On March 12, Mukoma wa Ngugi, the Kenyan American poet and author, who is the son of Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the famed writer widely seen as a giant of African literature, took to X, formerly Twitter, to allege that his father was an abusive husband.

“My father Ngugi wa Thiong’o physically abused my late mother. He would beat her up. Some of my earliest memories are of me going to visit her at my grandmother’s where she would seek refuge.”

Mukoma’s tweet went viral and solicited hundreds of responses that exposed the long, dark shadow patriarchy continues to cast over many African societies.

Sure, many commentators thanked Mukoma for sharing his account of a man who is not only his father, but an African cultural icon.

Others, however, were less complimentary and appeared to be gravely offended by his openness. They accused him of embarrassing his father and seeking validation from Westerners.

Mukoma’s assertions, some claimed, was a “consequence of Western education”. It is, they suggested, “un-African” to speak out against one’s father, more so to thousands and potentially millions of strangers.

Ten days after his initial statement, on March 23, Mukoma responded to the criticism he received for speaking up for his mother.

“We cannot use African culture to hide atrocities,” he wrote on X. “My father beat up my mother. What is African about that?”



Reactions from Uyo Book Club Members on UBC Whatsapp Group

Anie Sunny Udoh

“Intelligent write-up.

Informed, persuasive, and balanced. ????????

Mukoma’s X(Twitter) rant confirms the saying that ‘the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree’. He is indeed the true son of his father, Ngugi wa Thiong’o – deviant, unconformist, and revolutionary in words, deeds, and spirit. Mukoma, born in the USA in 1971 and schooled there, is known as a novelist, poet, and literary scholar in his own right. By going public with such a private matter of his family at this time – 28years after the mother’s death (she died in 1996) and his father, an authentic African elder statesman, at 86years of age – suggest to me that his  intentions are highly suspect. At any rate, I see no point in crying more than the bereaved in the family matter of the Ngugis. The literary legend – Ngugi wa Thiong’o may well be smeared in the sensational social media for a while but it does not dilute his rich talent or diminish the enviable heights of his literary output and achievement. For me, it’s a challenge for the self-styled innocent to throw the first stone or let the sleeping dog lie.”


Aniekpeno Mkpanang

“I’ve just glanced yet again at the timepiece.

It’s well past Monday and we are already into Tuesday morning.

Since last Friday when Dr. Udeme Nana urged the members of the Uyo Book Club to bring up their thoughts on the discourse concerning Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and his son, I’ve been battling with the deep urge to have some say and the fear of not having to.

Ordinarily I would have pacified myself as always to read from the depth of the members’ wisdom especially as I consider the Uyo Book Club one of Nigeria’s highest informal Institutions of Higher Learning.

But then, the more I tried to shy away from commenting (with the fear of the super writers on this forum being the beginning of wisdom for me), the more I failed to hem my instincts in.

So now, more than three days after; here it is.

Da Udeme and my highly respected members of the Uyo Book Club whose pen-graced shoe strings I may not be qualified to untie.

Permit me to say that I write to you today with mixed feelings, as we witness the unfolding of a deeply personal and distressing family matter involving one of Africa’s most esteemed literary figures, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. The recent revelation made by his son, accusing him of being a domestic abuser and beating his late mother, has sparked a profound and necessary conversation that resonates far beyond the boundaries of their own family.

In times like these, it is important for us to approach such matters with utmost sensitivity, understanding, and empathy. The allegations made by Ngugi’s son have possibly or probably or have perhaps undoubtedly shaken our perception of the author, challenging our preconceived notions and forcing us to confront the complexities of human nature.

As writers and thinkers, you are no strangers to delving into the depths of the human condition. You are acutely aware that individuals can possess both greatness and flaws, capable of producing brilliant works of art while also succumbing to personal shortcomings. It is in this realm of duality that we must navigate the discussion surrounding Ngugi’s alleged actions.

First and foremost, it is crucial to acknowledge the courage and strength it takes for someone to come forward and share painful experiences of abuse. The son’s words should not be dismissed or disregarded, as they shed light on a deeply troubling aspect of family life that often remains hidden behind closed doors. It is a stark reminder that greatness in one aspect of life does not exempt anyone from accountability in another.

However, it is equally important to remember that these allegations are just that – allegations. As observers, it is not our place to pass judgment or cast definitive conclusions. The truth of the matter lies within the realm of personal experiences (and possibly, the legal system, should it be pursued). Your role, as intellectuals and lovers of literature, is to engage in a thoughtful and nuanced discussion while respecting the rights and dignity of all parties involved.

In contemplating this situation, you must also consider the impact it may have on Ngugi’s body of work and his legacy. Can we separate the art from the artist? This question has plagued the artistic world for centuries, and there is no easy answer. Each of you must grapple with your own moral compass and decide how you will approach this situation in terms of the literary contributions of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

As we engage in this discourse, let us remember the importance of empathy and compassion. Let us not allow our admiration for an author’s work to blind us to the realities of the human experience. Let us cultivate an environment where survivors of abuse feel supported and heard, knowing that their stories matter and their pain is acknowledged.

This is a challenging and deeply personal journey for all involved, and it is our duty to approach it with the utmost respect, sensitivity, and intellectual rigour. By doing so, we can contribute to a broader discussion surrounding the complexities of art, morality, and the responsibility of artists within our society.

In solidarity and with profound contemplation, I am yours very sincerely,

Aniekpeno Mkpanang.”


Senator Ekong Sampson

“In my stop-over in Kenya the other day, en route Rwanda, the one feeling that readily came over me was Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Kenya has three heritage exports to the world-Obama, Kenyatta, and, yes, Ngugi. I have read the content and workings of the great writer’s mind, through Weep Not Child, Devil on the Cross, The Trial of Dedan Kimathi, Petals of Blood, etc. It was not for nothing that we named the rare hotel library, in Watbridge, Ngugi wa Thiong’o Guest Library, here in Uyo. It became an instant tourism haven of sorts.

Against this backdrop, my interest in the comments by Ngugi’s son, Mukoma, about how his father treated Mukoma’s mother is understandable.  My support for gender, and indeed the larger strata of human rights, has motivated my public service. I can reveal to UBC members that in the Senate I am a very enthusiastic member of the Committee on Women Affairs. My beautiful wife bought me my Senate nomination form in the first place-she herself works in the Senate. You need to look at my two daughters!

Mukoma has stirred a conversation for a continent where vistas of women’s rights are far from being fully documented and respected. There are however many who might wonder why his mother herself did not raise the alarm, if valid; or why he waited this long to say something on the matter. In any case, the average African would be more rattled by some disclosure that a celebrity has been gay all along, than in a report of a husband-wife scuffle at home, regardless of who ended up with swollen eyes or a bandaged forehead. Yet we must all work to mediate the conflict of laws and the clash of cultures, towards reasonable, compatible and humane standards.

Between the public activist and the closet violator lies a curious persona. My attempt to probe beyond layers tasked me to frame one of my favourite poems, Masks, in 2019:

 We wear masks

 Thick masks

 While we drive against the traffic

 Then head to worship.


In public we hang SARS

At home we beat our wives….

Then head to worship.

I do not know the type of relationship Ngugi enjoys with Mukoma. Prof Ime Ikiddeh, who could have told us, has since left our parts. If the young Ngugi wants to be a revolutionary, like his father, and begins from the home turf, he sure has a job on his hands. But the world will forever remember his great father beyond wife beating: as a great thinker who helped give Kenya and Africa identity in courage and literature.”


Michael Bush

“The tragedy of manhood -yes, manhood- is that when a wife says her husband is a bed-wetter, the latter (no matter how innocent ) would require divine intervention to be discharged and acquited in the court of public opinion.

Without unnecessarily defending the iconic writer’s shenanigans, is it possible that his son is just out to extract his pound of flesh, falsely? …B”

Prof Des Wilson
“Why not? We do separate the dog from its vomit! Take Samuel Taylor Coleridge for example. His art is great but he often got himself drowned in morphine. James Brown? He was one of the greatest soul singers and dancer. His music and cultural reawakening made him the greatest stage artiste of my time but his family life was in shambles. Imagine when he passed on, controversies almost ruined his funeral. Even our revered Kongi has had his fair share of marital troubles. Fela, our Fela: who could take his life as a model? Those who have escaped critical public scrutiny may be counted lucky. Don’t condemn until you have been in their shoes for one day. Neither should we justify the psychological disconnect and contradictions in the lives of some of our near-eccentric celebrities.”
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