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Sep 2014
I often remember with a lot of thrill in my spine every time I reflect on the Writings of Miguna Miguna in his book peeling Back the Masks, a certain sub-plot that most of Kenyan students in Canada, America, Britain, Germany or Australia often fail to go through pre-university examinations and then they opt for faculty friendly courses like carpentry and electrical-wire man offered at some polytechnics in this countries. Then these students end up living as informal sector workers in the Diaspora, and hence putting themselves into a cash strapped condition that they don’t easily come back home. This is also the same texture of revelations I have been encountering for the past five months of my regular reading of the literary pages of The Saturday Nation, in which a most of Kenyans write alongside some foreigners, but notably Professor Austin Bukenya as the foreign writer, Bukenya himself being a Ugandan.
The revelations are that the writers who were regularly writing on these pages sometimes ago have gradually waned up, not because of anything but due to their intellectual irrelevance. Mostly caused by a defect of intellectual inferiority. They were the likes of Evans Mwangi; Mwangi was forthrightly coming up with a tribally fine-tuned niche in the name of being Ngugi wa Thiong’o scholar. He had a specialization in writing about Ngugi because Ngugi is his tribesman, they are both Kikuyu’s.He also had substantial writings on Ngugi’s children; Mukoma, Lee, Nducu and Wanjiku wa Ngugi, who are in similar stretch of their father struggling to be established as writers. But all in all, Professor Evans Mwangi has already ended up as an intellectual without consequences.
Another writer in point was one; Dr Tom Odhiambo, who also teaches literature at the University of Nairobi. He had been writing on the same pages but with a strong bent towards Luo Chauvinism and stark Conspiracy against Luhyia veteran literary Critic Professor Chris Wanjala.
The only Kenyan literary activist who has been trying to remain globally vogue in his literary writings on this platform is Dr Godwin Siundu; he often displays Global relevance through his pataphorous approach to literary appreciations and criticism.
But whatsoever the case, professor Bukenya has towered seriously above these Kenyans.Bukenya’s command of English language and literary command has no match on the Kenyan literary market. Bukenya Tackles globalectics of literature as Kenyans struggle with tribalism of their home literature.Ethinicity is the enemy of Kenyan literature and as well an established foe of any other Kenyan professional perspective.
Why Kenyans are threatened with intellectual suffocation when exposed to otherness is because of a few reasons. As cited above ethinicism remains a dominant factor. But also, lack of homogenous public language, absence of ideology in their political history, failure of politics to achieve common nationalism and corruption in the public sector are contributing forces among others.
Your consecutive  look at the literary pages of  the Saturday Nation of the previous three weekends will be an empirical testimony to this position.Bukenya’s stories have surveyed dialectics of English language, aging of African literature , translation and greatness of Uganda orature with a focus on Okot P’ Bitek. And this weekend he has beautifully lime-lighted on Julius Nyerere’s Intellectual tigritude. Nyerere’s as the killer of colonialism but while at the same time he lingered as the staunch lover of Shakespeare.
This is simply a farcical repetition of the previous tragic history, as reflected in the words of Karl Marx in his 18th Brumaire, which made the Ugandan educated Sudanese Poet, Taban Reneket Makititiyong Lo Liyong to look at Kenya’s literary poverty and then take a synechedochal stand to decry that east Africa is a literary desert. He was right, but in a sense he did not mean east Africa per se, he meant Kenya .Kenya at that time had only an English Department at the University of Nairobi. The department was poorly performing in terms of research. It was desperately tethered duplicating of the European classics as its literary overture.
But when the foreign and radical blood came to Kenya, in guest of helping Kenya to overcome the fog in the seasons end from colonial mire to literary and cultural freedom, Native Kenyans were surprisingly never friendly to them at all at all. Some of the intellectuals who had come to Kenya that time were the greats like :Ezekiel Mphalele from south Africa, Okot p’ Bitek from Uganda,Okello Oculii from Uganda,Ayi Kwei Armah from Ghana, Joie De Graft from Ghana, Walter Rodney from Guyana, Austeen Bukenya from Uganda and Taban Lo Liyong from Uganda.
All of these foreigners in Kenya have later on been absolved by time and history  as literary greats.They have proved clear intellectual and literary superlativety  over and above all Kenyans. The point of contrite is that, Kenyans of that era did not give them a chance to share their intellectual resource with the peasants and masses of Kenya. Instead Kenyan bureaucrats began their usual came of intimidation and tribal nagging whenever intellectually outshone.
Austeen Bukenya was condemned into poverty at Machakos girls high school to be an English teacher or a teacher of English without a salary. Liyong and Pitek were perpetually witch-hunted out of University of Nairobi by Ngugi and Wanjala. Rodney and Armah were frustrated until they desperately moved to Tanzania from where they wrote their respective oeuvres. Armah wrote Why are we Blessed, While Rodney wrote the world famous book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Mphalele was frustrated to oblivion, only for him to die mysteriously when on a literary tour in West Africa.
But sadly enough, the Kenyans who were seriously illiterate, in the  likes of : Daniel Moi, Jomo Kenyatta, Ezekiel Barengtunny  and many intellectuals so-so’s shamelessly made themselves to be  chancellors of the Universities .They were chancellors who never went beyond class seven of primary schools in their child hood. They then became bovaristic if not atavistic only to begin writing lame books like Nyayo Philosophy, Suffering without Bitterness, Facing Mount Kenya and other literary trash of the same calibre. It is this intellectual sludge that they again turned to impose as compulsory reading materials on sons and daughters of poor Kenyans.
By
Alexander K. Opicho
Eldoret, Kenya.
response to literary journalism in east africa
Alexander K Opicho
Written by
Alexander K Opicho  Kenya
(Kenya)   
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