Reviews

Review by Jim Asudi, September 2014

This is a pro-revolution piece of writing that proposes an approach to tackling politically created societal problems. Slow economic growth, tyranny, poor infrastructural plans and strained relations with the international community are some of the challenges that the state of Donyokeri grapples with. The truth is that these are some of the contemporary problems Kenya and other African countries are struggling with. Donyokeri could be easily be any of the African countries, including Kenya.

The writer chose his characters and setting carefully. While it is clear that he was analyzing Kenyan politics – the shattered dreams and dashed hopes – the choice of a fictitious Donyokeri is perhaps intended to avoid potential friction with those who wield power. The author confronts current issues of governance and at the same time stays aloof from trouble of being labeled an ‘enemy of the state’.

This book presents a vital life lesson. It is that despite the challenges faced, trauma experienced, suffering inflicted, familial fallouts lived, community backlash met and other hosts of trials encountered revolutionaries must always remain unshaken and their vision should be too long to be cut short by ‘eye-folding’. Waciuri and Mohamed, the main characters in the book stay faithful to their dreams of eventual triumph. They persevere torture, death threats and criticism from people whom they sought to liberate.  They emerge eventual victors in the end.

Of great importance is the fact that most African states appear to be colonized by their own people. Tyranny has been advanced and governance redefined in such a manner that heads of state prolong their stay in office beyond constitutionally set limits. It is sad that these things are done by the same people who fought against colonization by the Europeans and other foreign powers, as if subjugation by fellow Africans is any less painful than that by foreigners! In Sacred River Sonkoh, the president of Donyoker perfects the art. After taking over from departing white colonialists he sets out to rule with an iron fist.

For those who follow Kenyan politics, the situation is well captured in a statement by nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro that “It is now clear that yesterday’s liberators have turned to today’s dictators”. This is after she felt she was being unfairly and illegally short-changed by bigwigs in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, a party seen to be at the progressive end of Kenyan politics!  

Gitura postulates a well-known, if less practiced truth, that ‘changing the forest and not the monkeys in there would solve nothing at all’. Kenya, for example, changed to a new dispensation recently but as things stand there is not much to smile about. His solution: a total overhaul.  There is need to get a ‘sacred river” like residents of Donyokeri did.

Skeptics would, however, point at ‘living testimonies’ of Egypt and Tunisia, or lessons from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The two states successfully overthrew totalitarian rulers through popular uprising termed the ‘Arab Spring’ in their respective nations. A while later, it emerges that the newly installed people’s presidents were not any different. Human nature? One is tempted to ask.

There are also lessons from the story of French Revolution. After eliminating dynasty and autocracy the French nation found itself in the hands of yet another powerful ‘power grabber’ in the name of Napoleon Bonarparte. It may well be that revolution is not the ultimate answer but one of the possible answers.

Jim Asudi is studying law at the University of Nairobi and hails from Kisumu County. He went to Rangwe Junior Academy prior to proceeding to Kanga High School.  Jim has a great passion for literature and an irresistible drive to change the society through writing. He has several pieces he would like published, including a play and a collection of short stories.

The Sacred River (ISBN:978-1926906232) can be found in major bookshops in Kenya as well as online stores such as amazon.com or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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