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.

Books Non-Fiction Personalities Reviews

No grace: the shameful exit of Robert Mugabe

TITLE: The Graceless Fall of Robert Mugabe

AUTHOR: Geoffrey Nyarota


REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

Like most people, I have always wondered what happened to Zimbabwe.  What led to one man holding on to power for so long? I have always wondered if there wasn’t a better person to lead Zimbabwe.  Through Geoffrey Nyarota’s book many of these questions are answered and so much more is revealed.

Non-fictional books tend to be boring but not this one. Nyarota’s flawless style of writing makes sure of that. Books that cover political situations tend to be skewed towards one side but Nyarota goes through this narration objectively with his ideas supported with facts and on occasions where he is not sure, or does not have hard evidence, he lets the reader know that.

‘The Graceless Fall of Mugabe’ follows the journey of one man; Robert Mugabe and how he led to the fall of a once prosperous nation, Africa’s Jewel, as described by the late Julius Nyerere.  Robert Mugabe inherited a really healthy economy, compared to what Tanzania and other countries, like Mozambique, got. He however, diverted funds, meant for development, to personal use.

Mugabe, according the book, used violence to stay in power, as evidenced by the assassinations of his opponents. Joshua Nkomo, Edgar Tekere, Morgan Tsvangirai are just a few of the people he successfully subdued for having divergent opinions. In the Gakuruhundi massacres, thousands of Ndebele civilians, who didn’t support him, died forcing Joshua Nkomo to sign an agreement with Mugabe, to stop the killings.

In operation Murambatsvina, thousands of urban families that didn’t support him were displaced in a bid to weaken Morgan Tsvangirai, leading to mass unemployment. A miscalculated land program to kick out the whites, left huge tracts of land in the hands of corrupt politicians and unskilled farmers, who didn’t have the technological know-how nor the financial means to run the farms, thus leading to a hungry nation depending on UN handouts.

Drastic steps taken by the military under the leadership of General Chiwenga was the reason Zimbabwe was able to wrestle power back from the Mugabes. The jubilation in Zimbabwe was clear evidence of how tired the citizens were and the relief they experienced after Mugabe’s exit. However, the question of whether the new leadership will do better still stands to be answered.

This book captures the situation in many African countries, where presidents and other leaders misuse funds meant for the welfare of their people, advocate for policies that lead to the oppression of their people and generally lead to destitution of African countries.

The land invasions in Zimbabwe brought about painful sanctions, that paralysed the country’s economy and rendered the Zim Dollar useless, to date. Recently, Kenya witnessed something close to what happened in Zim, when paid goons invaded the expansive Northlands Farm belonging to the family of retired president Uhuru Kenyatta. It would appear that some lessons are hard to learn.  

Nyarota’s book offers excellent examples for ‘misgovernance’ and comes highly recommended.

Books Fiction Reviews

Revenge and rejection in Dawood’s thriller

Title: Eye of the Storm

Author: Yusuf Dawood

Publisher: East African Educational Publishers

Reviewer: Otieno Opondo

Eye of the Storm is a captivating medical thriller novel authored by Yusuf K. Dawood, a renowned surgeon and columnist, who died in January, 2023. Set in the post-colonial era, the book delves into the themes of revenge and rejection and the devastating psychological impact they have on individuals.

The novel follows the journey of Njoroge Maina, also known as Joe Maina, from his humble beginnings at the foot of Mount Kenya to the peak of his medical career as a respected surgeon. Haunted by past rejection, Dr Maina seeks revenge and uses his surgical prowess to harm his patients, leaving them either dead or scarred for life. However, justice eventually catches up with him, and the ensuing legal drama is both thrilling and shocking.

As a reader who used to avidly follow Dawood’s column, Surgeon’s Diary, I found Eye of the Storm to be nostalgic, taking me back to the days when I eagerly awaited each new edition of Sunday Nation. The book also has strong autobiographical elements, with Dr Joe Maina being a fictionalized representation of Dawood’s childhood, education, and profession.

The plot of the book starts off slowly but gains momentum and keeps the reader hooked throughout. The characters are well-developed, and the themes explored are relevant to all. Dawood has also demystified the medical profession and surgery, making the book readable to both medical professionals and laymen. However, some readers may find the medical terminologies overwhelming.

In comparison to Dawood’s other novel, The Price of Living, which also deals with the theme of rejection, the author uses the same name for the protagonists in both books, Maina Karanja in The Price of Living and Njoroge Maina in Eye of the Storm. Both protagonists also have sons with the same name, Muhoho, which some readers may find lacking in creativity.

Overall, Eye of the Storm is an excellent read for anyone interested in a medical thriller novel. Dawood seamlessly blends medical terminology with regular English, making the book appealing to all. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how suppressed emotions can have severe consequences.

I highly recommend it, and I give it four stars.

Books Featured Non-Fiction Personalities Releases Reviews

In Spare, British tabloids more than met their match

Title: Spare

Author: Prince Harry

Reviewer: Mbugua Ngunjiri

Never, in their wildest imaginations, did players in the British media expect that a member of the royal family would come swinging at them the way rebel Prince Harry has done in his tell-all book Spare.

The tabloids took refuge in the fact that the royal household operates under the motto of ‘never complain, never explain’, to launch all manner of cowardly attacks on the monarchy, including outright fabrications and falsehoods. After all, they comforted themselves, the royals, bound by their strict rules, can never come out to tell their side of the story.

They also knew that they owned the megaphone through which they could poison the mood of the public against the royals, if they did not cooperate.

With the British media, the royal household is held hostage; they are virtually prisoners; the message being: ‘you either do as we want or else…’

Enter Prince Harry, a rebel within the royal household. Still smarting from the way his mother, the universally loved Princess Diana, who was hounded by paparazzi, who were only interested in taking photos even as the she lay dead in an accident they had caused.

The tabloids targeted Harry from an early age, when he was still in school. Normal teenage truancy by the prince was regularly being analysed and dissected in the papers. The royal family could not bring itself to defend and protect the vulnerable prince.

From the book, it is clear that two of his girlfriends broke up with him as they could not cope with the hounding and relentless intrusion of their privacy. One of His exes committed suicide in 2020. He blames the media for her death.

As the book’s title suggests, Harry is the Spare as opposed to William who is the Heir. Thus, according to Harry, the royal family was too willing to sacrifice the Spare in order to protect the Heir and indeed the rest of the family.

Thus whenever the media caught wind of something negative emanating from the royal household, they were appeased by being given ‘something’ about Harry, never mind its authenticity. Whenever Harry complained to his father – the now King Charles – the father always had a stock answer for him: ‘don’t read the papers’.

This was hypocritical coming from Charles seeing as it was him and his wife Camilla who, through their offices, regularly fed the media with negative information about his sons, in order to shore up their image. William also followed suit and also took part in leaking stories in the media about his brother.

In the book, William comes out as an aloof whiny entitled brat, given to throwing tantrums over minor issues. Despite the fact that he is almost certainly assured of inheriting the kingship from his father, he is not happy with the roles assigned to his younger brother and which appears to accomplish rather well.

William griped endlessly when the Palace approved Harry’s patronage of war veterans’ activities, claiming that those activities were eating up the royal household’s budget. This is despite the fact that Harry’s involvement with the veterans was only taking up a tiny fraction of the budget, with corporate donations plugging the rest.

The royal household saw red when Harry hooked up with Meghan Markle. Here was a woman, who through her acting had curved out a global profile for herself. They could not, according to Harry, stand being outshone. That is when the media leaks against Harry and went on overdrive.

From the palace, the onslaught was led by William. Many are the days when Harry came home to find his wife in tears. Such was the intensity of attacks that Meghan, according to the book, considered ending her life. The race-baiting was especially ugly.

When they could take it any longer, Harry, his wife and child ran to Canada, where for six weeks they led a peaceful life, before the Daily Mail leaked their location and the hounding by paparazzi resumed.

Harry says that their unending war with the media led to Meghan suffering a miscarriage. That explains why he reserves his harshest words for the media, calling them a ‘dreadful mob of dweebs and crones and cut-rate criminals and clinically diagnosable sadists along Fleet Street’.

As stated earlier, the media in Britain never thought that a royal would go to the media to tell his side of the story, let alone a tell-book. Their coverage of the book is telling; it is full of hurt and anger: How dare this brat turn the tables on us, exposing our lies about him and his family; making us look bad.

If they thought that they are the only wielders of the megaphone, well Harry, with his best-selling book, wields it better. Not forgetting that Meghan is yet to write hers…

In Harry, the British tabloids have finally met their match. Diana must be rejoicing wherever she is.

For their shameless race-baiting of Meghan, British tabloids deserve anything and everything coming their way.

Books Culture Featured Personalities publishing

Prof Kithaka wa Mberia has occupied the same office for 41 years

Five little known facts about Prof Kithaka wa Mberia.

1. He teaches Linguistics at the University of Nairobi and not Kiswahili, as widely believed by many. One of the many Vice-Chancellors he has served under, at UoN, long held the belief that Prof Mberia taught Kiswahili.

2. His book Kwenzi Gizani, which won the Jomo Kenyatta prize for Literature, last month (September 2022), was the first book he was submitting to be considered for a literary award.

3. He has self-published all his books, including Kifo Kisimani, which was a set book between 2005 and 2012.

4. He has occupied the same office, at the University of Nairobi for 41 years.

5. He writes in Kiswahili as a matter of principle. “I would be read more widely if I decided to write in English,” he says. “That is a price I am willing to pay.”

Books Fiction publishing Reviews

Magical tale wins children’s award

Title: Chadi’s Trip

Author: Sarah Haluwa

Publisher: Storymoja

Reviewer: Mbugua Ngunjiri

The village of Kalole is faced with a deadly plague; Shaka Risha. Anyone who contracts it, most likely ends up dead. The whole village is worried; there is no knowing who will catch the deadly ailment next.
The village oracle announces that the cure can only be found in the forest, where spirits live. The bravest warriors, led by chief’s son, are dispatched to the forest to get the antidote, but they fail to return.
Another group is sent to the forest and they, too, fail to return. The very thought of venturing into the forest petrifies everyone in the village, yet the plague is still claiming its deadly toll.
When no one else is willing to go for the cure, little Chadi volunteers to go to the dreaded forest.
Will she make it where even the brave warriors failed?
You can only get the answer by reading Chadi’s Trip, a children’s book written by Sarah Haluwa and published by Storymoja.

This book won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in the children’s category. The award is organised by the Kenya Publishers Association.
Find out the unique qualities that set Chadi apart from other children and which make her suitable for the dangerous mission in the forest, where she will come up against unpredictable spirits.
Chadi’s Trip employs magical realism as a literary technique to fire up the imagination of young readers. The fact that it is a young girl engaging the spirits to a point of outmaneuvering them, makes it all the more attractive to the intended audience. Children love heroism.
It should be noted that the story is based in Kenya’s coastal region, where young girls are faced with heavy odds. These range from debilitating poverty, teen pregnancies not forgetting the less talked about teenage prostitution that feeds the underground sex tourism market.
It is therefore safe to argue that these girls lack role models. Haluwa’s book serves as a welcome inspiration to such girls, seeing as lead character is a young girl, a positive role model, beats odds and is eventually celebrated by a whole village.
Writing for children is no walk in the park, thus the author, known to pen adult stuff online, should be commended for successfully making that all-important transition.

Maisha Yetu feels that this book deserves the accolade it got

Arts Books Events Issues

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s tribulations in colonial Kenya

When Ngugi wa Thiong’o left his Kamirithu village, in Limuru, to join Alliance High School, the State of Emergency had already been declared, by colonial authorities in Kenya. This mainly affected members of the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru communities, that formed the bulk of the Mau Mau rebellion.

Members of these three communities could not move from one district to another without the passbook. Young Ngugi did not have this document, when he went to board the train from Limuru to Kikuyu. It took the intervention of a railways official, who hid him in a luggage compartment, for the train ride to Kikuyu, otherwise, he would have missed the trip altogether.

When he closed school for the April holidays, Ngugi went home to find that his village deserted. The whole village had been moved to the Kamirithu Concentration Camp. He was in time to join constructing the mud house where they had to live for the rest of the emergency period.  

These anecdotes are contained in Ngugi’s memoir Dreams in a Time of War, published in 2010. In the book, he recounts an incident where his half-brother was shot dead by colonial officials.

“A few days later, we learned that some people had been killed, one of the casualties being Gitogo, my half-brother,” writes Ngugi about a military operation that took place in Limuru town, during the Emergency period.

“Gitogo worked in a butchery in Limuru. He had started running, following the example of others. Being deaf, he did not hear the white officer shout simama! They shot him in the back.”

In the other incident, Ngugi’s elder brother, Wallace Mwangi, who was in the supply wing of the Mau Mau insurgency, and his uncle, had just bought bullets, from a source, who, unknown to them, was a colonial informer. It was a set-up. Immediately, colonial forces arrived at the scene and arrested the two.

Somehow, Wallace managed to drop his share of bullets in his mother’s shamba nearby. While being arrested, Wallace told his mother, who was in the garden ‘thikirira mbembe icio wega’. On the surface, Wallace told his mother – Mukoma’s grandmother – to cover the roots of her maize with soil and mulch.

However, the truth of the matter is that Mukoma’s uncle told his mother to cover the bullets – mbembe was the Mau Mau code for bullets – with soil that thy are not discovered by the colonial authorities.

Shortly thereafter, Wallace, jumped from the moving police vehicle and ran, under a hail of bullets, to become a Mau Mau fighter in the forest. Wallace’s wife would later be arrested and jailed at the Kamiti Prison.

After he cleared his studies at Alliance, two white police officers arrested Ngugi on trumped up charges of failing to pay taxes and was remanded at the Kiambu Police Station for three weeks.

Books Issues News

Top ten books for the month of October, courtesy of Prestige Bookshop

Kenyans are reading. Introducing; top ten books of the month, as sold by Prestige Bookshop.

   1.Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka

 In an imaginary Nigeria, a cunning entrepreneur is selling body parts stolen from Dr. Menka’s hospital for use in ritualistic practices. Dr. Menka shares the grisly news with his oldest college friend, bon viveur, star engineer, and Yoruba royal, Duyole Pitan-Payne. The life of every party, Duyole is about to assume a prestigious post at the United Nations in New York, but it now seems that someone is deter­mined that he not make it there. And neither Dr. Menka nor Duyole knows why, or how close the enemy is, or how powerful.
Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth is at once a literary hoot, a crafty whodunit, and a scathing indictment of political and social corrup­tion. It is a stirring call to arms against the abuse of power from one of our fiercest political activists, who also happens to be a global literary giant.

2. Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order by Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio has spent half a century studying global economies and markets, Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order examines history’s most turbulent economic and political periods to reveal why the times ahead will likely be radically different from those we’ve experienced in our lifetimes – and to offer practical advice on how to navigate them well.

In this remarkable and timely addition to his Principles series, Dalio brings listeners along for his study of the major empires – including the Dutch, the British, and the American – putting into perspective the “Big Cycle” that has driven the successes and failures of all the world’s major countries throughout history. He reveals the timeless and universal forces behind these shifts and uses them to look into the future, offering practical principles for positioning oneself for what’s ahead.

3. The House of Rust by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber

The first Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize winner, a story of a girl’s fantastical sea voyage to rescue her father The House of Rust is an enchanting novel about a Hadrami girl in Mombasa. When her fisherman father goes missing, Aisha takes to the sea on a magical boat made of a skeleton to rescue him. She is guided by a talking scholar’s cat (and soon crows, goats, and other animals all have their say, too).

 On this journey Aisha meets three terrifying sea monsters. After she survives a final confrontation with Baba wa Papa, the father of all sharks, she rescues her own father, and hopes that life will return to normal. But at home, things only grow stranger. Caught between her grandmother’s wish to safeguard her happiness with marriage and her own desire for adventure, Aisha is pushed toward a match with a sweet local boy that she doesn’t want. Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s debut is a magical realist coming-of-age tale told through the lens of the Swahili and diasporic Hadrami culture in Mombasa, Kenya.

4 President’s Pressman by Lee Njiru

After President Daniel Moi’s retirement in 2002, many were not surprised that Lee Njiru, the long serving Head of Presidential Press Service, as retained as his Press Secretary.

They had walked together through the highs and lows of his presidency. Earlier, Lee was among the few pressman Moi inherited from Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s regime. He was loyal, passionate, and deliver on this challenging assignment.

The book, therefore, gives a rare glimpse of happenings in the corridors of power and illustrates efforts made to advance project Kenya.

5.  By the Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah  


By the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature

On a late November afternoon Saleh Omar arrives at Gatwick Airport from Zanzibar, a far away island in the Indian Ocean. With him he has a small bag in which lies his most precious possession – a mahogany box containing incense. He used to own a furniture shop, have a house and be a husband and father. Now he is an asylum seeker from paradise; silence his only protection.

Meanwhile Latif Mahmud, someone intimately connected with Saleh’s past, lives quietly alone in his London flat. When Saleh and Latif meet in an English seaside town, a story is unraveled. It is a story of love and betrayal, seduction and possession, and of a people desperately trying to find stability amidst the maelstrom of their times.

6. Finding Me by Viola Davis

Finding Me is the deeply personal, brutally honest account of Viola’s inspiring life, from her coming of age in Rhode Island to her present-day career.

In this book, you will meet a little girl named Viola who ran from her past until she made a life-changing decision to stop running forever.

This is her story, from a crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the stage in New York City, and beyond. This is the path she took to finding her purpose and her strength, but also to finding her voice in a world that didn’t always see her.

Finding Me is a deep reflection on the past and a promise for the future.

7. The Path to Kaliech: The Outsize Story of William Odongo Omamo

The path to Kaliech are the memoirs of Dr. William Odongo Omamo, a member of the first generation of Kenyan African technocrats. In it, he describes his journey from the backwoods village of Kapiyo in 1928, to the heady positions of Cabinet Minister and senior government official in many different capacities beginning in the 1960s.

It will be of special interest to readers keen on Kenya’s transitions from a pre-industrial, pre-independence colony to an independent nation with a growing economy, but battling to reconcile its diverse political persuasions into a unified nation.

8. Mount Pleasant by Patrice Nganang

A majestic tale of colonialism and transformation, Patrice Nganang’s Mount Pleasant tells the astonishing story of the birth of modern Cameroon, a place subject to the whims of the French and the Germans, yet engaged in a cultural revolution.

In 1931, Sara is taken from her family and brought to Mount Pleasant as a gift for Sultan Njoya, a ruler cast into exile by French colonialists. Merely nine years old, she is on the verge of becoming the sultan’s 681st wife.

 Seven decades later, a student returns home to Cameroon to learn about the place it once was, and she finds Sara, silent for years, ready to tell her story. But her serpentine tale, entangled by flawed memory and bursts of the imagination, reinvents history anew. The award-winning novelist Patrice Nganang’s Mount Pleasant is a lyrical resurrection of early-twentieth-century Cameroon and an elegy to the people swept up in the forces of colonization.

9.  The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed

In Cardiff, Wales in 1952, Mahmood Mattan, a young Somali sailor, is accused of a crime he did not commit: the brutal killing of Violet Volacki, a shopkeeper from Tiger Bay. At first, Mahmood believes he can ignore the fingers pointing his way; he may be a gambler and a petty thief, but he is no murderer. He is a father of three, secure in his innocence and his belief in British justice.

But as the trial draws closer, his prospect for freedom dwindles. Now, Mahmood must stage a terrifying fight for his life, with all the chips stacked against him: a shoddy investigation, an inhumane legal system, and, most evidently, pervasive and deep-rooted racism at every step.

Under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, Mahmood begins to realize that even the truth may not be enough to save him. A haunting tale of miscarried justice, this book offers a chilling look at the dark corners of our humanity.

10. A Mind to Silence and Other Stories: Ako Caine Prize Anthology 2021-22

A woman who carries her fate and that of her community in her hair is beguiled by the deceptive designs of Europeans out to colonise her most prized possession. A man finds happiness in the reincarnation of a lost love. A young woman risks her life for freedom through the cultural practice of a human loan scheme.

Tales of sacrifice, love, freedom, self-discovery and loss fill the pages of this larger-than-life tapestry of stories from across Africa and its diaspora. Forged in a diversity of tempers and forms, these stories range from the epistolary to the experimental, from mysteries, noirs and political thrillers to speculative fiction and futurism, and much more. In prose that moves from visual and lyrical to gritty and visceral, these writers explore fate, memory, the fragility of love and the duplicitous nature of human interactions.

Books Education Events Featured Issues News publishing

Relief as Kenyan publishers hold first book fair in two years

It was relief for Kenyan publishers after they held their first book fair in two years in Nakuru City last week.

The publishers are just recovering from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw them lose a whole year’s sales when learning institutions were closed in 2020.

Kiarie Kamau (third from left), the chairman of Kenya Publishers Association conducts Jared Obiero (in blue suit), the Rift Valley Director of Education, around the stands at the Nakuru Regional Book Fair. PICTURE| KLB

Due to restrictions pertaining to Covid protocols, they could not hold a physical book fair. They therefore tried something new, a virtual book fair, which however did not realise any sales. The disappointing outcome made them to cancel plans for holding fairs in 2021.

In total, Kenyan publishers missed out on four book fairs. Each year, the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) holds two book fairs; a regional one in the counties and an international one at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi.

They were thus raring to go when it became clear that the Nakuru regional book fair would finally become a reality. Kiarie Kamau, the chairperson of KPA expressed optimism that the worst is now behind and urged publishers to diversify their product portfolio to avoid over-reliance on textbooks. “Though schools were closed due to Covid restrictions, people were still reading behind closed doors. We need to fully service this general market while at the same time publishing for the school market,” said Mr Kamau who is also the managing director of East African Educational Publishers (EAEP).

He noted that their decision to hold the regional book fair in Nakuru was informed by the fact that exactly a year ago the town acquired city status. “We wanted to celebrate with the people of Nakuru,” explained Mr. Kamau. “We were excited to see the enthusiastic response from teachers, parents, students and booksellers who thronged our stands during the four days we were at the Maasai Market, along Kenyatta Avenue. Publishers made good sales.”

He added that booksellers were particularly excited to see the fair come to their city. “Booksellers were hard hit by the Covid pandemic; some had even closed shop. To them, this was a clear indication that things are back to normal,” added Mr Kamau.


On her part, Mary Maina, the chairperson of the Nairobi International Book Fair, regional book fairs are the best avenues of taking books to the people, in the true spirit of devolution. “In our case we are distributing knowledge, thereby giving Kenyans throughout the country a chance to sample what publishers have to offer,” said Ms Maina, who is also the managing director of Moran Publishers.

She added that visitors to the Fair got a chance to see all the books that have been approved to be used in the Competency Based Curriculum, which is currently in Grade Six as well as the remaining classes of the 8-4-4 System. “Also on offer were revision books for school children, as well and books for general reading like readers and novels for adults. We got very encouraging reception from booksellers who were keen to stock up,” added Ms Maina.

Kithusi Mulonzya, the CEO of One Planet Publishers, noted that the Nakuru Regional Book Fair was a dry run for the Nairobi International Book Fair that will be held in September. “This year’s event will be bigger and better,” he said. 

John Mburu, the general manager of Patmat Bookshop, in Nakuru, thanked publishers for marketing and promoting booksellers in the region. “The coming of the book fair in Nakuru has really boosted our sales,” he said.

The highlight of the Fair was a visit to the Love for All Children’s Home in Shabab area, where publishers donated foodstuffs and books worth sh200,000.

Arts Books Events Issues News Personalities publishing Reviews

Three needless murders and a writer’s vengeance

History has a funny way of repeating itself, especially if we do not learn from it.

In 1980, Frank Sundstrom, an American marine landed at the Kenyan coast, where he met Monicah Njeri. Njeri was what you would call a sex worker, yaani alikuwa anatafutia watoto.

One thing led to another; the two had sex, as would have been expected in such a transaction. Much later, while having drinks, Sundstrom, who claimed to have been unhappy with the ‘services’ offered, beat up Njeri, killing her in the process.

He smashed a bottle on Njeri’s head and used the broken bottle to stab her to death. He later made away with Njeri’s money.

32 years later, Agnes Wanjiru, like Njeri, met a British soldier in Nanyuki. The same thing happened and the soldier, who is yet to be identified, murdered Wanjiru and threw her body in a septic tank. Like Njeri, Wanjiru was also stabbed to death.

While Sundstrom was arrested and subjected to ‘trial’, the British soldier literally got away with murder, until about two weeks ago, when a fellow soldier decided to go public with what he knew. Britain’s Ministry of Defence thought they had successfully covered up the murder, until now.

Following an inquest in 2019, judge Njeri Thuku concluded that Wanjiru had been murdered by one or two British soldiers. The whistleblowing soldier told UK’s Sunday Times that the killer had confessed to him and he reported it but the army failed to investigate.

As for Njeri, the murder trial was presided over by a 74-year-old British expatriate judge, who released Sundstrom on a 70 dollar, two-year ‘good behaviour’ bond.

This is what the Washington Post wrote about the case then: “The verdict has brought an outcry for judicial reform from Kenyans, who point out that Sundstrom was tried by a white British judge. The white prosecutor, also British, “instead assumed the role of the defense counsel,” the daily East African Standard of Nairobi charged.”

They say why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge.

Enter Peter Kimani. In 2002, 22 years after Njeri’s murder, Kimani, then a journalist with the East African Standard, wrote his first novel, Before the Rooster Crows.

In the book, Mumbi, whose father had turned her into a wife, runs away from her village in Gichagi, to the city (Gichuka), in search of better life. To survive in the city, Mumbi turns into a flesh peddler.

Much later, she is joined by Muriuki, her village sweetheart.

Mumbi is willing to leave her old profession so the two can settle down as man and wife, but then a news item in the papers catches her attention. A ship full of American marines docks at the coast (Pwani). Mumbi convinces Muriuki to accompany her to the coast, for ‘one final job’, before finally hanging her, er, petticoat.

At the coast, Mumbi alijishindia a soldier named Desertstorm. After sex Desertstorm claims that he got a raw deal and demands his money back. A fight ensues and the marine stabs poor Mumbi with a broken bottle, a number of times, until she dies. He steals Mumbi’s money after killing her.

Muriuki happens to witness the entire episode through a keyhole, from an adjoining door, too cowardly to intervene.

Desertstorm is hauled before a British judge, who despite the overwhelming testimony against the suspect, sets him free ‘on condition that he signs a bond in the sum sh500 to be of good behaviour for a period of two years’.

Remember, Mumbi’s unlike Njeri and Wanjiru’s case, is fictional and Kimani, the author controls the narrative. Before the Rooster Crows is a historical novel and the author is out to right a historical injustice committed in 1980.

How does he do it? Stay with me…

Following the injustice occasioned on his girlfriend, through the courts, Muriuki tracks down Mumbi’s killer and strangles him to death.

Cue another trial, this time with Muriuki on the dock. Meanwhile, there is huge outcry and judge – the same one who freed Desertstorm – recuses himself from the case. It becomes clear that justice might finally be done, or would it?

In the intervening period, a bill is brought before parliament to the effect that the president can intervene in an ongoing case and deliver judgement. That is precisely what was done and Muriuki was sentenced to death.

This was obviously a case of foreign interference, just like in Njeri’s case, to arrive at crooked justice.

However, in the realm of fiction, the author has is in charge and that is how he ensured that Mumbi gets some justice, no matter how rough.

Now, since we did not learn from the 1980 murder, that is why history had to repeat itself with the Nanyuki murder.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in good writing. I wonder why the fellows at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) have to engage in the charade of looking for setbooks, when such a gem gathers dust on bookshelves.

Kimani’s publishers, EAEP, should tell readers if the book is still in circulation.

Kimani is also the author of Dance of the Jakaranda, another historical novel, which is doing well internationally.