Journal of English (Department of English Publications)
Introduction Literature is a creative art that deals with experience, imagination, history, culture and civilization of a people at a given period of time in spoken or written form. It is believed that literature expresses cultural and national consciousness of a people. Kotchy (1971) notes that a nation’s literature conveys its image and ideology and enables it become conscious of itself and its foundation. An artist does not need to be a politician before he comments on issues and events which concern his/her society. He/she is at any time a product of his/her society. Adeoti (2015: 6) remarks: For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a politician in the vocational sense of it, neither am I a political scientist. But I have an abiding exegetical interest in the study of manifestations of politics as thematic constructs in literary arts. Thus, I am fascinated by works of literature – drama, poetry, prose fiction, including popular literature – that address the mode of politics and governance in Africa and their implications for people’s development or lack of it. Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are East African countries. Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are also included in the African Great lakes region. In this article, we intend to study two East African writers to fill the yawning gap in the study of African literature. Socio-political consciousness in any literary work is the deliberate concern of a creative writer: a poet, a playwright, a novelist or an essayist, with the actions and events in the society where he/she lives. Committed writers are interested in sensitizing and mobilizing the public with a view to solving problems militating against the growth and the development of a given society and humanity in general. Committed writers are individuals that give a volte-face to oppressive government and governance during and after the colonial periods of African history. They reject colonization, oppression, repression, relegation, discrimination, subjugation and marginalization. Onyemelukwe (2004: 15) opines:
Onyemelukwe, I. Colonial, Feminist and Postcolonial Discourses: Decolonization and Globalization of African Literature. Zaria: Labelle Educational Publishers, 2004. Onyijen, K. O. “The Writer and Society: A Study of Jude Dibia’s Walking with Shadows”. Okike: An African Journal of New Writing, 54, 2015, pp. 109 – 125. Soyinka, W. Myth, Literature and the African World. Cambridge: CUP, 1976. TerseerAkwen, C. “Protest Literature as Socio-Political Discourse: A Study of Odia Ofeimun’s I will ask questions with stones if they take my voice”. Okike: An African Journal of New Writing, 54, 2015, pp. 45 – 60. Warren, A. And Wellek, R. Theory of Literature. 3rd [revised] ed. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1973.
Injustice, hostility, inhuman treatment, corruption and greed, among other things are ugly indicators of most developing human societies. Committed writers; poets, playwrights, novelists and essayists, who have shown much social concern for the development of their societies write convincingly to engage some of the social vices, which hinder happy human existence. This article, therefore, investigates the social ills in East African countries as expressed in the selected poems of Okot p’Bitek, Richard Ntiru, Amin Kassam and Jared Angira. Through close reading technique and content analysis, the study reveals that the selected poets are committed writers and their poems centre on condemnation of sordid human conditions and social injustice in East African society, in particular and human society in general. The poems have universal appeals to both the colonial era and the post-colonial political experiences. The study concludes that for African countries, in particular and the whole world in general; to move forward, social vices and all practices adjudged anti-progress must be avoided at all costs.