Celebrating East African Writing!
Saturday 2nd October 4pm – 5:50pm
By the age of twenty, he was already a known robber and in the police “VIP list”, as he calls ‘the most wanted’ police list. As a criminal, Kiriamiti went by the names John Khamwene, Charles Lukindo, Richard Mwangi, Albert Ngure, Albert Wanjohi and Jack Zollo (a name which he later used for his fictionalized self in both My Life in Crime and My Life in Prison) among others.
In 1971, after a long cat and mouse game with the police, Kiriamiti was arrested and sent to jail for twenty years with forty-eight strokes of the cane. It is at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and Naivasha Government Maximum Prison that he wrote his first novels, My Life in Crime and later, My Life with a Criminal.
In1984, Kiriamiti was released on grounds of good conduct, having served thirteen out of his twenty year sentence. But two years down the line, he was sent back to jail by President Moi’s regime for allegedly being involved in what the government deemed a seditious movement meant to overthrow the government (Mwakenya). He was released after four years, on 11 February, 1990 (the same day that South Africa’s freedom icon, Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island). As fate would have it, two days later, what was thought to be the political assassination of the Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. John Robert Ouko on 13 February, 1990 linked him to yet another ‘suspicious look’ from Kenyans, as rumour had it that he “was released to kill Ouko” (Ombuor 2005:2).
Nevertheless, since his trading of the gun for a pen, and his subsequent release from Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, Kiriamiti has become a renowned philanthropist and social reformist rehabilitating street children and thieves in his rural Murang’a home. Besides writing novels, Kiriamiti also owns and edits a newspaper, The Sharpener, which he established after the government ban on the Gikuyu version, Inooro, in 1995. His later books, include Son of Fate (1994), the Sinister Trophy (2000) and My Life in Prison (2004)
Lars’ website: www.strangnasdeckaren.se