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Nairobi, 13 March 2024: Amnesty International Kenya offers its deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Dr. Henry Chakava. After over five decades of publishing, Dr. Chakava passed away on the dawn of International Women’s Day, March 8.

As the driving force behind Heinemann Publishers and then the East African Educational Publishers Limited, Dr. Chakava championed the freedom of expression. He courageously published authors such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Micere Githae Mugo, Grace Ogot, David Rubadiri, Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo among others at a time when their calls for equality and human rights was considered subversive by their governments.

These patriotic efforts did not come without personal cost. Dr. Henry Chakava was personally intimidated, assaulted, and threatened with the fate of detention without trial and exile that was forced on many of his writers Amnesty International adopted as Prisoners of Conscience in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite this, he remained steadfast in his support for academic freedom and freedom of conscience.

As captured in the many public tributes offered by colleagues, authors he published, and the public, Henry Chakava lived a courageous and extraordinary life. Amnesty International Kenya chooses to remember Dr. Chakava as a firm defender of the rights, freedoms and responsibilities contained in the Constitution of Kenya, decades before their recognition in law.

He must be remembered for his vital role in decolonising the power English had over Kenyan literature, education, and commerce leading to publication of several African poetry, plays and storytelling books in Kiswahili and other African languages.

His legacy lives on in the generations of bold writers he inspired and the literary legacy of the Africa Writers Series that still commands international respect. Thank you, Dr. Henry Chakava for your unwavering commitment to nurturing a generation of fearless voices.

Thank you for the rights we enjoy today.

Image Credit: BBC

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