Reviews

Anderea Morara, Author of Management Gems for All Time Speaks

 Tell us about yourself, your background and current “station” in life.

 I am the first born child in our family, which lives in a rural setting. My father was a teacher and as some may know, in those days, teachers were seen as the cream of society. So my family was viewed as belonging to the elite in that environment.

I graduated with an Education degree from the University of Nairobi in 1976 and taught briefly at Cardinal Otunga High School, Mosocho, before joining the Civil Service as an economist/statistician. While working in the Civil Service I was sponsored for post graduate studies in Economics at University of Nairobi and York University in Canada.

When I resumed work, I a changed situation from what I had left and that despite my education I wasn’t getting what I expected.  I resigned and joined the NGO sector, what with a more attractive pay than the civil service. However, I soon found the job not as fulfilling as I had expected. I later left to join The Daily Nation as Senior Writer, where I rose to become Business Editor after a short time.

It is at the Daily Nation that I ran a weekly column, Business Tidbits, which opened a number of pathways for me one of which was the position of CEO at small enterprise development NGO. I would later become the Executive Director and CEO at the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM), the first “non-retired” CEO of the institute by that time.

While the work at KIM was fulfilling the institutional culture placed a lot of inertia in forward movement which was at variance from the business culture I was used to.

Thereafter I had a stint on consultancy despite the Moi-era challenges, international pressure, economic stagnation and political upheaval. I would later take a contract as Head of Corporate Planning at Kenya Wildlife Service at end of whichI secured a years’ consultancy assignment in Tanzania with FAO/World Bank in an integrated rural development project. I have been in consultancy ever since, mainly focusing on strategic management, monitoring & evaluation, research and capacity building.

On occasion I do teaching at university. At the back of all these, I am always, writing or editing.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know. However, I have always been writing and telling stories since my primary school days. I used to get top marks for my essays. I won a national prize for essay writing when I was in form three and a regional prize when I was in form five. These prizes encouraged me to consider writing as a vocation, reinforced by encouragement from my teachers.  

How did you develop interest in writing and what was your first published item? Where was this published?

In the 1960s & 70s Drum was the most popular magazine in the rural areas. I started writing letters to Drum Magazine when I was in primary school. I was most excited when Drum first published one of my letters, though some of my teachers and fellow pupils seemed to celebrate this more. And thus, my interest in writing was ignited.

When did you write your first book and how old were you? What was the title and where was it published?

After form six (aged 18) I wrote a play, A Proud Madman, which I submitted to Heinemann. After several months, I was a response with the comment, “very interesting but we cannot publish it in its current form. Did you try it on stage? May be you should try putting your thoughts into a novel.”

Despite the regret, I was most encouraged.. I subsequently started on several novels, but none of them, except one, was ever completed. I hope to complete all of them one day as they still have portent ideas.

Hare and her Lazy Friends – a children’s book released in 1989 by Heinemann (now EAEPL), was my first book. It has sold widely in East Africa, including Sudan and has been translated into other languages, including Kiswahili.

My first novel – The Sting – was published by EAEPL in 2011. It has been received well.

What subjects do you focus on in your writing? Why?

I focus on three main areas: children, society and business - Children’s books, because children inspire me; I always get touched seeing young children reading enthusiastically or watching cartoons -- I guess there is a child in me that loves kid stuff. Secondly, I am always enthralled by philosophical and social issues. I have never stopped asking ultimate questions; social matters excite me and in my novels I seek to explore and share some of my notions about reality and human foibles. Finally, my working and teaching experience has exposed me to a wide range of business ideas and paradigms. My view is that the mercantile/enterprise culture has been the engine of national and human development. I seek to help catalyse development in Africa through my business writing.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I get my ideas almost anywhere. Chatting with folk in the villages, observing streetwise teenagers, talking to my clients, listening to my friends and family members, reading, in seminars, and more.

 Tell us aboutbook titled Management Gems for All Time.

a.Where and when was it published?

Management Gems for All Time, was published in Canada in September this year (2012).

b.What inspired you to write this book?

My readers. Most of the material in the book has been adopted from some of my newspaper articles, which were published over several years. When I stopped doing the newspaper column a lot of people kept asking “what happened, why are you not writing any more?” Others suggested that I compile the articles into a book. I bought the idea.

c.What would be the take away for someone who reads the book? How would that help the person in their day to day life? Give a concrete illustration from the book.

Different people would love different ideas in the book. There is material for the novice and the seasoned mind..  Two areas in the book that I have got most responses from, and from where I have clinched several consulting assignments, are the sections on people and change management. However, since the book was published someone has called me to say that reading the first chapter on Self-Management has transformed his life. So there is a lot, and at least something for everyone regardless of their station in life.

You have written a lot on the subject of management much of it drawn from your experience in the business world, as a manager, including CEO and consultant. You are also well-travelled, both as a student and professional.

a.On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best) how do you rate Kenya’s management sophistication compared with other countries across the world?

On a global scale, we are at 4. However within the African context we are at 8-9.

b.Explain.

Though a number of our enterprises, especially the transnationals, strive to maintain world class management practices, a big section of the public sector and many local companies are riddled with nepotism, autocracy and failure to keep up with emergent trends. However, most of the African countries I have visited are way behind Kenya in skills and enterprise development and hence managerial sophistication.

We live in a global village and competition remains stiff

a. What kind of preparedness does Kenya need (from a management perspective) to increase its regional and global competitiveness?

Targeted and meticulous development of technical, corporate leadership and managerial skills, strategic adoption of modern and appropriate technology, capped with ruthless professionalism.

 b.How can this be achieved? Through the education system? Professional training? Or what?

Vision 2030 is a good start. We now need a comprehensive and effective policy framework on education, training, investment and trade. Education and training should be better geared to industry and national development needs. Stronger public-private-partnerships should be developed to tap into the abundant human resource – especially the youth – for optimal national productivity.

There are often accusations of nepotism in the Kenyan workplace.

a.Given your experience, how real is this?

This is very real. I have suffered from it and I have written about it.

b.What are the impacts (first negative and second positive, if any at all) does this have on our management effectiveness?

Nepotism, and its more virulent cousin – tribalism, undermine meritocracy and promote mediocrity and ultimately strangle competitiveness. I am not aware of any positive impacts of nepotism at the institutional or national level, but it is apparently beneficial to those who practice it.

What is your take on the notion of knowledge society? And how prepared is Kenya as a country to attain that status?

A Knowledge Society is one that creates, shares, and uses knowledge for the prosperity and well-being of its people. Of course, knowledge has always been a key factor of production, and an engine of economic and social development for all societies, including Kenya. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are now facilitating a rapid globalisation of economic activity. In an increasingly global economy, innovation, which fuels new job creation and economic growth, is becoming the key factor in global competitiveness. Knowledge is now the key resource. In view of the rapid change in the knowledge base, people at all levels in a modern knowledge society will need to be lifelong learners, adapting continuously to changing work environments and emergent socioeconomic models.

Creating value is about creating new knowledge and capturing its worth. Kenya is an increasing user of modern knowledge, but its role in the creation of that knowledge remains insignificant. Even the access and sharing of existing knowledge remains dismal. Given that most of the accessing and sharing of knowledge is now Internet based, having a society that is ICT savvy will go a long way in developing a knowledge society; hence the creation of the envisioned  ICT City in Konza is a move in the right direction.

Reading culture and knowledge capture and retention are seen as attributes for global competition in modern times.

a.What role do you see a reading culture playing towards the attainment of a knowledge society?

Sharing knowledge is one of the pillars of a knowledge society; and this is best achieved through reading. People who do not read have limited scope for sharing knowledge, and thus cannot be good citizens of a knowledge society.

b. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best) how do you rate Kenya’s reading culture?

It has been at around 1 for a long time. However, things are slowly changing. Kenyans are beginning to read more. The unprecedented expansion of universities has also made its contribution, though there are issues of quality and relevance. In urban places, we are now getting to 4 on the scale. However a large segment of the rural population is still close to 2.

c.Explain

Kenyans largely read to pass examinations and once they are out of school, they hardly read anything apart from newspapers. With the advent of vernacular FM radio stations, most rural communities have relapsed in their reading; as the demand for newspaper reading has tended to decline.

d.What can be done to improve the country’s reading culture? What is the role of the education system in this? What is the role of leadership, corporate, political, community and otherwise, in this?

As I mentioned above, Kenyans’ reading culture is on an upward swing, partly due to socioeconomic factors. As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” In the past, many Kenyans have done well without much reading. Things are now changing. Jobs are hard to come by and the need to do anything for a livelihood, even if that means reading is becoming obvious each passing day. Those who wish to stay ahead in the corporate world or in entrepreneurship realise that reading pays. With the advent of ICT and social media the young do not want to be left behind with reading being at the core.  However there is need for policies and programmes that support the reading culture. The creation and support of ICT villages is one strategy that can encourage the youth to read by easily accessing the Internet and sharing ideas with other members of society. The education system should also inculcate a culture of reading for life rather than for just passing exams.

What are your future writing plans? Any projects in the works that you would like the audience to know? When can we expect another book from you?

I am currently working on a management textbook. This would be a sure way of sharing ideas I have with those who only find time to read for examinations. However, my primary reason for writing the textbook is the realisation that our students are still largely dependent on foreign books, which tend to give benchmarks and theoretical frameworks that are far-removed from our reality. These  not only alienate our scholars but also tend to give a general  impression that such texts can only come from outside Africa. I expect to complete the book in a year’s time.

On the subject of writing, reading and knowledge preservation:

a.What message do you have for writers?

Keep at it though returns have been discouraging. I particularly encourage those writers who are reconstructing our distorted and disjointed history for posterity. It is critical that we truly know whence we have come. Proper recording of our artefacts is essential. The entertainment industry is now becoming ripe in Africa and good writers are needed to not only exploit this opportunity but also portray our peoples and the pertinent social dynamics correctly.

b.And what would you say to readers?

For Kenya to become a viable nation in the 21st century, it has to be a knowledge society. Conventional functional literacy is not going to be adequate for living and working productively in a post 2030 Kenya. You will need to read more to stay afloat.

c.How about for managers and corporate leaders?

Management of change and innovation are going to be the twin pillars of successful management in the 21st century. Change is not only constant but will become more rapid. Innovation is about new ideas on how to do things better and/or faster. If you cannot innovate your prospects remain slim. Management must strive to facilitate continuous injection of  new ideas into the workplace to enhance their products and services, including creation of such new products and services.

d.And for political and community leaders?

Kenya’s political leadership has glaringly lacked nationalism, patriotism and integrity since independence. It is sad that most of our so-called political leaders are opportunists who seek to hoodwink the people for their own selfish ends. Reform towards better living for our people should be the guiding principle for leadership and their followers. It is high time we truly embraced servant leadership, leadership that is about progressing Kenya to prosperity and greatness rather than using political office as a channel for robbing fellow Kenyans.

Do you have any final closing thoughts?

Ideas are the engine of human development. Kenya, as a nation, must strive to generate ideas that can be saleable to the rest of the world. Sale of commodities and labour alone will leave us marginalised in the new global arena.

Management Gems for All Time is available in bookshops in Kenya. You can also contact the publisher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 254-20-267-0743

 

Kenya: The Burden of Witchcraft in African Villages[1]

BY KHAINGA O'OKWEMBA, 23 JANUARY 2014

"'I have smelled a rat', Gwako firmly made his announcement in his croaked voice before a gathered crowd of villagers outside the house of Senta's parents.

'Senta will be alright, but the evil and ruthless spirits have half-broken the eye of Mayenga as I speak.'" This truncate is lifted from Jaspher Rori's new novel, The Eye of Mayenga, 2013 (Nsemia Publishers).

The novel is set in a fictionalised underdeveloped African village. Mayenga has a beautiful landscape crisscrossed with streams, reeds, rocks, lush bushes and hills on which young boys skate on banana groves.

But it is a 'sleepy' rural outpost 'concealed from reality' where 'the preferable means of transport is by foot.' When it rains, the roads are impassable.

Mayenga is cut off from the rest of the world. It is a village steeped in antediluvian practices, and where every misfortune is explained in terms of witchcraft -- the one trade that seems to thrive in this remote village.

Men idle away drinking cheap illicit liquor and petty gossip. Life in Mayenga is punctuated with pessimisms which has frustrated any meaningful development. People are afraid to take personal initiatives because they fear marauding witches.

This lifestyle takes its toll in Mayenga; poverty is rampant; men live on handouts; parents are unable to pay school fees. Just as in his first novel, A Beacon of Hope, Jaspher Rori places too much premium on Western civilisation.

Thus Senta, the main character grows in this poverty-stricken village and succeeds to become a lawyer in Nairobi. He builds a modest house in the village amidst concerns that those who envy his new status in society will bewitch him.

However, the experience of the outside world he encounters in Nairobi has opened Senta's eyes to new possibilities for this people. He finds inspiration among his peers in the city. What can he do to help his people to come out of their self-inflicted backwardness?

"It dawned on him that the cries and tears that were unknowingly shed for a long time were going to be wiped by a cloth of knowledge," writes Rori. Senta conceives the idea of a women's group and helps them come up with a water project.

He is convinced that the streams that run through the village can generate piped and clean water if they are harnessed. That would also save the women from the burden of trudging uphill every day to fetch water.

The water project is embraced by women. But to achieve his goal, Senta needs a thick skin to overcome disapprovals from doubting Thomases, "he is doing this because he has an eye for parliament."

He moves on with those who perceive a visionary in him determined to uplift the life of the people. Senta is seen by his admirers as, "the eye of Mayenga." The water project is a success story. Therein lies the conflict in the story.

A social worker Millie, with whom Senta has worked closely, is suspected to be his mistress.

"Even if you decide to spread your wings and sow seeds like wild oats, what is wrong with that? A leader is more powerful and respected when he has more suckers emerging from his own stem. I'm more proud to have more grandchildren running around. In our times, our wives didn't lock their wombs the way your generation is doing, they were even proud to suckle a new young one every season and have a co-wife as a helper." Senta's father says openly advocating polygamy. His wife's friend persuades her to consult a magician who advises her to administer a love potion.

The concoction makes him "feel tired" "sick and weak," that for the first time he does not attend meetings of the water project. There is a quarrel between husband and wife, and Senta feels that there is no peace at home.

When he returns to Nairobi, he finds love in his secretary. He contracts Aids. His blameless cultist uncle and wife are accused of bewitching him and they are burned alive by youths as the area chief watches helplessly. Gwako, the renowned magician could not help. Was Senta's wife to blame for his death?



[1] This review appeared in the Nairobi-based the Star newspaper of January 23rd, 2014

Cut Off My Tongue
By Sitawa Namwalie

A poetic licence to tell the Kenyan story

If you were to tell the story of Kenya where would you begin? Sitawa Namwalie, a poet, seems to know: ethnicity, identity, land issues, leadership, love...
A production based on her collection of poetry titled Cut off my Tongue has been staged at different venues in Nairobi and the audiences cannot have enough of it.
Cut off my Tongue is unique in that it is an interactive dramatisation of poetry using humour, music and dance. The production addresses issues close to the hearts of Kenyans, ranging from neo-colonialism to romance.

In effect, Cut off my Tongue, a Storymoja production, talks to Kenya, hence its popularity with the audiences. This is in spite of the fact that they have been paying Sh1,000 to watch the shows.

Comedies and farces
Cut off my Tongue has been viewed by many as a much-needed breath of fresh air to theatre in Nairobi, where recycled Western bedroom comedies and farces is the order of the day.

Sitawa’s poetry is a revelation. Hers is not the textbook, often mind-numbing verse that has made many Kenyans give poetry a wide berth, dismissing it as too difficult or abstract to comprehend.

Her lines are simple and straightforward, devoid of hidden meaning. For one, Sitawa’s poetry seeks to soothe and heal the injuries inflicted on the country by the post-election violence that rocked Kenya after the disputed 2007 elections.

Since ethnicity was at the heart of the violence, Sitawa aims to use words to make Kenyans realise that they are one people who should not be fighting because they come from different tribes.



“Like Robinson Crusoe, I want to use words to trip people’s minds,” she said. “I want people to change the way they think and make them open up more.”

Even as the country tries to heal from the wounds that were inflicted in 2008, talk of war is still rife. Politicians are running around, warning of dire consequences in 2012, if certain conditions are not met.
“2012 is innocent,” Sitawa said philosophically. “It is we who will carry our hatred, fears and baggage to that year.” What she is saying is that 2012 can only be peaceful if Kenyans choose to do away with the prejudices that breed hatred and violence.
The cast of Cut off my Tongue is multi-ethnic, which in itself a way of building harmony across communities.
“Each member of the cast says something, in their mother tongue, which leaves members of that community reflecting on how they relate with other communities,” explained Muthoni Garland, the managing director of Storymoja.

On the issue of land, Sitawa’s poetry looks at how possessive Kenyans are with this resource, to the extent of killing one another.
In the verse A Gifted Almost-fifty, Sitawa, tongue-in-cheek, tries to explain how she came to write poetry when she was approaching fifty.
“What do I do, now that I have found a gift at almost-fifty? Writing angry poetry, a flair I should have used up at twenty, at least uncovered back then,” she writes.

The poem blames it on the Moi regime that did not tolerate “vocalisation”, thereby stealing her fuming twenties, rolling over her barely mellow thirties, and “I gave up in my forties.”

Sitawa is better known by the name Betty Wamalwa Muragori. When not writing poetry, she is a consultant on management, women and environmental issues. She has a master’s degree in environmental science from Clarke University in Massachusetts.
But is it the poem It Rained Last Night, performed by Chichi Seii, that left the audience hankering for more.

A “naughty” piece, the poem invokes the imagery of rain to suggest sensual intimacy. At the end of the performance, the audience trooped to the gate where they bought written copies of the poem at Sh100 apiece.
Music is performed by Grandmaster Masese with his eight-stringed Obokano. Henry Anyanga played the drum, kayamba and flute. Other cast members are Ogutu Muraya, Shan Bartley, Alice Wanjiru Karunditu and Lilian Amimo Olembo, who also doubles up as the choreographer.

Storymoja has landed an invitation to perform Cut off my Tongue at the prestigious Hay Literary Festival in the UK on May 27 this year. They will also stage the show at Hamstead Theatre in London on May 23.
The other show will be Centreprise, also in London, on May 28. The London shows are meant for the Kenyans living there. The shows , the latest of which were staged at the Nu-Metro theatres at the Junction on Wednesday and Thursday, are meant to raise funds for their UK trip.

Crucibe for SilverISBN 978-0-9810362-2-9 – Paperback
ISBN 978-0-9810362-0-5 – e-Book

Giorgio thought that a sojourn to Kenya's coast was the perfect way to kick back and relax, luxuriate in the sun, scuba-dive, take big-game fishing trips or a dhow cruise, but it turns out to be a break filled with mixed fortunes. On the other hand, Lavina's sabbatical for soul-searching in Malindi turns out to be a Herculean task of grappling with a moral dilemma of epic proportions. When their paths cross and their lives become intertwined, their emotionally charged struggle to connect with each other is challenging and turbulent.

This story deals with various socio-economic issues ranging from the institution of marriage and multi-racial relationships, to amazing Kenyan art & culture, to historical land injustices brought about by the pre-nineteenth century, 99 year old colonial crown land leases, absentee landlords, and the long overdue land reform agenda on land tenures, the cause of many a conflict in the country.

The first scene opens on the Kenyan coast with captivating miles of pristine sandy white beaches, lapped by clear turquoise waters, providing the backdrop for your typical tropical beach holiday, but gets marred with a near-tragedy.

Here is a compelling and descriptive narrative that will pull at your heartstrings, but one that offers a message of hope to a moral dilemma that has bedeviled the world.

Here is what other say about this book::

From an author clearly proud of her heritage and the beauty of her country comes a romantic tale set in Kenya. Featuring a jaw-achingly handsome Italian man and a beautiful, talented, but troubled local girl, the romance unfolds in a light teasing manner until the twist in the tale turns out to be a moral dilemma that would test the strength of any relationship.
Muthoni Garland - Kenyan writer nominated and short-listed for Caine Prize 2006, winner of Absinthe Literary Review 2003, and Founder of Story Moja, a new publishing initiative in Kenya.



Moraa Gitaa writes with a crisp, clean style that will engage the reader from the first paragraph forward. This is a ground-breaking novel from a modern 'This Generation' African woman; a fine example of expressive writing that women around the world will find both inspiring and insightful. You'll turn page after page.
Rod Amis, Publisher & Editor G21 The World's Magazine

In delicious detail and with revolutionary zeal, Moraa tells a story of fierce passion, challenging tradition and breaking taboo. She weaves a surprising symphony. Fabulous!
John Mwazemba, Publishing Manager, Macmillan (Kenya) Publishers

Vigorous, with a surprise at every turn. This one will capture you alive!
Bruce L. Cook, Author-me.com

Moraa’s keen hand represents her generation’s challenges, hopes and dreams. She presents the reader with an intriguing, lyrical tale where lies a complex and breathtaking story of modern Kenya as shaped by politics, global interconnectedness, and the stirrings of hearts motivated by private sorrows, personal commitments, and high ideals.
Dr. Wambui Githiora-Updike, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Author of Wanjira.

A remarkable tale of love that keeps you turning the pages deep into the night. As you close the last page, you are, without choice, left with the burning question: How do I live my life?
Onduko bw'Atebe, Kenyan Author, his debut novel The Verdict of Death won first prize in the inaugural Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize (Kenya) 2006

Crucible for Silver & Furnace for Gold

By Moraa Gitaa

Set in Eastern Africa on the Kenyan coastal town of Malindi, 2008

Paperback; Published by Nsemia Inc. Publishers of Toronto, Canada; 264 pp. $20.00

ISBN: 978 0 9810362 2 9

Reviewed by Rosemary Aswani*

 

The title of this book – Crucible for Silver & Furnace for Gold is biblical. However, there is nothing biblical in the plot. The book presents challenges faced by the generation Xers in modern day Kenya and leaves the reader contemplating on moral dilemmas that lead to being judged by deeds.

This is an adult fiction book written in an informal style and intended to captivate the romantics at heart. End notes to clarify and explain abbreviations and phrases used throughout the book are provided at the end of the book. Readers on the local scene no doubt are familiar with the cultural diversity on the Kenyan coastline and will feel quite at home with some of the phrases/captions, for example….”on the backs of the matatus, the larger-than-life paintings of our own Genge music luminary Jua Cali…”

I have been to Kenya’s coastal town of Mombasa but never north to Malindi, but Moraa Gitaa made me visualize the town of Malindi so vividly, I could feel the hot white sand under my feet and paint the flora and fauna of the tropical rainforests in my mind.

Moraa has weaved a paperback romance novel whose heroine is feisty and fiercely independent. She is intelligent, talented and not afraid to follow her dreams.

I expected a Cinderella kind of story with the heroine going about the uneventful business of daily living and waiting for prince charming. Instead, this author ignites the reader’s identification with romantic adventure on-shore and off-shore waters of the Indian Ocean referred to in this book as the ‘sea’.

Crucible for Silver & Furnace for God is filled with interesting description of the various socio-economic issues, art and culture of a multi-racial community in the portal towns of Mombasa and Malindi. An aura of peace and solitude is presented vividly enough to entice any reader seeking a discreet get-away place where tradition and modern cultures have combined to create an ambience of tranquility.

The two main characters of the book, Lavina and Giorgio get involved in a multi-racial relationship that will surely require divine intervention for it to survive. If you want to know the trials and tribulations that plague Giorgio and Lavina, you will have to read the book.

RosemaryAswani is an upcoming author based in Hamilton Ontario. Her book, "Footsteps ... Traveling Footsteps", a collection of children stories will be published in late 2009

I’ve got something to tell the PM

By TOM ODHIAMBO This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

One Rapho has been ruffling facebookers and unsettling tweeters.

Man Rapho wants to stand on a youth agenda. He is Kenyan by tribe.

The only problem is that Rapho wants to speak for the youth before he knows what the youth really want.

What do young Kenyans wish for? What are their dreams? How do they see themselves fitting into the national political landscape? Do young Kenyans want to be identified as Kenyans only or would they also wish to be known as Digo, Turkana, Iteso, Bajuni?

Well, none of Facebook, Twitter, Bing or the thousands of virtual communities around can tell a Kenyan politician what the youth want.

Forget the noises all over that claim that Kenyan youth are networked. The percentage that accesses the Internet is still not worth talking about.

If you want to know what Kenyan youth want, go to clubs, soccer matches, and neighbourhood corners or read Justus Siage’s book, Letter to the Prime Minister (Nsemia Inc. Publishers, 2011).

Probably I am exaggerating a little bit but Letter to the Prime Minister is a good barometer of the anxieties, wishes or hopes of many a Kenyan young woman or man.

Or maybe let us just say it is Siage’s opinion on what he thinks his country is like, what he wishes it would be and who he thinks is responsible for the state Kenya is in.

This book is not a revolutionary call by a young man to any cause; it is not a manifesto to change.

It is a simple collection of strings of thoughts on everyday happenings, anecdotes from personal experiences and personal history mapped onto the broader canvas of Kenya’s socio-economic and political life.

The sketches that make up the text sometimes appear like letters to the editor; the book adopts the first person narrative voice in some places, moves into a conversation mode and eventually ends as the letter to the Prime Minister that the title refers to.

After all, it is the Prime Minister who is the head prefect of the government, and if things go wrong in the country it is only fair that citizens address their grievances to him first.

Siage is shocked that the persistent blackouts and dry taps that he endured in Kisumu are part of life in Nairobi.

His list of things that make life a hardship in Nairobi/Kenya is endless.

These are the same things that Kenyans gnash their teeth and scratch their heads over every day but have not found a solution to.

An ineffective City Council that spends thousands of taxpayers’ shillings erecting billboards to crow about what is expected of it; MPs who will disagree over everything else but agree not to pay tax; the ever-rising cost of transport due to rise in the price of fuel (does the Prime Minister still drive his fuel-guzzling Hummer?); insecurity; police corruption, etc, are topics Kenyans rehash all the time, everywhere.

So, repeating this conversation won’t hurt the ear too much, one supposes that is how Siage thought when he decided to write to the Prime Minister.

So, what does Siage intend to achieve? Won’t the Prime Minister read his missive and throw it into the trash basket, like he probably does to many such complaints?

It seems that Siage’s wish is that the Prime Minister (and other politicians such as Rapho who want the youth vote in 2012) should realise that the youth suffer the same hardships like other citizens.

Therefore, if adults and the employed are complaining about poor salaries or nepotism, have to walk long distances to work because they can’t afford fare and go hungry at lunch time, then the youth have more reason to complain.

 

Youth(ful) leaders, or leaders such as Rapho, beware.

Dr Tom Odhiambo teaches literature the University of Nairobi. 

This review appeared in the Daily Nation of Saturday September 10th, 2011

 

Additional information