Book Review – Kenya: A History Since Independence by Charles Hornsby

How does one review a history that has been written many times by different authors; only adding few details here and there?

You don’t.

There are things that the author says about his book, and I couldn’t agree more. However, Charles Hornsby isn’t just any other author of general Kenyan history.

He was involved in writing another Kenyan classic, Multi-Party Politics in Kenya.

Being a deeply divided country, at least tribally and politically, Kenya doesn’t entertain people like him. His insights, the deep outlook into the body politics of Kenya made him many enemies, at least in the political circles.

His writing are revealing and uplifts the downtrodden from their slumber of how things are going.

History, when told well, such as has been done by Hornsby, awakens the good in a person.

In brief, the author, says, “Since independence from Great Britain in 1963, Kenya has survived as a functioning nation-state, holding regular elections, its borders and political system intact and avoiding both military rule and open war with its neighbours.  It has been a favoured site for Western aid, trade, investment and tourism and has remained a close security partner for Western governments.  However, Kenya’s successive governments have failed to achieve adequate living conditions for most of its citizens; violence, corruption and tribalism have been ever-present, and its politics have failed to transcend its history.  Today, Kenyans are arguing over many of the issues that divided them 50 years ago”.

Richard D Weller says of Hornsby’s works in part:

“The book’s focus is on the state and its rulers, rather than on the social and the popular. Divided into short periods, it moves along a clearly defined chronological track. But it is more than just a political narrative. Sections on the developing economic and international contexts offer important insights into the more impersonal forces shaping Kenya’s recent past and counterpoint the detail of elite intrigue. Additionally, Hornsby pays attention to the ‘deep politics’, the meshing of underlying social and moral imperatives with the ‘high politics’ of government and the ‘low politics’ of attracting popular support, which is both fundamental and enduring. It matters that there is, and always has been, a gap between ‘the Kenya we have’ and ‘the Kenya we want’, and this is central to the popular debate and critique that has rarely been entirely suppressed, although it can also take violently divisive expression”.

Land is particularly an emotive issue that is touched in the book.

There’s so much endemic corruption in Kenya that has often threatened our security and stability. According to Weller, “Hornsby characterizes Kenya as a ‘brittle’ rather than a ‘stable’ state and links this to a certain nervousness about change, lest it should shatter the very structures through which government is carried out – a conservative perception frequently to be found in the thinking of Kenya’s colonial rulers”.

Meaning, nothing has changed much. Not even the new constitution promulgated 10 years ago has saved Kenya.

“Its new constitution, promulgated in 2010, offers an opportunity for national renewal, but it must confront a heavy legacy of history”, Hornsby says.

Kenya is still being ruled with a colonial mindset, where the common man, especially the Indigenous Kenyan doesn’t matter as such.

The state is set up to protect outside interests rather than those of natives. The haves, whites, Indians, in the fashion.

It is despicable.

Remember the description that Kenya is a brittle, not stable state.

Charles Hornsby holds a D.Phil. on Kenyan politics from St Antony’s College, Oxford and has combined a professional career in information technology with a deep engagement with Kenya. He is the co-author (with David Throup) of Multi-Party Politics in Kenya (1998).

Charles Hornsby awakens! Read this book.

Buy this 958-paged book from Nuria Store.