By Bethsheba Achitsa
Published July 13, 2009
Twelve years after politically-instigated ethnic violence destroys his family and ‘ends’ his life in Africa at the age of 12, I (the entire book is written in the rare but effective first person singular perspective) graduates at the top of his class at New York City’s Ivy League Columbia University. That is the deceptively simple synopsis of From Terror to Hope book that was launched at Goethe-Institut, Nairobi, on July 10, 2009 at 6.00 pm. BETHSHEBA ACHITSA reports.
G Wamaitha Kinyanjui, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and leading children’s rights lawyer who officially launched the book, noted that during the post-December 2007 election violence in Kenya, children were the unheard victims. She said she was, however, glad that their voice is now being heard through the From Terror to Hope book.
The keynote speaker at the launch, Dr Tom Odhiambo, a lecturer in the Department of Literature at the University of Nairobi, said that though the International Criminal Court in The Hague could punish the perpetrators of the December 2007 violence, the only sure way to guard against the violence as described in From Terror to Hope is to ensure that children read the book as adults in Kenya usually do not read.
Eliphas Nyamogo, the head of Information and Library Department at Goethe-Institut who was the master of ceremonies said unveiling From Terror to Hope on July 10 could not have come at a better time as Dr Kofi Annan “the chief mediator in Kenya’s disputed presidential election that had led to wanton violence and displacement of Kenyans” had just handed the list of suspected planners and executors of the violence to the ICC in The Netherlands.
Saying Goethe-Institut is always ready to support worthy literary initiatives, Nyamogo praised the style and language used in packaging From Terror to Hope that, he said, could be read in less than 35 minutes.
About 85 people turned up at the event that also doubled up as a fundraiser for the 4th annual Lola Kenya Screen film festival for children and youth in eastern Africa (August 10-15, 2009).
Though From Terror to Hope reads like a re-enactment of the post-election crisis that was witnessed in Kenya after the December 27, 2007 elections, writer Ogova Ondego insists the book is entirely a work of fiction and explained to all in attendance that the journey towards writing it dates back to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
“I have written this book lest we forget what humanity has been through. After the Rwandan Genocide we were told that it would never happen again. But that hasn’t stopped people from visiting violence on one another in places such as Kenya, Burundi, eastern Congo-Kinshasa, Ivory Coast and even Tanzania,” Ondego said, adding that the book had been crafted from his experience as a journalist who witnessed the suffering of Kenyans in 1991, 1997 and 2007.
Kinyanjui, who feels that From Terror to Hope is a timely book, says the book is a beacon of hope in the midst of turmoil and despair. She lauded Ondego who, she said, helps equip children with skills in creative journalism, film production, critical appreciation of the arts and film, and events organisation and presentation.
From Terror to Hope may have been inspired by the perennial suffering of people in socially and politically unstable African nations like Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Congo-Kinshasa and Ivory Coast, but it tackles contemporary issues around the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America, and from Asia to Europe and North America.
The book talks about hypocrisy in areas such as race, ethnicity, gender, and religion. It describes, with ease, the discrimination black people face while travelling in Europe, North America and Asia. For instance, European Union member countries now use Biometric data in processing visas for Africans in the guise of fighting possible ‘Mistaken Identity’, ‘Identity Theft’, ‘Illegal Entry’ and ‘Human Trafficking’.
African Americans (The Descendants), on the other hand, also discriminate against Africans from Africa and the Caribbean (The Immigrants).
One has the feeling the author is describing Kenya when he mentions names of things that are well known in Kenya, such as Internally Displaced People, Refugees, Child Adoption, Judicial Inquiry, Politically-Instigated Violence, Ethnicity, Tribal Attack, Provincial Administration, Public-Funded Government Vehicles and Helicopters, Polythene Paper Hovels, Tarpaulin Tents, Long-Serving Attorney-General, Sheng, Kiswahili, Rape, Plunder, and ‘Peace, Love and Unity’.
The reader is likely to see and feel the places Ondego mentions: Oxford University, University of Cambridge, Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University, Grade Point Average, the Dean’s List, International Scholar Laureate Programme, Mass Communications and Journalism, Diplomacy and International Relations, Examination Cheating, Term Paper Downloading, New York City, The Big Apple, Berlin, Tegel Airport, JF Kennedy Airport, Schiphol Airport, Zurich Airport, and Amsterdam.
And Ondego even manages to throw in Romans 8:28, Boeing 767-300ER, Encrypted and transmitted information, and even the ability of the hypnotising Congolese ndombolo music in soothing away academic pressure!
During the July 10 launch ComMattersKenya, the publisher of From Terror to Hope and presenter of Lola Kenya Screen, had Braggart’s Day”the book that preceded From Terror to Hope” and films made by children and youth during the Lola Kenya Screen 2008 film production workshops on sale. From Terror to Hope”the story of a 12-year-old-boy’s encounter with xenophobia, which is likely to emotionally move people of any age to tears” is available in bookshops in Nairobi. It is also available from the Goethe-Institut library and ComMattersKenya office.