Saturday, April 22, 2006

A pair of African books feted

Moses, Citizen and Me, Delia Jarrett-Macauley's novel about a child soldier in Sierra Leone, was awarded the Orwell Prize for political writing. It was the first novel to win the award since its inception 16 years ago. She wrote the book after hearing a report about a boy soldier who had been recruited to kill his grandparents during the civil war. She said she wanted to focus on the emotional ways in which the child soldiers respond to their situation.

A judge praised the novel for the way it dealt with a complex series of issues in 'a very balanced and humane way.'

A book about Britain's alleged gulag in Kenya, won the US Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya is Caroline Elkins' exploration into widespread British atrocities in Kenya to fight the Mau Mau-led independence movement.

She says that many thousands of Kenyans died in British detention camps during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s. Her research also suggests British colonial officials exaggerated the number of people killed by the rebels.

The allegations in the book include rape, torture, murder and theft of property.

Official estimates say 11,000 Mau Mau were killed by British forces but Elkins estimates that tens, and possibly hundreds, of thousands of Kikuyu. She claims that both the Kenyan and British governments assiduously obstructed her research and covered up the atrocities. Though it's not clear why the post-independence Kenyan government, comprising primarily Mau Mau veterans, would have done so.


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