The Havoc of Choice by Wanjiru Koinange is a beautiful but heartbreaking story built against the backdrop of the Kenya post-election violence in 2007 which claimed the lives of over 1000 people and displaced as many as 350,000 according to the Department for International Development (DFID).
Through the Ngugi family, the author gives a raw account of what the violence looked like. The faces it took on. The turmoil the countrymen faced when forced to turn on each other.
I was in high school when this violence rocked Kenya. I heard about it with the rest of the world but I did not imagine its depth and reach. Wanjiru through her novel transplants me to that time in history. Harrowing experiences that I cannot forget. I caught myself asking my Kenyan sisters where they were during that experience.
The author creates memorable characters. I saw the towering politician/godfather Mr.Muli, Kavata and Ngugi whose love affair bloomed at uni-the perfect power couple, the invisible Wanja and all the other well-crafted characters. I felt their grief, courage, violation, defiance, evolution, love and loss.
What happened in Kenya in 2007 was unthinkable. The violence spurred by tribal wars scarred the country deeply and healing may be a fallacy. Look at Rwanda 29 years later after the 1994 genocide. The pain, disbelief and underlying anger are rife no matter what the media sells to us. How do you heal from such cruelty inflicted on you by your `own’ countrymen?
Any form of war/violence has losses and gains. Politicians gained and were unscathed while the local people endured pain and loss at the cost of the failed democracy.
Wanjiru displays all faces of violence with a delicate balance. I was one with the characters. I felt their pain, questioning gazes, anger and I was torn on where my allegiances should lie. Underneath it all, humans are selfish.
As I read The Havoc of Choice, my eyes were opened to what happens on the campaign trails. In campaign camps. How elections are never free and fair. How people benefit from elections-`rich and poor, alike. My mind was brought to the act of sowing and reaping in politics. Talk about securing the future!
I am combing the libraries and the internet for books by Ugandan writers with information on Ugandan elections and campaigns. (Feel free to recommend books)
Wanjiru has written a memorable account of her country`s history. It will raise your curiosity to read further about the 2007 Kenya election. (At least I hope it does.)
Fiction is a powerful tool and Wanjiru does not hesitate to use it. This being her debut novel, she delivered a good punch. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
A must-read. I highly recommend it.