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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o speaks on Charles Njonjo, AG who sent the author to Kamiti

Author talks Njonjoism that should be eradicated in Kenya

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Prizewinning Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has written about independent Kenya's first Attorney General Charles Njonjo, following Njonjo's passing on January 2.

In a piece published by Nation, Ngũgĩ recounted details he can recall from Njonjo's time as AG, including an order that saw the author detained at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

The Weep Not, Child author recalled Mr Njonjo making a mockery of his [Ngũgĩ] decision to drop his English given name during a parliamentary session. The author added that the late Njonjo mocked everyone who chose to use only their native names.

"I am not personally bitter against him. I have always thought he exemplified a larger problem in the European language speaking African elite, their normalisation of the abnormality of the colonial mindset, which assumes Europe is the beginning of our being," wrote Ngũgĩ, an advocate of cultural pride.


He went on to narrate the story of Maurice Tito Gacamba, a Kenyan inventor whose scrap-metal plane flew for a few minutes and crashed in 1969.

The River Between author faulted Njonjo for killing Gacamba's dream when the then AG barred Gacamba from flying planes, requiring the self-taught inventor to acquire an aviation license first.

"I am less interested in the fact that Njonjo stopped Gacamba from flying than in the symbolism of the two men, in their attitudes toward their native land," Ngũgĩ stated before elaborating on the differences.

The author pointed out that the Duke of Kabeteshire had gone as far as cultivating an English accent, beside having pursued education in South Africa and London which qualified him as a UK barrister.


Labelling it as 'Njonjoism', Ngũgĩ has charged Kenyans to rethink the mtumba (imported second-hand clothes) industry, whose worth exceeds that of 'Made in Kenya' apparel.

"Njonjo and his English accent were not an accident, nor were his acts those of a lone wolf. Is the Njonjo mentality any different than that of Kenyans who now run schools which promote British National Curriculum? Or those Kenyans who licensed Mitumba industry of used clothes from Europe? We exchanged 'the made in Kenya' spirit for used in Europe.

"The only way of fighting Njonjoism is to reject the ruling Mitumba culture and reconnect ourselves to the we-can-do-it spirit of Gacamba and Kenyan people," the author charged.


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