Friday, 16 November 2012

Tribal Gathering by Kenneth Ryeland

Book Title:  Tribal Gathering

ISBN  9781458177865

Part of Series:  This book is one of several by the author dealing with the post-colonial African theme.  (The author’s website may be accessed here.  )

Author:  Kenneth Ryeland

Available at:  Smashwords 

Price:  $2.99

Number of words (approximately):  104592

Star Rating (of five):  4

Summary:  The book contains eight short stories, one of which, ‘Boom Town’ has been reviewed by us.  The stories are set in an imaginary West African republic, Nibana, which has been given independence by the British, and is undergoing the painful process of finding its own feet.  The problems of bribery, corruption and governmental incompetence are typical of almost every newly-independent African country.  The people described are typical of the peope in those countries.


- The police, having retrieved their Land-Rover from George’s driveway, loaded Idewu’s body and his smashed bicycle into the back of the vehicle and delivered him to the township morgue and the bicycle to the police station as evidence.

Baku prayed hard during the remaining hours of darkness and come the dawn he went home, his mind numb and his body weak from the sorrow and remorse that had descended upon him.

The police officers returned to the scene of the burglary the following morning and took statements from George Harlow and his night watch.  They then visited the steward’s quarters at the bottom of George’s compound, promptly arrested the steward and removed him to a cell at the police station; this being the normal procedure in Nibana of course. The police had worked out a long time ago that domestic burglaries, especially when a European’s house had been the target, invariably involved the steward.  It took only ten minutes of punching and kicking to get the steward to admit to his part in the crime and tell the police the name of the dead burglar. Several hours later the officers had to concede that the steward did not know Idewu’s address, but by then he had been permanently crippled.  The two police officers, having rendered their only source of information unable to speak, were inspired to do some real police work when they realised Idewu’s bicycle still had some of the manufacturer’s protective wrapping paper around the frame, thus confirming it to be quite new.

After visiting the only bicycle shop in Banda, they were able to trace the whereabouts of Idewu’s lodgings by cross-referencing the bicycle’s frame number with the warranty card Idewu had completed at the bicycle shop. When the officers realised the burglar’s address matched that of the Tuareg night watch who had killed him, they put their police logic to the test and, as usual, came up with the wrong conclusion.

The police arrived at Baku’s house while he slept. Being more than convinced of his guilt they did not bother to knock on the door, but smashed it down with sledgehammers and arrested him on the spot.

After several unpleasant hours at the police station, they charged Baku with the murder of one Idewu Kosae and being an accessory to burglary. The police were convinced that Baku had killed his ‘accomplice’ on the track because the thief would not share the stolen money with him.

Baku offered no defence; in fact he remained silent throughout his detention and, since he was unable to offer the police sufficient dash, the charges stuck. –



- When oil companies are faced with major difficulties that directly impinge on their ability to extract oil, they do what comes naturally to them. They throw money at the problems and, since they tend to have more money than anyone else and are in the happy position of being able to claw everything they spend, and more, back from the consumer with impunity, the problems soon fade into insignificance.

Within three months of the discovery of the first reserves of crude, the oil towns of Warunda and Sapula were being supplied with free electricity from two diesel-powered five-thousand-kilowatt generators. The machines had been shipped in from the United States in packing cases and assembled by American engineers right in the middle of the Warunda and Sapula Townships. With expatriate staff looking after the diesel engines and generating sets, there were no further problems regarding the power supply.

When the Nibana Water Corporation failed to keep up supplies, it too was effectively made redundant when the oil companies drilled their own wells and built a new water filtration and pumping plant. They had so much fresh, clean water they decided to supply both Warunda and Sapula Townships completely free of all charges. Of course these seemingly humanitarian actions by the oil companies deprived the ECN and the NWC of much-needed revenue. Consequently it did not take long for the power and water corporations’ bosses to complain to the Federal Government, accusing it, amongst many other things, of allowing the white man to re-colonise the delta area of Nibana.

After some secret discussions between the oil bosses and the power and water ministry’s permanent secretaries, the multinationals agreed to pay special ‘consultancy’ fees to the top men at the water and electricity corporations. Shortly afterwards everything went very quiet and there were no further suggestions of creeping neo-colonialism.

Along with the oilmen there came many other things to worry the populations of Warunda and Sapula. Prostitution thrived, and with it came the pimps and gangsters of all nationalities who descended on the towns like vultures. Gambling casinos, though strictly illegal in the rest of Nibana, opened up like daises in a lawn at sunrise. In the early days the local police chief tried to close them down, but when a brown envelope containing a ‘performance bonus’ started to arrive at police headquarters every month, the police chief lost interest in the casinos and they continued to provide their unique brand of entertainment unhindered by the police or the laws of Nibana. -

Reviewer’s Comments:

Structure:  The book is well-structured.  Although the stories are separate, there is a common theme, and the separate stories make it possible to dip into the book when one has a short reading time available.  The book is pleasant to read.

Content:  The several short stories cover a variety of topics, set in an imaginary West African republic.  The attitudes of politicians are described, the social conventions of the tribal people and the expatriate managers are explored, the economic, social and political drivers are described, all in an entertaining and instructive manner.

Reviewer’s Comments: 

I enjoyed each of the short stories in this compendium.  The situations and characters are very real to those who have lived in Africa, and the stories allow the reader to understand many things in a new way, whether one is an African or an expatriate.  The situations are clear expositions of ordinary events in Africa, not only of that time, but also now, and the handling of these situations is realistic and an accurate rendering of how things are.  Reviewing this book has given me a desire to read all of Kenneth Ryeland’s works.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more of the reasons why the situation in Africa is as it is, as well as to anyone who simply wants a good read.

Karin B

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