The Havoc of Choice

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The Havoc of Choice
AuthorWanjiru Koinange
GenreHistorical Fiction
PublishedNovember, 2019 Bunk Books
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages364 pp

The Havoc of Choice is a novel by Kenyan author Wanjiru Koinange. Published in November 2019 by Bunk Books. The novel tells the story of the Kenyan Post Election Violence (PEV)[1] through the perspective of four characters, Kavata, Wanja, Ngugi, and Thuo.[2]


The novel takes place in Kenya in the weeks before, during, and after the Kenyan general elections of 2007. The effect of the post-election violence (PEV)[3] is shown through the relationships of various people’s lives including the daughter of a corrupt politician, the husband running for political office, the retired corrupt politician, the politician’s granddaughter, a househelp, and a driver.

During the lead-up to the general election, the lives of the main characters change dramatically and they’re torn apart by the choices they make in their personal lives and the brutality that ensues.[4]

When the violence breaks out, each of the characters in the book is in a different part of the country, and through their attempts to travel back to Nairobi - the reader is exposed to all the ways that PEV affected different parts of the country.


Kavata - One of the main characters through which the story is told. She is the daughter of a retired politician, Hon. Muli and the wife to Ngugi. Kavata was raised in Kenya and attended university in Kenya. It was at university that she met her husband and learned about the extent of her father’s involvement in corruption. She is the mother of Wanja and Amani. She runs away from home a few days to the election. Her choice to disappear without notifying her family has a terrible domino effect.[5]

Ngugi - Ngugi starts the novel as a disgraced former government employee who is now running for a political post. He is Kavata’s husband and Wanja and Amani’s father. He has a frosty relationship with his daughter Wanja and later on regrets not following advice that she gave him. He comes off as naive and timid during the run-up to the elections. He lets his father-in-law take care of everything, despite protests from his wife, Kavata.

Wanja - Wanja starts the novel as a university student. She is Kavata and Ngugi’s firstborn child and the older sister to Amani. She joins the opposition party’s campaign team as a communications officer. Her relationship with her father is hostile.

Thuo - The novel starts with Thuo as the family’s driver. He’s looking forward to being a politician’s driver once Ngugi wins the election. He is held illegally by the police at the request of Hon. Muli. They claim he has a hand in the disappearance of Kavata. He is Cheptoo’s husband. Even though they come from different tribes, he loves her dearly.

Amani - Kavata and Ngugi’s lastborn child.

Hon. Muli - A corrupt retired member of parliament (MP) and Kavata’s father. Jane’s former boss.

Mrs. Muli - Hon. Muli’s wife. The matriarch of the family.

Cheptoo - Thuo’s wife. She is from a different tribe than her husband. She is described as one with a large personality.

Schola - A house help in Ngugi’s home. She travels to her home town and is caught up in the midst of the violence

Jane - Ngugi’s campaign manager and Hon. Muli’s former secretary.

Tom - Campaign manager in the opposition party. He recruits Waja to join their team


Post-Election Violence The Kenyan 2007-2008 Post Election Violence (or PEV) or the 2007-2008 Kenyan crisis on 27th December 2007 and ended on 28th February 2008. The violence broke out due to political and ethnic struggles. The electoral process was marred with irregularities and the electoral commission didn’t do a lot to quell the allegations of rigging. Civil war broke out with supporters of the different political parties taking to the streets to display their anger. Many lives were lost during the violence and thousands were displaced from their homes.

The story in The Havoc of Choice centers post election violence. Wanjiru realised that people's experience of PEV was dependent on their affluence levels. She aims for the book to serve as a historical record and examine why people have forgotten. Wanjiru says, “I don’t know if there’s a problem a book can’t fix.”[6]

Tribalism is a major theme in The Havoc of Choice. Targeted ethnic violence erupted and escalated countrywide. People turned on each other. The novel uses Thuo and Cheptoo's marriage to showcase love that doesn't recognize tribe. Through various scenes we see how different characters navigate their lives at the height of violence.[7]

Politics and elections in Africa The story in The Havoc of Choice centers on politics and elections. Ngugi receives unwavering support from Hon. Muli to run for the same political post he had held for years. From availing unlimited funds for the campaigns to introducing him to other powerful, yet retired corrupt politicians. We see how corruption plays out in government institutions and how only a few people rob the nation out of millions meant for development.

Police brutality - The Havoc of Choice is heavily critical of the police and law enforcement. The author juxtaposes how the rich are treated by the police versus how the poor are treated by the police.

Marriage is a recurrent theme in The Havoc of Choice. For the most part of the novel, we see how the different spouses handle their marriages. Kavata and Ngugi’s marriage is on the rocks, she makes the choice to leave Ngugi if he continues vying for the political post. Thuo and Cheptoo’s marriage is a happy one. They love each other and have mutual respect for each other.


In a review for Champaca Books, Radhika Timbadia said this about the novel, "Read this book for an engaging story set in a fascinating country, to broaden your horizons and be left with a yearning to know and see more."[7]

On January 29th 2020, The Havoc of Choice was listed in Kenya's People Daily as the top novel to read in 2020. [8]


Wanjiru Koinange (November 2019), The Havoc of Choice. ISBN: 978-9966-8220-0-0

In the media



  1. Rice, Xan (2008-01-28). "Death toll nears 800 as post-election violence spirals out of control in Kenya". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  2. Burgwal, Daphne van de (2019-08-28). "Book Bunk Story Café Special". Glasgow Women's Library. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  3. Lafargue, Jérôme; Katumanga, Musambayi (2008-04-01). "Kenya in Turmoil: Post-Election Violence and Precarious Pacification". Les Cahiers d’Afrique de l’Est / The East African Review (38): 11–32. ISSN 2071-7245.
  4. "FICTION. Chand Meira SACRED WATERS. Trisha Das KAMA S LAST SUTRA. Noelle de Jesus- CURSED AND OTHER STORIES - A Short Story Collection - PDF Free Download". Retrieved 2020-07-26.
  5. Koinange, Wanjiru (2014). "The Havoc of choice".
  6. Burgwal, Daphne van de (2019-08-28). "Book Bunk Story Café Special". Glasgow Women's Library. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Book Review — Wanjiru Koinange's "The Havoc of Choice"". Champaca Bookstore, Library and Cafe. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  8. "New Year resolutions: Ten novels you should read in 2010". People Daily. 2020-01-28. Retrieved 2020-07-21.

External links

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