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The Wretched Africans is evidence of Joe Khamisi being an Organic Intellectual

By Alexander Opicho

If I was Antonio Gramsci writing the Prison Diary I would have used Joe Khamisi as an example to explain what an Organic intellectual is. Just the same way I would have called him a reincarnation of Walter Rodney had I had a privilege to be an Indian dervish today. The reason why I would have done these two actions is because of the level of literary excellence Joe Khamisi have displayed in chronicling historical facts and experiences of the Indian ocean slavery that took place on the East coast of Africa for six centuries. It is the un-matched excellence that confirms Khamisi’s commitment to push the agenda of the wretched ex-slave societies from the East African region out of the deliberately perpetrated historical oblivion to attention of the world and to the attention of those of us who love facts and truth in the process of history. Such attributes cannot be found in a person with intellectual and economic as well as social success like that of Joe Khamisi, unless one is passionately a disciplined organic intellectual without any trouble to trace the orientation in traditional Marxism or conventional capitalist moralism.

They are such eventualities like the ones evinced in the intellectual progressivism of Joe Khamisi that one is not to be blamed for ecstatic joy in finding moral solace, intellectual pleasure and literary duty of concern in the words of the Chile born Comrade, Marta Harnecker (who died on 15 June 2019) which she said by quoting Karl Marx that, ‘there are heroes who don’t have time to learn and research, but have more than enough time for slogan-mongering, and have enough time to indulge in ignorance’. However, it is so unfortunate for such heroes because Marx have already warned them that ignorance brings no good. Rather, ignorance compresses one into anarchism, and encourages to declining looking at social process. Marx also warned that, unfortunately, the bourgeoisie want super-production of ignorant heroes spewing only slogans, and no effort for spadework, and no humbleness to learn.

Kudos Khamisi you have defied the bourgeoisie intellectual trappings that have held many back into a thralldom of eternal worship of the paymaster. In a sharp counterpoise, Joe Khamisi contrasts with the bourgeoisie glorified heroes condemned by Marx above to choose a humble way of research, knowledge, learning and practice of organic intellectual praxis is evidently observed in his book The Wretched Africans; A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements. First, on his menu of accolades, Khamis has dared into the realm of historical research which the eagles of history never dared to fly. And those that dared reduced themselves to the station of self-serving hawks in the likes of William Ochieng, Bethuel Alan Ogot, Gideon Saul Were and Fred Makila. They all refused to write true history by chronicling facts from the perspective of objective neutrality only to succumb to sweet call of ethnic sentimentality to write what their tribes would like to hear. The sentimentality that has left the learners of Kenyan history desperately feeding on texts and texts of ethnic narcissism written in total oblivion to the role of imperial capital, traditional political rapacity, racism, Indian opportunism, Arabic brutality, Christo-paganism, Islamic Negro-phobia and poverty of self-confidence. The cobblestones and super strong tessellations that paved strongly the road on which the perpetration of Indian ocean slavery on black Africans travelled successfully.

Front cover of Joe Khamisi’s book
One cannot help to explain why Kenyan bourgeoisie historians write to praise their tribes, to glorify their tribal political king-pins as they look for support from the political powers that be to achieve having all the means of silencing those who genuinely know but don’t own. They are the same in emotional texture as the commonplace Nairobi traditional intellectuals that have always campaigned and lobbied in the courts of the bourgeoisie media for literary prizes to be earned by one of their own for falsifying historical facts about Kenya’s struggle for freedom from colonialism, language for literature and other critical pillars in formation of national culture by ignoring slavery as if it is not a fact to know that history of Kenya is history of slavery. Just the same way history of east Africa’s coastal urbanization is nothing else but infrastructural and institutional development in support of buying and slaving of black slaves. And indeed, Joe Khamisi’s the Wretched Africans; A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements is a repertoire for the plethora of research credibility that appallingly establishes Zanzibar, Mombasa, Mikindani, Pemba, Malindi, Lamu and most of the Mozambican coastal towns as the slave buying centers from as early as 1400 to the time of British self-heroism as evinced in the likes of William Wilberforce. Textual efforts, I suppose having enough beauty that needs no foot-soldiers in campaigning spree and economic race to lodge at the ante chamber of Alfred Nobel.

Just but in a paraphrased parlance, lurks from page to page of The Wretched Africans; A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements a question in tune of; is auto-racism the highest stage of the Negro’s self-denigration? How comes Muhammed Tip Tippu the Arabic enslaver in a company of ten or less domestic black slaves could drive coffles and coffles of newly captured black slaves to a tune of thousand plus people form from Congo through Tanzania to Zanzibar to put them in wooden cabins and sell them away to India as throngs and throngs of African chiefs were standing looking on indolently? Contextually, I don’t have any fear that maybe the cardinal rules of syllogistic logic would apprehend me a bad child for my premise that five centuries of African enslavement were a choice. My badness in any case, case still be diluted into an objective observer standing on the shoulders of the chiefs of Ujiji to read my post graduate thesis in Listology of the black African chiefs and families that helped in buying and selling black slaves to the Arab, endian and European enslavers by starting with the Mazrui Family, Nabongo Mumia family, Amutalla Family to other families in Ukambani, Giriama , Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and congo but having the chiefs of Ujiji as their Bench mark. But what of the Self-slavers? They were a religion in the oppressive process of slavery.

Back to the source. Joe Khamisi. He writes like Walter Rodney in simplicity of Anton Chekov. He is an ex-slave like Alexander Pushkin living in America like Richard Wright. He is also a former career politician like Aime Ceasair but intellectually conscious like Leo Tolstoy though organically intellectual like the projections of Antonio Gramsci but very clean of ideology like a choir girl. His other spell-binding books are; Politics of Betrayal, Dash before Dusk and the digitally looted and vandalized thrilling historical documentary under the title Looters and Grabbers;54 years of Corruption in Kenya. The retailing value of The Wretched Africans; A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements a thousand shillings in Kenyan city bookshops. It is also available at Amazon, Good reads and also at Kenya National Library in Narok and Eldoret.

Alexander Opicho writes from Lodwar, Kenya [email protected]