The Havoc of Choice

by Wanjiru Koinange

This is a ravishing story that tackles elitism and the problem of class in Kenya through multiple perspectives experiencing the Election period and the post-election violence of the 2008 Kenyan Election. It really allowed me to reflect on my own privileges. As the violence awakens at the closing of the year, the few people who are secured with immense police protection are those in the ‘safer areas’ of Nairobi. The promise of peace and security are only for those who can buy into it. It begins with a rather peaceful description of an Upper-middle class family going about their lives, with a house in the Nyari Estate, a couple of house-helps and a driver. As the story unfolds, we read into the lives of the parents from their years as university students, allowing us to see the struggles of adulthood, marriage and the pressures of gender stereotypes. We then follow the children as they tackle the world, witnessing the violence with naivety and hope for a better Kenya. Then, at the height of violence, and peak of emotion, Koinange delves deep into the lives of those who work for the family. Their lives are shaken up further each day, as the violence surges on. The emotive language and the intimacy of individual stories through the novel, make for personal connections with each character and a unique empathy that I have not experienced in many stories. With an over-arching story circled around pain and patrioty, the people are pieced together eloquently, as though moulding limbs onto a body. This book was the highlight of my year and would highly recommend.

Amy Migunda

Rating: 5 Recommend



I personally loved The Havoc of Choice especially because it was much closer to home. It talked about events that I know very well which was the 2007-2008 post-election vioilence and I feel it was represented quite well. The book is written from the view of the Ngugi family. There is Ngugi, his wife Kavata, and their two children, Wanja and Amani. The book starts on a normal Sunday after church where Kavata invites the pastor and his wife for lunch at their home. As she finishes cooking, Kavata says she forgot to buy the ice-cream for dessert and says she needs to rush to the supermarket and so goes with their driver, Thuo. Instead, Kavata asks Thuo to take her to the airport and drop her off and tells him to say that he dropped her off at her bestfriend’s house. Kavata is the daughter of Hon. Muli, the former MP of Machakos who ran for the longest and was infamous for corruption, and so naturally, Kavata did not like her father an wanted to be away from him and all his money as much as he offered to support her and her husband. Ngugi was an architect and after he had finished schooling and married Kavata, he got his first big project (although suspicious) for building affordable, sustainable housing for the poor. Ngugi was praised by people all over but after a few years later, a scandal came out where the houses were revealed to be under the names of Muli’s associates and not the people Ngugi chose and so his reputation was destroyed all because of Kavata’s father while he remained untouched. And so when Ngugi later announced that he would run for the MP of Machakos with the help of Hon. Muli, Kavata was surprised but more so disappointed. So much so, that she was depressed for almost a year, refused to talk to her husband and decided that she had to desert him and go to the US just days before the election. A few days after she had left, Kavata’s bestfriend, gave Ngugi a letter written by her saying it was his choice that led her to leave him and that people’s choices can wreak havoc on other people’s lives. Another demonstration of what she said happened with the election. Because Muli and other parties were corrupt, they put agents at the polling stations but they were not vetted because of the inconvenience of elections happening during Christmas and many agents took a lot of time sending these results back. Because the results delayed, many Kenyans sensed foul play and when a Kikuyu won the presidency, when they were not majority at the time, there was outrage. Luos and Kalenjins were killing kikuyus all over Kenya while Kikuyus did the same to Luos and Kalenjins and it was dangerous to be in a town that wasn’t your tribes. It reached the point where Kikuyu people, including women and children were burned in a church in Eldoret (which is true) and this shows how all the crooked politicians did not see what their actions would do to the country and only cared about winning no matter what. This shows that as a leader, you should think about how your choices will affect others and all your choices should always be to their best interest.

Irene Nyambura 

Rating: 4 Interesting