Book title: Kosiya Kifefe
Author: Arthur Gakwandi
Reviewed by: Arnold Agaba
This is an interesting novel about growing up in pre and post independence Africa. It tells the story of an ambitious man from western Uganda called Kosiya kifefe who manages to make it in life despite the odds being against him.
The author provides an insight into the dreams, uncertainties and escapades of the African youth as profiled in the life of the main protagonist of the novel. Right from childhood Kifefe is written off as a child who will never amount to anything in life. An old woman from his village sees him going to school and she sarcastically comments: “If kifefe can study then I also should think of going back to school.”
Unfazed by the low expectations of him by the society he lives in, Kosiya Kifefe works hard both at school and at the job he gets after finishing school and rises through the ranks. However his major weakness is a lack of moral and financial discipline which causes him a lot of problems.
After completing his junior level certificate, he is employed by the East African Railways which he believes is a stroke of good fortune since he never anticipated working there. He goes back to school and manages to graduate after Independence.
He lands a better job working for Uganda Plastics Corporation and finally achieves his dreams, a car, a good house and he steadily rises through the ranks. His personal life, however, is far from a happy one as he marries a woman he never planned to marry. She moved into his house after getting pregnant when he raped her.
His relatives do not help him either; they cannot supervise the casual labourers that he employs to do renovations at his house, they even refuse to wear the shoes that he buys for them and openly undermine his authority.
When he becomes the General Manager at Uganda Plastics, the Political and Economical landscape of the country is in turmoil, so he decides to make enough money in preparation for the tough times ahead and the seed of corruption is sown.
When Idi Amin takes over power in Uganda, as a former public servant, Kifefe goes into exile in Kenya where he operates a bar and in the process meets a girl called Agnes. He is active in seeking to bring about the down fall of the oppressive regime of Idi Amin Dada together with other Ugandan exiles in Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya he is diagnosed with high blood pressure.
He comes back to Uganda after Idi Amin is overthrown and is appointed minister. This makes him think he has found happiness at last. But when Agnes shows up at his congratulatory party, Kifefe becomes excited and succumbs to high blood pressure.
Reading this novel was highly rewarding for me. It clearly depicts the life of a public servant in a banana Republic like Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin Dada.