AO: This excerpt from the interview describes why Ukombozi Library was seen to be needed -- especially highlighting the perceived gap in progressive content in publically accessible libraries and learning institutions. Ukombozi is able to fill this gap through content such as the donated underground library originally set up by Nazmi Durrani.
The need for such a library follows from the fact that progressive literature has over the years been ignored by most institutions — libraries as well as learning institutions. Young people with passion to bring about improvement in the country and thirsty for materials that would inspire them in their quest for social justice get disappointed as such materials are hard to come by. Public and academic libraries have been deprived of funding by government policies and survive mostly on donations from overseas. While many such donations are of good quality material, as for example those donated by institutions such as Book Aid International, they reflect a capitalist worldview and obscure the fact that alternative systems, viewpoints and ideas that may be more relevant to Kenya exist. These remain outside Kenyan boundaries since they are not part of the donated packages.
The few available materials can only be found in bookshops and are too expensive for the majority of the population, especially the youth. The problem is made worse by the fact that most of the bookshops tend to shy away from storing those materials as not many people buy them, concentrating more on fast-moving academic books instead.
In contrast, PALIAct has an initial collection of almost a thousand titles of progressive materials, mostly books but also pamphlets, videos and photographs. It incorporates DTM’s underground library set up by Nazmi Durrani and donated to the Movement on his untimely death by his family. A majority of these are classics are either out of print or cannot be found in the local bookshops. Other material has been donated by the Mau Mau Research Centre, Vita Books and many individuals active in the information struggle in Kenya.
(Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru)