Prof Kivutha addresses social justice, youth issues in new poetry book

When former Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana interacted with pupils from Kitundu Primary School on the state of education in the County during a book distribution exercise. [File, Standard]

In a rather candid, subtle and bold approach, Professor Kivutha Kibwana's new book 'These Words: An Anthology of Poems' revisits Kenya's political history with pain.

Tracing beacons of political and social injustices as the drums of a new political era begun to roll in the country back in the 80s and 90s, Kivutha, the creative, immerses himself in deep thoughts. Off his chest, he narrates harsh realities he had first account of, some so blunt brutal atrocities inflicted on his friends, political activists and the ordinary man. A shoe wearer of a society seeking social sanity, he is a man afflicted in mental torture.

Yet, in these tell-it-all-tales, in his expression of heart, he still manages to remain reflective and human, bringing the matters in question home with a sigh of hope and fusing the agony with humour, romantic anecdotes and witty fables. How crafty literal this goes, taking us from war cries and echoes of despair in the streets of impunity to the love and adoration of his wife, Nazi Kivutha, and an intimate footnote on a daughter's fantasy lover.

At 68, Kivutha's life itself is many things in one and 'These Words: An Anthology of Poems' opens a new chapter to where he plans to go next. An accomplished lawyer, Professor Kibwana taught law at the University of Nairobi for 25 years. At the university, he also served as the Associate Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Law as well as a senior lecturer and chairman of the Department of Private Law before he made his exit in 2002 after which he was elected Member of Parliament for Makueni Constituency.

The lawmaker was then appointed Minister of Environment and Natural Resources and come 2008, he was appointed as Presidential Advisor for Constitutional, Parliamentary and Youth Affairs in the Office of the President before getting elected the first Governor of Makueni Country in 2013. Kivutha is credited for his role in the push for constitutional change and political reforms and as a human rights activist. However, many may not know his passion for writing and his love for theatre as well as the creative sector in youth related matters.

Now, he wants to impact the young people in ensuring that they get empowered by creating opportunities for their talents, something he passionately stresses with conviction.

The release of the new poetry book 'These Words: An Anthology of Poems' adds to his wealth of authored books among them poetry books some done in his Kamba dialect. In 1974, he published Utisi, a playbook that was followed by yet another playbook The Grand Race. Kanzala and Walk with Me God. In 1999, he published Melodies of the Motherland that was followed by Ngaeka Waeka: Myali Ya Kiikamba Poems published in 2010 among others. Some of his novels are incomplete and still being worked on among them Season of Sowing.

Speaking at the full capacity attendance launch at Ufungamano House, Nairobi, where various attendees among them Reverend Timothy Njoya spoke of the sentimental memories the venue held in the struggle for multiparty democracy, Kibwana highlighted some of the key moments in the making of the book.

"This collection of poems has a bit of a long history. A few of them were penned in the 80s and most of them in the 90s. Others in the 2000s, and a few in 2010s. There is a sense in which they were written a while back and some of them where published in 'Melodies of the Motherland: An Anthology of Poems from Kenya' published in 2000. Most of the poems speak about a period in our country, post 1982, when authoritarianism, as Reverend (Timothy) Njoya has indicated, was the order of the day. The drafts of some of these poems where actually done here when we would congregate and think of how to renew our country especially our constitution," Kivutha said.

"One of the things that stood out for me then is the way young people really wanted change for their country. They wanted comprehensive reforms not minimum reforms and they were right in that it took longer when we stood for minimum reforms. The likes of Kepta Ombati who initially led by the Youth Agenda. In these poems I luminism them. Some of these poems are about those struggles. They paid a heavy price. Some where killed, they were shot, put in prisons and even others chased from university," Kivutha noted.

In one of the poems 'Last Respect' the author eulogises some of the youth who died in the struggle among them Solomon Mururi, Festo Etaba, Okeng'o Kenneth, Makokha Mukabi and Eric Mutwiri.

"They will kill you in the morning, they will kill you at noon, they will kill you in the evening, they will kill you in the night. Like hounds, they will seek youthful blood. They will seek to nap innocent energy, daring, creative, innovative and unfolding vision. They will seek to destroy the foundation of the future," the poem reads in part.

The 115-page book published by One Planet Publishing and Media Services Limited has a collection of 47 poems has been described as a collection of poems that give a reflection on the quest for freedom in the life and world of both the writer and the reader. The poems offer the reader incisive, fascinating as well as insights into a wide variety of social challenges; poverty, oppression, politician violence, ethnic conflict and death.

Consequently, and as a countermeasure to these vices, the writer invokes God and exemplifies great optimism for a better future for the youth, their nation and continent, and the world beyond.

"Democracy is the obligation to care for one another. In our traditional societies, every child was everybody's neighbour so democracy is practiced by taking care of each other, and one another. If you look at democracy where the poor are not taken care of, then you don't understand Kibwana's poems. He calls himself the street child, he calls himself the youth, a raped woman. He is identifying himself with the plight of the poor," emphasized Njoya as he acknowledged that the book shares ideals of true love as it exposes unbelievable things humans do to one another; celebrating heroes and heroines of freedom, demystifying spirituality, and envisioning a 'country' yonder.