Ken Walibora's Remarkable Journey to 'Siku Njema'

  • Renowned author and journalist Ken Walibora. He passed away on Friday April 10, 2020.
    Renowned author and journalist Ken Walibora. He passed away on Friday, April 10, 2020.
    File
  • How does one write a story of one of if not, the greatest storytellers of our generation?

    Ken Walibora's untimely death on Friday, April 10, struck at the hearts of thousands of fans who have had the chance of going through any of his iconic books.

    The celebrated novelist and journalist was a man like few others, growing up to become a voice of authority in the field of Swahili Literature (Fasihi).

    A photo collage of former NTV and KBC anchor, the late Ken Walibora
    A photo collage of former NTV and KBC anchor, the late Ken Walibora
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    The Man

    Walibora was born on January 6, 1964, or 1965 (as he comically stated in his autobiography Nasikia Sauti ya Mama) at his parents’ home in Baraki, Bungoma.

    The gifted storyteller grew up in the village before moving to Kitale and later Cherangany.

    As the lastborn, he formed a very close relationship with his mother (Ruth Nasambu Makali), who he credited to his remarkable success until his very last day.

    It was his late mother who sparked his interest in the power of behind a good story, by reading him hundreds of stories during his younger years, while his father was away working as a school headteacher.

    Whenever he faced adversity such as been highlighted as one of the weakest pupils in class back in 1971, his mother would say, “You will do well. You are not stupid,” words he held on to until his very last day.

    The Myth

    Walibora is arguably one of the most gifted authors of our generation.

    It was his genius ability to paint pictures with words that endeared him to millions of avid fans including Deputy President William Ruto.

    "We are heartbroken by the passing away of Prof Ken Walibora Waliaula. He was an outstanding academic, ingenious author and a prolific journalist with a charming personality and humour," he tweeted.

    Some of the characters he built have gone on to become legends. Kongowea Mswahili was everybody's hero and his girlfriend and later wife, Vumilia Binti Abdalla, became a heartthrob just from his vivid description of her beauty.

    A collage of Swahili books Kufa Kuzikana (left) and Siku Njema (right) by the late author Ken Walibora
    A collage of Swahili books Kufa Kuzikana (left) and Siku Njema (right) by the late author Ken Walibora
    File

    Fasihi was not a favourite subject for most, but Walibora managed to transcend such myths, using nothing but his God-given wit and charm.

    The Legend

    Writing a single book is considered a great achievement, publishing over 40 titles places one firmly in the 'Legend' category, which is exactly what Walibora did.

    The prolific Kenyan author not only saw over 40 titles to his name but also had his most famous pieces Ndoto ya Amerika and Siku Njema, picked as secondary school compulsory readings between 1997 and 2003. 

    One of his other books, Kidagaa Kimemwozea has also been a compulsory text in secondary schools, running from 2013 to 2019.

    Prior to his death, Walibora served as the Kiswahili quality manager for the Nation Media Group (NMG) where he oversaw all the Kiswahili platforms, from newspapers to broadcasting as well as the Swahili Hub web portal.