Biography: Koigi Wamwere – A Kenyan Activist, Politician and Author
Koigi Wamwere was born in Rogongo Location, Nakuru District, Rift Valley Province in 1949. He attended primary school at Rogongo later attending Mother Teresa Apostles Seminary, then at Nyeri High School. He graduated from the school with good marks which saw him receiving scholarship to Cornell University, US.A.
At the University he became interested in politics, and the political situation in Kenya led him to halt his studies there. He returned to Kenya without having completed his studies at the University in Hotel Management.
Back in Kenya, he lectured at Jogoo Commercial College. Not only was he a lecturer but also also a freelance journalist for Sunday Post.
In 1947 he contested for Nakuru Constituency, currently called Subukia Constituency as a Member of Parliament but was defeated by Kihika Kimani. During this period only one political party was functioning, KANU the government’s political party.
His first detention in 1975 which saw him held at Kamiti Maximum Prison resulted from an article he wrote critical of Jomo Kenyatta’s, the first president of Kenya. As a detainee at Kamiti Maximum Prison he wrote his first book, Conscience on Trial between 1975 and 1978. The book details the reasons why he was detained by Jomo Kenyatta, whether the fight for freedom and justice comes at the expense of justice, life in prison, for example, food containing snails and spiders, isolation which can lead a detainee to insanity among other injustices which were practiced during that era.
Koigi wrote the second book, A Woman Reborn while still in detention. The book was written to champion for women rights. During this era women rights were not respected by the government. He wrote the book believing in liberation for all who were oppressed and not only for a selected few. He wrote the book with the help of Ngugi wa Thiong’o who was also a prisoner at the prison.
He was released from prison together with Ngugi wa Thiong’o by the second president, Daniel Torotich arap Moi, after the death of Jomo Kenyatta on December 1978.
In 1979 Koigi won the Nakuru North Constituency as a Member of Parliament defeating Kihika Kimani.
During this period as a sitting MP, he wrote his third book, People’s Representative and The Tyrants. Believing in the freedom of expression and right to decide, he turned down an offer to be a minister, asked questions which were not supposed to be asked because of the dictatorship type of government it was where the President was regarded as a god and any form of speaking up against the injustices of the President wa met by punishment of being jailed or possibly killed.
It was a result of his criticising, rebuking, asking sensitive questions and championing for the rights of Kenyans that saw him detained by the President for two-and-a-half years as a sitting MP. He was jailed in 1982 coupled with the belief by the President that he was involved in the 1982 coup to overturn the his government. This led to him losing his parliamentary seat in 1982 by-elections to Francis Kimosop. However, in 1986 Kimosop committed suicide. Koigi who was released from prison in 1984 contested for the vacant seat in 1986 by-election but was defeated by President’s Moi’s brother-in-law, Eric Bomett. Fearing for his life, he fled to Norway.
His fleeing the country resulted from a threat he received from Kariuki Chotora that if he didn’t stop his criticisms of the KANU government, then he would be silenced for good. The book, People’s Representative and The Tyrant exposed the degree to which the KANU government was a dictatorship scheme of government.
In 1990 Koigi visited Uganda but found himself detained again at Kamiti Maximum Prison. He was charged with treason. He was released in 1993. He fled to Norway. However when he returned to Kenya in 1995, he was arrested, this time his sins were that he was involved and therefore charged with robbery with violence. He spent four years in prison plus an additional of six lashes by cane.
While in Norway, Koigi wrote two books. The first one was Tears of the Heart: A Profile of Racism in Norway and Europe. He wrote this book as a result of racial discrimination he received in Norway when he first fled to the country from Kenya.
The other book was, I Refuse to Die. This book details his life history tracing his roots, the struggles he underwent and his fight for democracy in Kenya. He wrote his autobiography while recovering from injuries he sustained in a motor accident in Norway.
He left Norway and went to Columbia University as a visiting scholar. He published a researched book, Towards Genocide in Kenya: The Curse of negative Ethnicity. In the book he talks about how ethnic hate is a very big and dangerous disease or problem that has led to more than 100 million Africans killed in massacres and genocides.
Koigi lost the Nakuru North Constituency parliamentary seat in the 1997 General Elections forcing him once again to flee the country in 1998.
In the 2002 General Elections which saw many politicians from different political parties forming a one-big umbrella political party, NARC for the overthrow of President Moi and his government, Koigi won the Subukia parliamentary seat as an MP and served in the position of Assistant Minister for Information after NARC won and Mwai Kibaki the leader of NARC party was sworn in as the president.
Currently, Koigi is not holding any other parliamentary seat or working in the current government. Despite this, he is still involved in politics by writing op-ed articles for the Kenyan Press. Also, he owns a radio station in Nakuru called Mwananchi.
His last book, Revolution in Olduvai is awaiting publication.