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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for I Refuse to Die
Book cover for I Refuse to DieBook cover for I Refuse to Die

Foreword by Kerry Kennedy and Nan Richardson

An extraordinary account of how a laborer's son rose to challenge the power of despots, I Refuse to Die is both the autobiography of one gifted man who rose above the horrors of colonization, and an uncensored history of modern Kenya. The book is infused with the freedom songs of the Kenyan people, as well as dream prophecy and folk tales that are part of Kenya's rich storytelling tradition. Tracing the roots of the Mau Mau rebellion, Koigi wa Wamwere follows the evolution and degeneration of Jomo Kenyatta and the rise of Daniel arap Moi.

In 1979, wa Wamwere won a seat in the parliament, where he represented the economically depressed Nakuru district for three years. An outspoken activist and journalist, wa Wamwere was framed and detained on three separate instances, spending thirteen years in prison, where he was tortured but not broken. His mother and others led a hunger strike to free him and fellow political prisoners. Their efforts brought about a show trial at which Koigi was sentenced to four more years in prison and "six strokes of the cane." He escaped Kenya—and probably execution—only through the exertions of human rights groups and the government of Norway.

Book cover for I Refuse to Die
Book cover for I Refuse to DieBook cover for I Refuse to Die

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“This strange and powerful work mixes memoir, social history, polemic, and manifesto … A terrifying work of enormous importance that contrasts humanity with bestiality, dignity with depravity.”

“Fascinating … It is difficult to complete I Refuse to Die without admiring Koigi's selflessness and courage.”

“Gripping … Despite his personal suffering and Kenya's struggles through colonial and postcolonial strife, wa Wamwere exhibits resilience and optimism in his inspiring autobiography.”

“… a passionate and poignant testimony to the struggle of one man—and by that I also mean one family and one people—to remember and survive the evil lessons of history. But it is also much more than that. Koigi wa Wamwere, in life and print, challenges us to make freedom a word that means something tangible for all.”

Koigi wa Wamwere

Koigi wa Wamwere is a political activist and writer. Born in Kenya in 1949, he has been fighting for social change in his home country for decades. He was imprisoned in Kenya five times between 1975 and 1996, spending a total of thirteen years in prison, including periods during which he was tortured. His execution was averted only by the combined efforts of the Norwegian government and human rights activists around the world. Today, wa Wamwere continues to put his life on the line for human rights, inspiring those around him with his clear vision and personal strength. He lives in New York City and Kenya.