By David G Maillu
Published February 18, 2024

President William RutoMr President William Ruto, if I had the opportunity of
talking to you face-to-face you would not read this letter. The distance
from where I am to where you are is beset with insurmountable
roadblocks. Writing a public letter to you, therefore, is the only
option I have in reaching your ear.

My name is Professor David G Maillu, the man who published After 4.30 in 1975 that, most likely, you read during your youth days. I am a renowned author with international acclaim. I am the most published author in Africa with over 80 publications and innumerable articles.

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The Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, which you are destroying, has published 20 books from me. 16 out of them are for children. Among them is The Government’s Daughter which should be my symbolic address to you.

Comb Books, which published my first books–Unfit for Human Consumption, My Dear Bottle, After 4.30 and others–in the 1970s was destroyed by the government as a move to silence me and drive me out of the country in exile as Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Creative writers are liabilities to oppressive regimes.

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Jomo Kenyatta Foundation logoI am the President of African Spirituality. I have been the executive chairman of a group of social scientists who authored the historic African Sacred Book, KA: HOLY BOOK OF NETER.

I write this on my own behalf; on behalf of Kenyan and African writers; and on behalf of the spirit of Kenyan and African nations.

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Sir, a crying person has got no beautiful lips. If I sound ugly try to
understand why. My crying is an appeal for you to restore the Jomo
Kenyatta Foundation. The Foundation is Kenya’s child pride in the young
publishing industry. Symbolically, you are killing one of the few
government’s children in intellectual development. I can’t comprehend
any rationality in your killing one of the too-few invaluable publishing
houses, other than it bears the Kenyatta family name which has become a
monster to you, just because you have a fierce enmity with Uhuru
Kenyatta which has been publicly expressed through various attacks to
the family estate and individuals.

The Prestigious Jomo Kenyatta Foundation is dying because it has the wrong name. If you were after
book producers, why did you not go for the Kenya Literature Bureau, which is less active in publishing than the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, where you moved with speed and determination to throw the staff out of their premises to a hideout accommodation elsewhere demanding they abandon publishing and concentrate on scholarships and bursaries?

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Broken Drum novel by David G MailluYou grabbed the premises to accommodate the Kenya National Examinations Council. Your order to the Foundation was that the published books be transferred to the Kenya Literature Bureau. The transfer you have in mind overlooks the fact that the authors signed contracts only with the Foundation, which cannot be transferred to any other entity. This is a grave damage to the Foundation’s authors together with the spirit of book publishing. The Jomo Kenyatta Foundation has done Kenya proud with the little that it has published up to now.

For the sake of African intellectual development, restoration of African
values and pride to future generations and, in the name of the Almighty
God, please stop the killing of the Foundation. Books are invaluable
intellectual arsenals. We should be proud of the few books that we have
published. What the Foundation has published will outlive us to benefit
future generations. Instead of the destruction, you should stand out as an aggressive defender and promoter of the publishing industry. How can you let your government kill the goose that lays the intellectual golden eggs for the nation?

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Mr President, as holder of a doctorate degree, you should be in the front roll in
knowing the value of books. The book and the gun were the two
mightiest weapons that colonials employed to colonize us. He who
controls what a nation reads is the one who controls the nation. As of
this stage, we are intellectually colonized by Europeans because we are
not in control of the books we read. We still depend on the
European publishing industry.

The few publishing houses we have are engaged in publishing mainly
schoolbooks at the Primary and Secondary school levels because that is
where the money is, at the expense of publishing general books.
Unfortunately, the schoolbook trade has a death trap somewhere. The
school curriculum can change at any time at the will of someone without
giving publishers any notice. A publisher holding a stock of millions of
shillings printed from a bank loan can wake up one day to be told the
stock is outdated. Hence, he’s now the holder of the dead stock. Instead
of developing publishers have been sinking and many of them winding up

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After 4.30 by David MailluThis is why the publishing industry in Kenya, with the potential to feed
the world market, has remained at the elementary stage, sending many
African writers out for the beginning being published by foreign
postcolonial publishers. For example, I have over 130 unpublished books
still waiting for publishers who are not there, at the time government
is frustrating the publishing industry. I am not alone in this
misfortune. Behind me are many other frustrated authors.

African regimes and individuals have no culture of investing in
publishing books. Walk into the few Kenyan leading bookshops and get the
shock of your life. Nearly 90 percent of the books that we read come
from Europe. It is a fallacy for any nation to be independent when it
does not control the publishing of what its citizens read. We are
economically and intellectually colonized people.

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The most important thing in the world is food for the stomach. The
second most important thing is the food for the mind. There is nothing
more important for the development of the modern world than the book.
The book, therefore, is the religion of modern development. Reading
culture is paramount in social-economic development. You do know what
you don’t know. You read to discover who you are and build your
personality. You read and develop the scope of your thinking. You read
to arm yourself with the knowledge of solving your problems. You read to
destroy prejudices. You read to discover your heritage. You read to
develop your inspiration. You read for entertainment. You have to keep
yourself within the wavelength of the world. If the Bible was never
published there would never be Christianity. Neither would there be
Islam if the Koran was not published. The greatest investment we can do
for our future generation is to write and publish books. There is only
going to be primitive development in Africa if Africa doesn’t control
publishing and engage in reading culture.

Open Letter to President of KenyaHere is a shocking revelation regarding how gravely poor we are in Kenya
in intellectual development, 61 years since we became independent.
Ironically it appeared we only became independent to become postcolonial
intellectual dependents. The British population is nearly 67 million,
beating the population of Kenya by about 15 million. The British have
905 publishing companies while Kenya is said to have 50 publishing
companies majority of them, including mine, nonfunctional. The British
have 3,700 libraries while Kenya has 50 with the majority of them
dysfunctional. The British has nearly 7 million book borrowers and
nearly 200 million visitors to public places. How many book borrowers
are in Kenya and how many go to public libraries? British libraries
issue almost 165 million books a year. How many does Kenya issue? The
miserably few functioning Publishing Companies in Kenya are the Jomo
Kenyatta Foundation, Kenya Literature Bureau, Longhorns Publishers, East
African Educational Publishers, Moran Publishers, Oxford University
Press. Mr President, the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation is on your death
operating table while the nation and the world watch. Knowing or
unknowingly, you are on a move to cripple the book industry and reading

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David G Maillu writes to President RutoMr President, instead of helping to create more publishing companies;
instead enabling book production by subsidizing the cost of book and
building reading culture, you are out to add insults to an injury by
imposed tax on books and printing paper. Consequently, the few published
books have become very expensive for ordinary citizen. To many Kenyans
books have become luxury items they could do away with. But at what cost
to the intellectual development?

The few weak publishing companies in Kenya have given a gleam of
intellectual hope to the educated citizens that if we want, we CAN save
our intellectual development. We can fight against brain drain and brain
exploitation. It is hope that we can move to tell our story better. Mr
President, leave alone killing the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, frustrating
publishing books is exceptionally good news to the European
multinational publishers that also supported the colonialism. African
publishing industry is a great threat not only to the economic trade of
the postcolonial masters, but it gives them new lease in designing how
to keep the African mind into permanent captivity. Our intellectual
death is their economic gain. They’ve got their right to fight for their
survival and space but, unfortunately, they are our predators who want
to occupy our intellectual space. Europeans are smart guys in
self-preservation. We are weaklings in a world of who eats who. Our
fighting morale should be, as they sharpen their swords, we must sharpen
ours in defence of our space and civilization.

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Please, Mr President, don’t light a fire when we live in grass-thatched
houses. The Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, forgetting the etymology of the
name, is a cornerstone in the building of African civilization. You
should actually return the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation into action with
financial help and a campaign to make it an international publishing
house and a pride of Africa because it has got what it takes to be
international. Remove taxes from books and printing paper to expand the
book industry and make books affordable. Go wild in building libraries
and supporting the book trade market. Give subsidies to the suffering
publishing industry. Take the move to make Kenya the most dynamic
publishing industry in Africa.

The book is a precious export commodity. Knowledge for export in books
can boost the economy of the country tremendously. Let Kenyans make as
many publishing houses as they can. By now Kenya SHOULD HAVE HUNDREDS of
publishing companies for publishing books for local and export

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African Indigenous Political Ideology by David MailluThe government should open many book centers. How does one explain, for
example, that the Akamba tribe with a population of nearly 5 million
people is without a single public library? Same fate with other tribes
in Kenya. Mr President, is there even one public library in your
Kalenjin tribe? Kenya is boasting of having 47 Government Counties. Ask
which County Government has a public library and get the shock of your
life. Check in the City of Nairobi how many public libraries it has if
not two, for a population of 4 million citizens. Go to many shopping
centers in Kenya looking for bookshops and get the surprise of your
life. Go to the airport and find out whether there is a bookshop selling
African books for travelers.

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Americans say they have more libraries than McDonald restaurants.
Their public libraries are 16,220 and the Macdonald restaurants are 900.
In Kenya, there are approximately 30,000 establishments in alcoholic
beverage places and 2 public libraries. In France, there are about
16,000 registered public libraries. In Israel, with a population of
nearly 10 million, there are 680 public libraries. As Africa is ravaged
by hunger depending on the importation of food from outside, Africa is
also ravaged by hunger of books and brain drain.

President William Ruto, coming from such an intellectually frustrated
country, how do you proudly like being addressed “Your Excellency?” by
members of social-economically developed countries? Take it that, on
behalf of the African mental development. Because the book was there
even during the Pharaoh ages, if my cry is not heard, I hereby become
Pharaoh Maiilu for the mass demonstration demanding the restoration of
the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation and the development of the African book at
whatever level. Pushed harder, I’ll jump into the presidential boxing
ring to be counted for a cause worth dying for. I believe the public
will support the movement of this noble cause.