A comparative study of human rights issues in the novels of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Alex la Guma and Chinua Achebe.
Tugume, Benon Guarantee
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This study makes a comparative analysis of human rights issues depicted in the novels of Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Alex La Guma and Chinua Achebe. It discusses cultural rights violation and notes that in Ngugi and Achebe’s novels set in the colonial period, the White man through the church and mission schools violates the cultural rights of Africans by preaching against their culture. He calls Africans heathen and their cultural practices primitive. The White man’s aim of imposing his own culture on Africans is to change their perception of the world around them for easy exploitation of human and natural resources of Africa. In La Guma’s novels, the White establishment considers Blacks subhuman. They use racial discrimination to deny Black people the right to equality with Whites. Through racial discrimination and land alienation, Whites aim to economically disable Africans and turn them into workers on White farms and industries. The study examines the impact of the colonial system and apartheid system on women’s rights in Ngugi and Achebe’s novels; and in La Guma’s novels respectively. The findings reveal that the aforementioned systems exacerbate the conditions of women dominated by men for centuries under a patriarchal system. The study notes that in Achebe’s pre-colonial Ibo society, women are considered as part of man’s property and are not allowed to acquire leadership positions. In Ngugi’s novels, women are passive and subordinate to men either as wives or whores within the Kenyan capitalist economy. Similarly in La Guma’s novels women are passive. They are battered by their frustrated and dehumanized husbands as poverty bites African families. The study notes that the inequality and domestic violence women suffer destabilize the family and affect the growth and development of children. In Achebe’s pre-colonial Ibo society, children’s rights are subjected to the cultural demands of the family and society. Children are mistreated and sacrificed in fulfillment of cultural beliefs. In Ngugi’s novels the colonial system introduces African children to child labour and child soldiering. Children’s rights are also violated in schools by teachers first, by subjecting children to corporal punishment and second, by sexually abusing young girls. On the other hand La Guma’s children are neglected by their parents as families break due to poverty caused by land alienation and apartheid laws. The study examines the White man’s violation of Africans’ ownership rights to their land and labour in Ngugi and La Guma’s novels. Land alienation transforms Africans into proletariats. They are forced to supply cheap labour on farms and industries owned by Whites. Landlessness and poor working conditions ignite the spirit of nationalism which culminates into the struggle for freedom and self-determination. The study concludes by stating that the differences and similarities in the presentation of human rights issues noted above are a result of the authors’ ideological orientation as well as the history of their respective societies. Firstly, Ngugi and La Guma are Marxist writers while Achebe is a realist writer. Secondly, Kenya and South Africa experienced direct rule by White settlers while Nigeria experienced British indirect rule. Finally, the study recommends that since literature describes human rights issues very well, educators and human rights activists should use it to disseminate information on human rights to students and the general population respectively.