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Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011
Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011
by Daniel Branch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.62

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011 by Daniel Branch, 25 July 2013
Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011[ KENYA: BETWEEN HOPE AND DESPAIR, 1963-2011 ] By Branch, Daniel ( Author )Nov-15-2011 Hardcover`Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011' is a 300-page romp through 48 years of Kenya's post-independence history. As a book it is not without merit: the story moves along at pace and the historical meal Daniel Branch serves up is easily digestible. In these respects it is a popular history for the general reader, or someone new to the subject of Kenyan history. Unfortunately, however, for those with a knowledge of the country's history, Branch's multiple errors and unjustified assumptions will prove a problem.

Take for example the book's section on the murder of Kenya's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Robert Ouko, in February in February 1991 (`Who Killed Bob', pages 190 - 193).

Branch writes: `To maintain cohesion of the ruling elite, the government nevertheless turned to another well-rehearsed method of asserting its authority', i.e., had Ouko murdered. There is little or no evidence for this assumption and virtually all of the evidence that has come to light since about 1991 suggest that it is wrong.

A couple of lines later and Branch states; `On 15 February 1990, the partially burnt body of the foreign minister, Robert Oukjo, was found, close to his home near Kisumu'. In fact, Ouko's body was first found on 13 February that year by a local herdsboy (who did not report it to the authorities) and officially found following a police search on the morning of 16 February.

Branch goes on to state that Ouko's relationship with some of his cabinet colleagues in the months prior to his death had `soured' in the months leading up to his death. There is little or no evidence for this statement (and much that contradicts it) and Branch does not provide evidence in its support.

More worryingly, Branch repeats verbatim an allegation made in a book by the US Ambassador in Kenya at the time of Dr Ouko's murder, Smith-Hempstone, that is demonstrably nonsense. Smith-Hempstone claimed in his autobiography that Ouko had been taken from his up-country farm at Koru, transported to State House, beaten and shot twice in the head in front of President Moi by a member of Kenyan cabinet and then dumped back near his home and his body burnt to conceal his injuries. However, if Daniel Branch had read the forensic evidence supplied by Scotland Yard (who were called in to investigate Ouko's murder) he would have known that Dr Ouko was shot where is body was found, or a few feet from it. Likewise, eye witness testimony which has been in the public domain since at least 1991 (together with the forensic evidence), which was never challenged by either Scotland Yard or the Kenyan police, placed Ouko's murder at some time in the early morning of 13 February, 1990: there would not have therefore been time for the murderer or murderers to have taken Ouko to State House or anywhere else other than the scene of the killing. And again, Scotland Yard's forensic evidence, publicly available since 1991, stated that Dr Ouko had been killed by a single shot to his head, not two shots as Smith-Hempstone's account suggested.

Daniel Branch concluded that `Hempstone's allegations are impossible to prove'. He is quite right but it is possible to entirely disprove them to anyone who has studied primary source material, much of which has been available for nearly 24 years.

This perhaps is Daniel Branch's failing and the fundamental cause of the weaknesses associated with this book, the failure to refer to sufficient primary source material and a reliance on popularized, secondary sources. The section on the murder of Dr Ouko, for example, relies for its sources on a book by a Chester Stern (a former Daily Mail journalist) rather than the original forensic evidence; Smith-Hempstone's autobiography `Rogue Ambassador' published seven years after Ouko's murder and proven to have been demonstrably wrong; and Jonah Anguka's book `Absolute Power' (Anguka was tried for the murder of Dr Ouko but acquitted) which before using as a source Branch would have been advised to have read the end of Chapter 6 (pages 151 and 157) of Professors' Cohen and Odhiambo's book `Risks of Knowledge'.

With so much primary source material available for many years on the subject of Ouko's murder and much of it to be found on the internet since 2010, it is a pity that Daniel Branch, an associate professor of African History at the University of Warwick (UK), does not appear to have accessed it, at least on this particular subject.

`Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011' is a crack-along read but caveat emptor says this reviewer.


Kenya: A History Since Independence
Kenya: A History Since Independence
by Charles Hornsby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Major work, but some questionable source material., 25 July 2013
Kenya: A History Since IndependenceThere's no doubt the Charles Hornsby's `Kenya: A History Since Independence' is a major work in more ways than one (not least because it is over 800 pages long). However, for those coming to Kenyan history for the first time, or wanting to learn about the country's history in any depth, Hornsby's book should be treated with a degree of caution. Despite its length and breadth, Kenya: A History is more by way of a popular account of Kenyan history based more on newspaper and magazine reports and articles rather than on primary sources and sometimes doesn't take into account publicly available information that runs counter the `same old' accepted stories.

To take but just one example, Hornsby's section on the murder of Dr Robert Ouko (Kenya's Foreign Minister murdered in February 1990) regurgitates the popularized version of events which has been largely discredited over the years based on verifiable, primary source based, facts. Hornsby retells the story (which admittedly he admits are based on speculation and `theories advanced') that Dr Ouko might have been investigating alleged corruption over the rehabilitation of the Kisumu Molasses project and clashed with colleagues who wanted bribes (an allegation made by the `directors' of a Swiss-Italian firm called BAK), or that on a trip to Washington just before his death he might have been treated too favourably by the Bush administration and fallen foul of an angry President Moi and cabinet colleagues. Both these theories have proved to be utterly untenable.

There has never been any evidence to support the `corruption report' over the Molasses Project theory - all the evidence proves otherwise. Of the BAK directors, one was proven to have been out on bail from a Milan court convicted of attempted fraud (a conviction upheld on appeal) the other was his `partner', and their company, which never traded, was only formerly incorporated as a commercial entity on the day that Dr Ouko was murdered, February 13, 1990. Likewise, the `Washington trip' theory as a motive for Ouko murder was also proven to be entirely without foundation. Ouko did not meet President Bush in Washington (multiple sources confirm this and in 2013 Kenya's Truth, Justice and Reconciliation accepted as fact that there was no Bush-Ouko meeting during the trip to Washington), he flew back with the delegation (again multiple sources and photographs prove this), was not `sacked', his passport was not removed (Mrs Ouko handed her husband's passport to Scotland Yard shortly after their investigation began), and his bodyguard and driver remained on duty with him and under orders up until his death.

Nearly all of the information and (primary) source material that prove the `Molasses project' and `Washington trip' theories to be nonsense has been available since at least 2004 (Kenya: A History was published in 2012) and much of it in the public domain, for those that cared to look, since the Gicheru Commission inquiry in 1991 (and readily available via the internet since at least 2010) . Hornsby's sources for this section of the book are largely drawn from newspaper articles and reports in The Daily Nation, Sunday Standard, and Weekly Review, for example, secondary sources mostly from 1992/3.

`Kenya: A History Since Independence' is a big book perhaps worth a read to someone who already has a good knowledge of modern Kenyan history but readers new to the subject should beware.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 11, 2014 9:26 PM BST


Mundian To Bach Ke
Mundian To Bach Ke

5.0 out of 5 stars Complex humorous and uplifting..., 30 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mundian To Bach Ke (MP3 Download)
"Beware of the Boys" (mundian to bach ke) is a mix of the so-named bhangra track by Punjabi Indian artist Labh Janjua and the theme to Knight Rider, written by Glen A. Larson and Stu Phillips....whatever made Panjabi MC mix the two together beats me...but its an inspired synthesis- play it loud with the bass up for best effect....the 'wailing' narrative and twangy sitar(?) is complimented perfectly by the 'sinister' bass. Love it.


Rogue Ambassador
Rogue Ambassador
by Smith Hempstone
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars "..more of a bully than a diplomat.", 22 Jan 2012
This review is from: Rogue Ambassador (Paperback)
If you want to know more about Kenyan history and politics, this book is not one to bother with! There are truly glaring inaccuracies throughout. Smith Hempstone himself comes across as arrogant and self-promoting, a would be Heminway who was more of a bully than a diplomat. A man from another time who in reality viewed us as natives not people. I give it one star because its a book, but nothing extra for content.


A Shining Star in Darkness
A Shining Star in Darkness
by Marianne Briner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £23.00

1.0 out of 5 stars "based on a true life story" .....in her dreams....., 19 Jan 2012
Fanciful, appallingly written and egocentric nonsense. Thinly veiled fictional account of real murder in Kenya, that doesn't mention that the author, Marianne Briner-Mattern was both an adverse witness and named as a suspect who was investigated by the Kenyan Police.


The Sound Of Waves
The Sound Of Waves
by Yukio Mishima
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mishima's least violent novel?, 19 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Sound Of Waves (Paperback)
Mishima paints a tranquil picture of a quiet japanese island where the sea provides most of the wealth. The hero and heroine come from the opposite ends of the islands' economic spectrum.
There is very little of the sex or violence found in the majority of Mishimas other novels. The scene set on the island is peaceful, the wording calm, the reader is lulled into hearing the sounds of waves.


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