Journalist, diplomat and former Member of Parliament Joe Khamisi launched his third book The Wretched Africans at the Goethe Institut in Nairobi on 7th April 2016. The Wretched Africans is a historical narrative about slavery in the nineteenth century.
The book was launched as a moderated panel discussion with the author Joe Khamisi, Dr. Mshai Mwangola, Edgar Manasseh and moderated by Khainga O’Okwemba.
Joe Khamisi became well known first as a journalist in newspapers in Kenya and Tanzania and as a news correspondent for several overseas organisations. He was also a broadcaster at the Voice of America eventually serving as Managing Director of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. He was also Member of parliament for Bahari constituency. Before this launch he had launched two books, one which was his memoirs in politics called Politics of Betrayal: Diary of a Kenyan Legislator and another more rounded one called Dash Before Dusk.
This new book that he was introducing to Kenyans looks at the how Africans were taken into slavery in the Eastern part of the African continent by Arab slavers. It also unraveled the racism and abuse meted against Africans by European explorers and missionaries, laying bare the heroism and resilience of the African captives.
The moderated format was extremely enjoyable for this observer and hopefully the audience that included descendants of some of the slaves who had been left at the coast.
The different panelists spoke about their experience of the book. Edgar Manasseh was the first commissioner general of the Kenya Revenue Authority and he was there in his capacity as a descendant of one of the slaves from that ugly period on the continent. He didn’t have to go through the experience as it was his grandfather who went through the worst of it but he still was affected.
Mshai Mwangola was there as an academic and she focused on the book generally and how it worked for her history as she is from that part of the country. She also focused specifically on the burden that women specifically had to carry when they were slaves. It wasn’t pretty. Even after the end of slavery, women still endured the worst of it.
Then there was the author himself who spoke about his process of getting the manuscript done and his experience of the topic.
There were several other speakers like Prof Chris Wanjala, Okiya Omtatah and Muthoni Likimani before it was opened for questions from the audience that included folks like Ken Walibora and Millicent Muthoni.