Banned in Kenya Sort Of

April 27, 2009

The one book all Kenyans ought to have the opportunity to read about their country is Michela Wrong‘s new "It’s Our Turn to Eat/The Story of a Kenyan Whisteblower."  But only those Kenyans who get to travel or know someone who have smuggled the book in or read pirated excerpts on the Internet or can pay for Amazon.com to ship them a copy have the privilege of reading it. Xan Rice writing in The Guardian in March about it and why it’s not on the bookshelves described her account of John Githongo’s heroic anti-corruption drive this way,

It is the most talked about book in Kenya – an explosive account exposing the greed and tribalism at the heart of President Mwai Kibaki’s government. it’s also the least read.

It’s all about self-censorship as Rice explained, and as Michela Wrong told me,

"It’s not banned, but the booksellers are scared of displaying it for fear of libel suits or worse…. loads of Kenyans are taking copies in from Dar Es Salaam, Joburg, and Kampala where the bookshops are doing a roaring trade."

While Wrong is pleased her book is having a real impact, she’s not happy about the pirating of it. Her publisher FOURTH ESTATE is trying to combat this by selling an e-book on the Harper Collins website for much less than the books’ retail price.

As for John Githongo, no one seems to know exactly what he’s up to but many here in Nairobi assume that he’s travelling around Kenya laying the political groundwork for a run for office. But maybe not. One thing for certain: he still needs security as was in evidence at a recent taping of a television programme.