by Jeremy Murray-Brown

Ian Duffield | Published in

To write a critical biography of a powerful living political leader – as opposed to hagiography, knock-about iconoclasm or bland instant journalism – is a difficult task. Nevertheless, this has been attempted in Kenyatta, first published in 1972, now reappearing after its subject's death. Kenyatta's life, beginning when the British presence was still scarcely felt in Kikuyuland, epitomised the brevity of white rule in most of Africa, which he was triumphantly to outlive. Yet he already seems an almost remote figure; he belonged to the transitory colonial era, and to that of 'transfer of power' (when, many now believe, the trappings rather than the reality of independence were conceded). Revolutionary martyrs like Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, tyrannical monsters such as Macias of Equatorial Guinea, Julius Nyerere with his protracted struggle to resolve the problems of creating a fully independent, humane and socially just society in a poor country, not to mention military rulers, seem more typical of modern African leadership.

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