Writings of the general word's body

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ngugi on Kenya

Writers must sometimes feel like the Greek prophetess Cassandra, gifted to see the future but fated not to be believed.

What is unfolding in Kenya could as well have been lifted from my novel Wizard of the Crow where the ruling party and the opposition parities engaged in Western-sponsored democracy become mirror images of one another in their absurdity and indifference to the poor.

The picture of men and women burnt down in a church where they had gone for refuge still haunts my mind. A child running away from the fire was caught and hurled back into the flames.

One of the few survivors was quoted as saying: "But they knew me; we were neighbours. I thought Peter was a friend - a good neighbour. How could Peter do this to me?"

I had heard the same puzzled cry from Bosnia. I had heard the same cry from Iraq. I had heard the same, same words from Rwanda: "We were neighbours; we'd married into each other. How could this happen?"

And now I hear the same cry from Eldoret North in my beloved Kenya. For me this burning of men, women and children in a church is a defining single instant of the current political impasse in Kenya.

And this must be separated from accusations and counter-accusations of rigged elections by the contending parties.

Rigged elections is one thing - it can be righted by any mutually agreed political measures - but ethnic cleansing is another matter altogether.


1 comment:

Concerned Kenyan said...

Eloquent, as is to be expected of Ngugi. But I have this little voice telling me that Ngugi is speaking here not as a Kenyan, but as a Gikuyu (the ethnic group taking the brunt of the ongoing killings). The writer seems to be pointing the finger at opposition leader Raila Odinga, a Luo, accusing him him of inciting genocide against the Gikuyu. We don't know that Odinga has incited genocide by his refusal to accept fraudulent election results. Ngugi's lament reeks therefore of partisanship and is ethnically biased. It would have been better if the great writer had spoken simply as a Kenyan, period.