Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Fitz de Souza book launch in London


IF NOTHING else in this world, Fitz De Souza, has been perennially consistent. As a journalist, I don’t have the luxury of liking someone per se; I must not be biased or prejudiced in any way shape or form. However, that does not mean that I cannot make note of his or her good points. FDS has always been consistent since I first came to know him in 1960. We did not actually speak, he was a much older man than I even though the rest of the political gathering consisted of all older men.

I cannot ever remember FDS making a splash of any kind. Not in a newspaper, not on television, not on radio and certainly not in Parliament as the Honourable Deputy Speaker or in his role as the Member for Parklands, neither did he make any waves as a solicitor, except as the team defending the Kapenguria Six (including Jomo Kenyatta, all of whom were accused of Mau Mau activities). If memory serves me right, FDS was the only Asian officially elected member of Parliament. But there was one occasion when he did do all the talking: at one of the Lancaster House Independence Conferences where Kenyatta appointed him the main spokesman for the Kenya African National Union delegations. Otherwise, it was always "quietly does it", no waves, no headlines, no controversies … always under the radar. Oh yes, there was one headline, a small write-up and a photograph of Fitz held shoulder-high by supporters on the day he won the Parklands seat.

Fitz de Souza (bottom of the picture) with friends and family at the launch of his eye-opening book

That is until he published his brilliant account of Kenyan politics and politicians from Day One. In Forward to Independence Fitz de Souza My Memoir no one is spared his all-seeing eye and his ever alert ears. He has certainly made is first real splash in Kenya’s Daily Nation which has honoured him with a serialisation of sections of the book. According to friends in Kenya, the response has been stunning. No one expected the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Kenyatta, Mboya, Njonjo, McKenzie … and everyone else involved from 1960 to the first Cabinet in 1960. The book is indeed a revelation seldom seen in Africa. It has come as a breath of fresh air, long-awaited, long , long, awaited. I wonder if FDS has started a trend, at least in Kenya where no one will ever fear the truth again? If it transpires so, it will be his greatest legacy. No journalist could have achieved what FDS has. OK, he was brilliantly positioned but it still takes some doing to bring journalese to one’s writing, even if one is an exceptional politician.

I write the above because I have been itching to do it. It is also a tribute to his wife Romola and children that they achieved a minor miracle by getting the book self-published while FDS has been alive to see it in print.

OK, I started by telling you how FDS always flew under the radar so to speak. Well, he was flying under the radar of the media and the public a couple of weeks ago in central London (London School of Economics)  where the family quietly launched to family, friends and specially invited guests. Among the speakers was Dr Judith Heyer who has known the de Souza family for a few decades and Victoria Brittain, the former Guardian correspondent in Nairobi.

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