Title: The Jail Bugs
Author: Wahome Mutahi
Pages: My hard copy 194
Genre: Fiction, crime, journal
Published: 1st published 1992
My rate: 4/5
“Let us start by way of one-way introduction. It has got to be in a one-way introduction because you are out there and I am in here…”
Dang! Don’t we just love it when authors kick off books with a unique style? That is how the late Wahome Mutahi flirted my mind. No P/F/120 or simply call him Albert Kweyu, has been sentenced for ten months at the Wakora Wengi Prison for having hit a child when the brakes of his car failed. The book jump starts with the first 24 hours inside the jail and so far “the only thing they have not taken is my face but I can see myself losing it very soon. If the men in uniform continue dispensing slaps the way they are doing, I can see myself having a new face…”
The Jail Bugs drives a reader to life in prison where one has to fake diseases in the name of special diet, forge relationships with the bad guys to avoid enemity, to not give a hoot about cleanliness, forget about the Prisons Act, respect the wardens, adjust to the blood sucking bugs, learn sniper moves to do some prison break, and act like you got this-you can survive jail term! Mutahi’s characters are well named with Swahili names taking the lead each giving a significance meaning to them. Take for instance Mister Charge who bosses prisoners around, Kajuma a reserved man, Kazi Moto one not to be disobeyed, Fixer the fixing guy, Mnyonge one who has been denied to air his voice, Haki for justice, Sergeant Pilipili among others.
Carol, Kweyu’s wife has not visited him since he came to this prison and the only visit he has had is that of his brother asking him of the whereabouts of the Title Deed. Albert can smell betrayal from afar but he keeps his calm till he decides to appeal his case. This is after realizing the many prisoners at Wakora never went to school and never knew a thing about the law. He resumes the duty of a pro-bono making him their savior. More so, wardens bring letters from their wives for him to interpret.
News spread far and wide that some prisoners are set to acquire their freedom status upon visitation of a certain minister who doesn’t show up after sabotage. Fate has it that Albert receives more charges when a contraband (letter) is found at his disposal and like any other corrupt system his charges go from “dangerous driving” to “illegal possession of a pencil and paper contrary to well-known prison regulations. Two, communication with outsiders through a prohibited way that is by letter. Three and most serious, making malicious charges against Wakora Wengi Prison in general and the prison system by telling your wife, or is she a concubine, that you are oppressed here and that nobody cares.” This foresees a move from the prison residential block to the isolation block. It is on 12th December a day significant to Kenya’s history that Albert is set free but he is no happy man since the appeal hasn’t been heard yet.
The chronicles of this novel begin from Friday, November 26 to Sunday December 12th more of a journal inside prison and what each day entailed. Told in the most satirist way, Wahome never goes wrong with jail material. He knows the prison walls more than us and who can write a better jail book rather than a once upon a time prisoner? As always, Whispers publications on the Daily Nation are forever missed.