From Philo Ikonya, President of PEN Kenya

Michela Wrong’s book on John Githongo and Kenyan politics, It’s Our Turn to Eat, which was recently published, is not being stocked in Kenyan bookstores for fear of government reprisal. Following is a message from Philo Ikonya, president of PEN Kenya.
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Dear All,

I am sharing this in order to seek advice, opinions, ideas of actions, thoughts even on the law in Kenya as it stands about books ….please let’s think together online and share and act.

I am aghast, and so is International PEN Kenya Chapter, at the return of fear in our bookshops and bookshelves both at home and in our streets. It is not acceptable in a country in which we have so vehemently defended our various freedoms that John Githongo’s book- Our Turn To Eat By Michela Wrong, whose genesis we all know so well and a book which has content that tells us so much more about our quagmire in graft should be a hush hush affair in terms of availability for those who would like to read it. After all, if it is a matter of spilling beans.. both the beans and the broth have been spilt all over the world… who is still feeling overly sensitive even about the BBC tapes.

This book must be easily available to all Kenyans if only just to see the different angles of the cancer of corruption that remains the single most important factor that requires our focus so that we can have even a ‘good’ constitution. The days of fear of expression are long gone. The book should be available and those who want to take legal action can do so….

I visited a friend who had it and would not disclose in which place it was available for fear of consequences even to me who is not a stranger to the person. I have seen a news item backpage of Daily Nation recently telling us that bookshops are afraid to stock this book for one main reason- past legal suits that cost them up to the amounts of 10m for apparently stocking books that they say defame, almost always politicians.

I am not going to buy this book secretly from a shelf or from a friend and am not going to pretend that I do not have it in my house when and if I do because that will be abdicating my space to fear. I will not make do with reviews and even serialisations…I will not be afraid of reading it on a bus as someone else told me. What I want is to see this book being freely sold in Kenya. If the book cannot be placed on bookshelves we would like to know why and who said so. Someone owes us an explanation and we deserve it as much as those whom I saw demanding apologies and taking rather stern stands on an explanation about why the Standard was raided on 2nd March (JM’s day) three years ago.


Philo Ikonya
International PEN Kenya Chapter

One thought on “From Philo Ikonya, President of PEN Kenya

  1. obviously dear philo . its the same game like the Russian roulette the books that castigate the state comprador are shot in the head. the ones that praise the irrational statecraft antics are applauded and given the license to print. it depends on which side of the fence one stands. i agree with you we live in a literary self -destruction mode triggered by the government. obviously the whistle blowers have to continue putting their lips on the whistle and the ones on the rooftop have to keep shouting until the their voices become hoarse.

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