“A historical investigation of the highest caliber.”
African Studies Review
“In telling the story of (Ouko’s) death, Cohen and Odhiambo draw upon a rich array of official reports and journalistic investigations into the crime. With careful research and insightful presentation, Cohen and Odhiambo do not explicitly solve this ‘who-dunnit’, but they do tease out a multiplicity of themes about Kenya’s recent political past.”
Journal of African History
In February 1990 assailants murdered Kenya's distinguished Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Robert Ouko. The horror of the attack, the images of his mutilated and burned corpse, the evidence of a notorious cover-up, and the revelations of the pressures, conflicts, and fears he faced in his last weeks have engaged Kenya's publics for years. The Risks of Knowledge minutely examines the multiple and unfinished investigations into the crime.
Among the probes was an extensive 1990 inquiry organized by a New Scotland Yard team invited to Kenya by the government, as well as an open public commission of inquiry appointed by President Daniel arap Moi. The commission ran for seventeen months in 1990-91 before the president shut it down. International and Kenyan unrest over Ouko's brutal death brought increasing attention to corruption and violence associated with the Moi government, leading in late 1991 to multiparty politics and in December 2002 to the elections that ended the Moi era.
This powerfully argued book raises important issues about the production of knowledge and the politics of memory that will interest a large interdisciplinary audience.
David William Cohen is a professor of anthropology and history at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Historical Tradition of Busoga: Mukama and Kintu, The Combing of History, and Womunafu's Bunafu. More info →
E. S. Atieno Odhiambo was a professor of history at Rice University. He is the author of The Paradox of Collaboration and Other Essays, and Siaya: Politics and Nationalism in East Africa, 1905-1939. He is the editor of African Historians and African Voices and coeditor, with David William Cohen, of The Risks of Knowledge. More info →
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John Lonsdale says in his introduction: “This is the oral evidence of the Kikuyu villagers with whom Greet Kershaw lived as an aid worker during the Mau Mau ‘Emergency’ in the 1950s, and which is now totally irrecoverable in any form save in her own field notes.
The book breaks new ground in following the story of the participants of the rural movement during the decade after the defeat of the Mau Mau. New archival sources and interviews provide exciting material on the mechanics of the sociology of decolonization and on the containment of rural radicalism in Kenya. For the first time an account of decolonization in Kenya based on primary sources is offered to the reader.
This book uses the Kenyan political system to address issues relevant to recent political developments throughout Africa. The authors analyze the construction of the Moi state since 1978. They show the marginalization of Kikuyu interests as the political economy of Kenya has been reconstructed to benefit President Moi's Kalenjin people and their allies. Mounting Kikuyu dissatisfaction led to the growth of demands for multi-party democracy.