Kenya: Between hope and despair, 1963–2011

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dc.contributor.author Munene, Macharia
dc.contributor.author Branch, Daniel
dc.date.accessioned 2015-09-23T08:31:10Z
dc.date.available 2015-09-23T08:31:10Z
dc.date.issued 2012
dc.identifier.uri http://erepo.usiu.ac.ke/11732/828
dc.description.abstract Kenya: Between hope and despair, 1963–2011, by Daniel Branch. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2011. 368 pp. £25.00 (hardback). ISBN 978 0 30014 876 3. Books that purport to explain Kenya’s inner dynamics in the hope of shaping public perceptions of what is and should be their outcome can be interesting. The latest in this line is Daniel Branch’s potentially authoritative study. This potential is undermined by inaccuracies, minor and major, and a tendency to gloss over events, thereby hiding the essence of the story. As a result, the running theme of Kenyan politics appears to be Kikuyu acquisition and abuse of power and the sidelining of the Luo. In the process, the book ends up reading like a refurbished version of Kikuyu-bashing scholarship that can be traced back to Z. A. Marsh and G. Kingsnorth’s Introduction to the History of East Africa (1957, third edition 1965). In part, this may be because Branch seems to be awed by Luo historians Bethwell Allan Ogot and E. S. Atieno Odhiambo. His work seems like an expanded version of Ogot’s ‘Siege of Ramogi’ essay in Building on the Indigenous: selected essays, 1981–1998 (1999). It starts and ends with an Odinga: Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Kenya’s first Vice-President, and then his son, Raila Odinga, Kenya’s current Prime Minister. Branch throws the Kikuyu in between, and makes them responsible for all sorts of mischief. Although Branch is seemingly widely read on post-colonial Kenya, his selections appear to be limited. This might explain why Branch gets some basic facts wrong, and misspells some names. Kenya’s Minister for Economic Planning, Tom Mboya, for instance, had not been in Kenya for a week before his assassination on 5 July 1969; he had returned from Addis Ababa the day before. And to assert that in 1968 President Jomo Kenyatta appointed Kitili Mwendwa, a Mkamba, Chief Justice so that he could replace ‘Joel’ [sic] Ndolo, another Mkamba, as army commander with a ‘Kikuyu’ (pp. 99–100) is fantasy. At no time did Kenyatta appoint any Kikuyu as army commander. There are, however, some good and interesting revelations in the book. One of them is that Malcolm Macdonald, the newly appointed governor of Kenya, ‘reversed the policy of the Administration in Nairobi’ to deny victory to KANU (p. 5), suggesting the colonial government had been rigging elections. The assertion that KANU’s electoral victory in May 1963 was the triumph of a vision is correct. The claim that the post-colonial elite behave like the former colonialists and jostle ‘to be the gatekeepers’ serving external interests (p. 22) might explain the hankering by some ‘leaders’ for approval by officials in the West. The book also clarifies that the 1969 oathing started early and intensified after Mboya’s death. The merger of Raila Odinga’s NDP with President Daniel arap Moi’s KANU in 2002, Branch correctly notes, was intended to enable Raila to inherit KANU (p. 246). Raila did not inherit, and became politically desperate.
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.title Kenya: Between hope and despair, 1963–2011 en_US
dc.type Article en_US

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