Govt rejects Catholics' call for set books ban

The Government will not concede to demands by the Catholic Church to ban certain set books being used in secondary schools.

Speaking to local and international publishers gathered in Nairobi yesterday, an Assistant Minister for Education, Dr Kilemi Mwiria, said such demands were not credible and will not be implemented.

Mwiria also hinted that certain publications, which were banned by the previous regime may soon be allowed into the market because the earlier action was taken at the whims of certain individuals.

He was speaking at Sarit Centre during the official opening of the sixth edition of Nairobi International Book Fair.

The exhibition, which started on September 26 attracted several local and international publishing firms, book sellers, leading academia, students and other stakeholders.

Among those who addressed yesterday's event included chairman of the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), Mr Barrack Muluka and representative of several publishing firms.

Mwiria also launched the Wahome Mutahi Literary Award which attracted donations of Sh250,000 from publishers and another Sh100,000 from Text Book Centre (TCB).

The new award is in honour of the late humour columnist and playwright, Wahome Mutahi alias Whispers, who died in August.

Speaking for the publishers, Muluka criticised demands by religious organisations that certain publications be banned as they were harmful to students.

Catholic Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a' Nzeki has recently spoken publicly against the publications claiming they were teaching immorality to students.

He identified A man of the People by Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, and Mohammed S Mohammed's Kiu and Kitumbua Kimeingia Mchanga.

Said Muluka: "The spectre of censorship today ominously stares us in the eye where it is stalking us like some wicked beast."

Without mentioning names, Muluka charged that a certain religious organisations had sponsored an amorphous group, which was putting pressure on the Government to ban certain publications from schools.

"People of good conscience all over the world have been greatly perturbed in recent times (by) a sect within one of our churches which has sponsored an amorphous group of fundamentalists under the curious tag of 'parents caucus'," he said.

He said the church had a "gloomy mission" of re-introducing censorship in Kenya under the guise it was on a holy mission to kick out pornography out of classrooms.

Muluka claimed those making such demands do not understand the difference between literature that edifies on one hand and pornography on the other.

Muluka also criticised high taxes levied by Government claiming it was an impediment to the development of publishing firms.

He appealed for restriction of the number of books any school can use per subject and encourage diversity of publications.

"We have no doubt at all the best book policy for schools is one which approves all good books for use in schools..." he said.

Mwiria said the Government will support openness and reading of literature for what it is and censorship will not be allowed.

He was applauded after he declared that gone were the days when the Government used to ban publications at the whims of an individual politician.

"The Government will not decide what Kenyans should read. We have come out of this era," he said.

Mwiria promised to raise the issue of high taxes with the Ministry of Finance at a later date.