By Ogova Ondego
Published August 31, 2015
Laughter, fear and shock; that’s what you are likely to get from a new fictional novel that reviews 50 years of self-governing Kenya.
The book, simply titled Pathways and written by David Gian Maillu who is regarded as Kenya’s Father (and Mother!) of Popular Literature, traces the genesis of tribalism and mega national scandals—Anglo Leasing, Goldenberg, Land grabbing, Ethnic cleansing—that go with it.
To be fair, Pathways starts during the era of European exploration, Christian evangelisation, trade and carving out of spheres of influence across Africa. It then goes on to describe how Kenya got its political independence from the British in 1963 and the challenges of uniting several nationalities under one nation and flag. Looking at the regimes of Jomo Kenyatta (1963-1978); Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (1978-2002); Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki (2002-2013); Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta (2013-present), Pathways is presented as a fictional review of post-independence Kenya. And herein lies the sting in the tale: use poetic license to analyse Kenya, her leaders and its people. Use rumour, history and orature to put Kenya in her rightful place in the world.
Playfully, the book tells the reader not only how the culture of ‘eating’ started but who created it and for what reason. The plague currently known as ‘land-grabbing’, for instance, began not in 2000s with Uhuru Kenyatta’s Administration but 1800s by European settlers and colonisers and was perfected immediately into a national culture in the 1960s by Jomo Kenyatta’s Government.
As is his trademark, Maillu does not merely document the history of Kenya; he does it satirically and colourfully, using vivid descriptions that both excite, inform and educate the reader.
Yes, the book is both factually fictional and fictionally factual if you are a keen follower of events in Kenya. Maillu says he set out to tell a good story; that he didn’t intend to be humourous though some readers have found it to be laden with humour.
The fight for the very soul of Kenya has been raging since 1963 when the country started to govern herself after the British gave up on the colony they had controlled for almost 70 years. And that struggle is illustrated by the assassination of Pio Gama Pinto, Dr Robert Ouko, Josiah Mwangi Kariuki and Thomas Joseph Mboya; the disappearance of Kung’u Karumba; the mysterious motor accident that took away the life of lawyer Argwings Kodhek away; the fallout between President Jomo Kenyatta and Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and the rivalry between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta.
Though politics is at the centre of the narrative, it isn’t the only subject. The private sector, the civil society, the church are also tackled by Kenya’s largely self-taught but most prolific writer who also doubles up as a painter, musician, poet, playwright, essayist, palmist, philosopher and theologian.
Writing in Kikamba, Kiswahili, Sheng and English, Dr Maillu (Yes, he holds a Doctor of Letters degree in African Literature and Political Philosophy from St Clements University of south Australia!),continues to accuse Kenya’s “political, economic and legal systems” of having destroyed his intellectual enterprise—Comb Books—“through corruption, tribalism, materialism and racism practised by the Kenyan state.”
So, do I keep on telling you more about David Maillu’s Pathways: 50 Years of Kenya’s Independence? No way; you must look for the book and read it yourself.