection’. Once inside they made a beeline to where the dead rat had been thrown. The goal was to close down the premises under the pretext that the whole place was infested with rats, and that consumers of his products risked being infected with plague!

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Seeing as the harassment was not about to die down, Nyachae decided to go to parliament “and fight against the injustices meted out against individuals and groups who were not singing to the tune of the ruling party Kanu.”

There was one more roadblock waiting around the corner. At the time, Kenya was ruled by a single party, Kanu. To contest for any political seat, one had to be a member of the ruling party. Try as he could, Nyachae’s name could not be cleared by Kanu for the 1988 elections, which broke so many records for rigging. Mnasemanga rigging, the 1988 mlolongo elections were not only the mother and father of rigging, they were also the grandparents and ancestors of modern day rigging!

Nyachae got to parliament in 1992, ironically, on a Kanu ticket.

The late Njenga Karume, in his book, From Charcoal to Gold, also gave the same reasons as Nyachae, for entering into politics; to protect his property.

At his prime, the late Kenneth Matiba, another former civil servant, was said to be one of the richest men in Kenya. However, a tumble with Moi’s government, not only left him severely incapacitated, health wise, but at the time of his death, Matiba was stone broke.

Now, had someone advised him to hide some of his money in the Cayman Islands, or some other tax havens, his descendants would still be doing fine.

Now, based on what happened to Uhuru’s son, on Friday, would you blame him for joining politics to ‘protect’ his property or that of his family?

Books Fiction Releases Reviews

A captivating tale of humour, crime and adventure

TITLE: Tentacles of Crime

AUTHOR: Dennis Odhiambo

PUBLISHER: African Ink Publishers

REVIEWER: Peter S. Okumu

It has taken me weeks to write this review, after finishing reading this book. I had to look for convenient time, and draft the review that the book deserves. When we first spoke, Dennis mentioned to me that the book would be titled “No Tears to Cry”.

A few months later, what came out of the press was Tentacles of Crime. So as I was reading this novel, I was curious, to link it to his first title, and as I delved into its pages, I quickly understood why. This captivating tale weaves together humour, crime, and painful adventures in a truly remarkable way. Allow me to share my thoughts on this outstanding literary work.

From the very beginning, Tentacles of Crime draws you in with its beautiful storytelling. Dennis has a unique ability to craft vivid characters who effortlessly come to life on the pages. The protagonist, who is a high school student, is a complex but relatable individual, navigating a world filled with dark secrets, robbery and unexpected twists. You’ll find yourself emotionally invested in their journey, eagerly turning each page to unravel the mysteries that surround them.

One of the book’s greatest strengths lies in its seamless blend of humour, crime, twists and suspense. The zigzag way Dennis expertly injects moments of levity throughout the narrative, providing a welcome respite from the tension and suspense that permeate the story. These comedic interludes not only add depth to the characters but also highlight the author’s knack for balancing different tones, resulting in a well-rounded and enjoyable reading experience.

Beyond its gripping plot, Tentacles of Crime serves as a lens through which Dennis explores thought-provoking social issues that most youths face. The book addresses themes such as inequality, corruption, and the struggles that most youths/students go through; shining a light on the darker aspects of society – the church/religion. Through his writing, Dennis prompts readers to reflect on these topics, leaving a lasting impact long after the final page has been turned.

I must acknowledge Dennis’ exceptional talent as an author. His debut novel showcases a remarkable command of storytelling and a true understanding of the society. I wholeheartedly encourage you to support this budding literary guru, by purchasing a copy/copies of his book.

Hongera mkuu! Let us put it on paper! Let us write, for that is a noble duty we were given!

Books Events Fiction News Non-Fiction Poetry Releases

International Literary Seminars: a call for applications

Are you an emerging writer? This is your opportunity to participate in the prestigious International Literary Seminars (ILS), where you will get to improve your writing skills.

ILS, a joint venture by ILS and Jahazi Press, is looking for three writers to fill the slots. You have until August 7 to submit your application.

The fellowship, covers tuition, travel and accommodation for the three recipients. “These merit-based fellowships are designed for upcoming writers who are looking to grow their writing skills with the guidance of an experienced ILS faculty and a community of peer writers,” says a statement from ILS.

Although only three successful applicants will be picked, the good news is that all the applicants will automatically be entered into the 2023 ILS Fiction Contest and considered for publishing in Yolk and Fence magazines. “This will also be a unique opportunity to listen to New Yorker editor, Deborah Treismann and acclaimed short story writer, George Saunders,” says ILS.

The week-long fellowship for the successful applicants which will take place in the coastal town of Lamu, in December, will among others, feature craft development sessions, manuscript based workshops and lectures and discussions with prominent authors.

Some of the acclaimed authors, who will be taking participants through the paces, include Mikhail Lossel, Billy Kahora, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Idza Luhumyo, among others. “ILS 2023 will launch in Nairobi where participants will interact with local and international writers as well as attend readings by core faculty members and guests. This will be followed by a week of writing workshops in Lamu,” says the statement from ILS.

Applicants are required to submit an unpublished sample of between 3,000 to 6,000 words, that represents their best work as a Word Document. Poets should submit three samples of their work.

Participants of last year’s event were Gladwell Pamba, Munira Hussein and Dennis Mugaa.

“Winning ILS has been my biggest achievement because it gave me opportunities I had only dreamt of,” says Pamba, who studied English and Literature at Moi University.

You can apply through this link.

Books Non-Fiction Personalities

Duale: How we saved Ruto from the jaws of ICC

TITLE: For The Record

AUTHOR: Aden Duale


REVIEWER: Mbugua Ngunjiri

When retired president Uhuru Kenyatta fell out with his then deputy William Ruto and embarked on a purge of the former’s loyalists, Aden Duale was the last to go.

There had been speculation as to why the former Garissa Township MP was not let go in the manner in which other Ruto allies were dispensed with, especially those who held key positions in Parliament.

Well, it can be argued that the man, who currently occupies the Defence docket in William Ruto’s cabinet, is not your run-of-the-mill politician, who can be tossed around at will.

This was a man who had served as the Leader of Majority, in the August House, for a good eight years. It must count for something.

In terms of heirachy in Kenyatta’s government, Duale ranked number four, after the president, his deputy and the Speaker of the National Assembly, in that order.

It was him who did all the heavy lifting to ensure that the government agenda sailed through Parliament.

Now, through his book, For The Record, Duale has told his side of the story. He sheds light on events that led to his ouster from the coveted position of Leader of Majority.

Given the important position he occupied in Uhuru’s government and the single-minded zeal with which he went about his job, the president accorded him the honour of letting him know what he was about to do.

Uhuru summoned Duale and gave him the choice of working with the president of losing his position. Duale looked Uhuru in the eye and made it clear that friendship and loyalty mattered more to him and thus chose to stick with Ruto.

That loyalty paid off. Today, he is the cabinet secretary in charge of all defence forces in Kenya, probably one better than his father-in-law, who once served as the Chief of General Staff, during Moi’s and who had been the ultimate power broker in Garissa politics and probably the whole of North Eastern region.

Duale says that the idea to pen his memoirs came about when he found himself with extra time on his hands after he had been relieved of his parliamentary duties.

Writing the book must have been cathartic for him as it allowed him to let off steam as opposed his colleagues who chose political podiums to get back back at Uhuru for letting them go.

Although he goes through the ropes of telling his story about his early childhood days growing up and going to school in Garissa, one can tell that he is in a rush to get to the ‘real stuff’; politics.

It is through the rough and tumble of politics that Duale is what he is today and boy did he play his politics hard?

As a politician, it is safe to say that Duale, when the situation suited him, grazed with the hares and hunted with the foxes.

Being the outspoken person he is, Duale, in large sections of his book does not shy away from letting out what is in his mind.

In one section he outlines the levels he went to ensure that the motions introduced by government carried the day.

Seeing as parliamentary motions involved robust debate inside the chamber, Duale made it his business to identify MPs who would give him a hard time in the house. “I used to identify the rabble-rousers in their ranks, and send them on foreign trips just when I was about to bring a controversial proposal, which I suspected they would oppose. While they were away, business went on,” he writes.

Speaking of parliamentary bills, Duale writes about a particularly controversial one; The Security Bill, Uhuru Kenyatta wanted passed in Parliament. Here Duale found himself in a bit of a pickle as it touched on the community he hails from.

One afternoon Uhuru called Duale at State House to seek his support for the bill. He shocked many in the meeting, including Ruto, when he eye-balled the president and aired his thoughts. “No, Mr President. I don’t support some of the provisions. They are discriminatory against Muslims and appeared to have been drafted to target Somalis and their businesses. I will not support it,” Duale quotes himself as telling the president.

However, the most revealing anecdote – and this is to put it mildly – touches on Ruto’s case in The Hague and the levels to which they went in ensuring his boss and friend was let off the hook.

Duale reveals that their investigations led them to believe that the UK was determined that Uhuru and Ruto would be convicted and probably serve lengthy jail terms.

There was thus renewed urgency to let Ruto off the jaws of the International Criminal Court (ICC), after Uhuru’s case was dropped. Duale was to play a crucial role in this endeavour.

It so happened that at the same time Britain was pushing for the fixing of Ruto at The Hague, the were also eager to have their treaty, that sees their military train in Laikipia, ratified.

This is where Duale came in.

As Leader of Majority in Parliament, it was his role to marshall MPs to ensure that the treaty was renewed. That is how Ruto’s allies found their checkmate towards the Brits.

When push came to shove, Duale, without mincing words, told the British that if they wanted the treaty renewed, they would have to go easy on Ruto’s case in The Hague.

Well, the British relented; Ruto was let off the hook and Duale pulled strings to ensure that the much-needed treaty was ratified.

Well, this revelation tells you all you need to know about the ‘games’ that are played at the international level and whether the ICC is an institution committed to delivering justice or a tool used by Western powers to advance their geopolitical interests.

Still, whether that particular episode says anything about Ruto’s culpability in the ICC case is neither here nor there.

From the look of things, the Ruto ICC revelation must have left Duale quite drained for that is where his enthusiasm for engaging content dried up.

One would have expected that Duale, courtesy of his ringside spot as Ruto’s right hand man, the reader would have been treated to juicy behind-the-scenes revelations on the Uhuru/Ruto fallout as well as how the then Deputy President went about putting together such a fearsome campaign machinery that eventually catapulted him to State House.

Careful reading of the book in the later sections reveals a coyness if not outright refusal to tell what he knows.

Any reader who has keenly followed Kenyan politics right from the Handshake days, which also included Ruto’s ‘tangatangaring’ years, the campaigns and the election, in the mainstream and social media, will tell you Duale tells us nothing new.

It is either that he held back a lot or was heavily censored (by whom? take a guess). Totally missing in the book are details about the controversial 2017 Jubilee Party nominations, which Ruto masterminded and which led to the near-total emasculation of Uhuru in his Mount Kenya backyard.

This is unlike the Duale who so boisterously describes his days as the Leader of Majority (one can tell that he thoroughly enjoyed tenure) as well as his robust take on the ICC case.

On my part, I was especially keen on how Duale treats Uhuru Kenyatta given the acrimonious falling out the former president and his then deputy. Well, unlike his successor in Parliament, who appears hard-wired to issuing anger-filled broadsides at Uhuru, at any given opportunity, Duale comes out as measured in his views on the retired president. Granted that he includes the mandatory rehashed Kenya Kwanza talking points (grouses?) against Uhuru, one can tell that Duale has grudging respect for Kenya’s fourth president.

The book is quite engaging and well written and brings out Duale’s abrasive character quite admirably. The editing too, is point and so is the general packaging of the book.

This book will prove to be a useful resource political science students, especially those undertaking parliamentary studies.

It is a remarkable effort, especially coming from a Kenyan politician, given that they are known to be notoriously averse to writing their memoirs.

Duale must be commended for this effort.