The Authors

Jimmy Achira – Chronicler & Torture Victim

A quote in the Daily Nation of September 20, 1987 describes best the nebulous phenomenon that was Mwakenya, a label under which many innocent Kenyans were arrested, detained, tortured, prosecuted and jailed for.

“Mwakenya remained a chimera to the Kenyan media. Reporters knew no “Mwakenya” officials and received no calls, manifestos or press releases from them.

“There was no known office location, or telephone or fax numbers. Everything that came to the media house, and appeared as trial evidence, was from the Moi-KANU government.

“The seditious documents produced in court were always photo-copies, never originals. It was not only university lecturers, students who were victims of the security dragnet-civil servants and journalists; too, were picked up” - Daily Nation, September 20th, 1987.


In the 1980s under the Daniel Arap Moi’s regime in Kenya, it was anathema to be termed Mwakenya for that would pronounce a jail sentence and associated torture for one. It was one of those sad chapters in the nation’s history where people talked in hushed voices, and looked over their shoulders to find out who was listening; when people worried what they were seen reading for that could easily be termed “seditious”.

Jimmy Achira, a journalist that found himself in the Mwakenya dragnet, chronicles his experiences in the soon to be published memoir from Nsemia Inc. Publishers, appropriately titled Mwakenya: Real or Phantom?

Achira, a native of Nyamira, Kenya worked for a number of Kenyan newspapers and news magazines, before and after the harrowing jail experience following being tagged a Mwakenya operative. These include Target/Lengo, East African Standard, The Nation Group and Kenya Times. This is in addition to The Weekend Mail and The Weekly Review. He was once the proprietor of the successful, but short-lived, Western Monitor news magazine.

Mwakenya: Real or Phantom? is not a history of Mwakenya. It is a personal account and tale of encounter with oppression at its highest order. The real story of Mwakenya would be told by historians and it is unfortunate that instruments like the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission haven’t taken off on the right foot to unearth the atrocities against Kenyan people; atrocities perpetuated in the name of state security and law and order.

The era needs to be placed in perspective in view of the democratic advances that have been made in the countries political discourses.

Mwakenya: Real or Phantom? will be available from Nsemia Inc. Publishers in December 2010.

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