I’ve been meaning for some time to do an entry about Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan writer who turned his back on a successful career writing in English in order to write exclusively in his native Gikuyu (interview; introduction and excerpts from his book Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, 1986). Now I discover, via a post by Hurree at Kitabkhana, that less than two weeks after returning to Kenya following more than two decades in exile, he and his wife were brutally attacked in their own home by a gang of gunmen. It’s not clear whether the attack had anything to do with his writing, but I can’t help thinking that his call for free debate in Africa did not meet with universal approval.


  1. From what I read in the papers, it sounded like the attack was not politically motivated, but you never know…

  2. I suspect if it had been politically motivated he and his wife would have vanished. The newspaper description hints that it was an inside job by the Norfolk Towers guards.
    Last time I was in Kenya was 1986, but everyone, black and white, were concerned about security. When I walked home from the National Museum (Not far from the Norfolk Towers on the other side of Museum Hill) along city streets after dark my host was frantic — but there were no other pedestrians because everyone was afraid of being out after dark. Everyone had stories about raiders — one of my professors had been nearly killed three years earlier when raiders hit his camp at Lukenya Hill just 20 miles outside of Nairobi (when I took a bus there in ’86 and mentioned that I should be let off at the Lukenya Club _everyone_ on the bus warmed me about it — I had to tell them I was going to the farm opposite. Tourists were attacked in expensive camps, a Czech woman and her half-Kenyan daughter raped, and everyone in the government bureaucrats’ walled in compound where I stayed with my host had ‘security lies,’ that is signs saying they were protected by a private security firm. The raiders were neither political nor racist — they prefered to attack Wazungus because we were supposed to all have money, and coming from America Ngugi Wa Thiongo ammounts to an ersatz Mzungu. He’s lucky they didn’t sever his clavial with a panga, but if they had the doctors at the local hospital have certainly had enough experience in reconnecting the portions.

  3. John Costello says

    That should read ‘clavical.’

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