“Slave, Interpreter, & Commissioner-General” is an authorized biography of Edgar Manasseh, the first KRA Commissioner General. The story starts nearly 200 years ago with the kidnapping of Songoro by slave-catchers — a 12-year-old boy from Ngindo in present-day Malawi. His journey across distant lands began in the mid-1800s as a captive of Salim bin Abdullah, a Swahili-Arab slave trader and the progenitor of the Nkhotakota Slave Route, with a thousand other captives, herded across thousands of kilometers to Kilwa in present-day Tanzania, to be loaded as cargo in slave ships headed for Zanzibar.

Many did not survive the cold, cruel, crowded conditions of the cargo hold. Out of 300 slaves loaded on a slave ship at Kilwa, sometimes only a mere 20 arrived in Zanzibar. Sick, dying, and dead slaves were thrown overboard to feed the fishes. The ship carrying Songoro did not reach the slave market in Zanzibar. It was intercepted in the high seas by the British Navy, the slaves freed, and settled in Frere Town, in Kenya.

Songoro married Theresa, also a freed slave, and bore five children: Emmy, Noah, Sadiq, Gideon and Charlotte. This is the beginning of a four-generation story, the descendants of Songoro, the freed slave. Noah, a second-child, was born in 1887, witnessed the introduction of Christianity, was baptised as Noah Manasseh at ACK Emmanuel Parish, the second-oldest church to be built in Kenya.

The fortunes Frere Town lent to freed slaves contrasted with the torments the colonial government meted on the natives. The descendants of the ex-slaves had no claim to the land they occupied, a mere gift from benevolent British missionaries, but Frere Town was also the cradle of modern Western education in Kenya. Christianity and western education gave ex-slaves the highest elevated status Africans could access. Noah, spent his early years as a missionary, before joining the colonial government as an Interpreter in the High Court. A gifted man, with tenacious hope and industriousness, he rose through the ranks, from a Junior Court Clerk, High Court Mombasa in 1908 to Grade V Clerk and Class IV Interpreter in 1918, to Grade I Court Interpreter in 1924.

Edgar Manasseh, Noah’s grandson, rose beyond the heights his grandfather and father ever imagined. He became the Commissioner General of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), a spirited run for a descendant of a slave until he was cast away unceremoniously from the top, frustrated and forgotten. Edgar is a bittersweet story of excellence and betrayal, epitomizing the malady of a country that eats itself.

This is a historical narrative of a family history intertwined with the history of Kenya, from pre-colonial slave trade along the East African coast, colonial occupation by the British, the long struggle for independence, and the fortunes of post-independence Kenya. It is a story of triumph over adversity, of troubled identities of the descendants of slaves battling with the question of their place in modern Kenya.

The inviolable nature of the human spirit sustaining light, even in suffocating darkness runs, in the midst of these authoritative historical accounts of individual lives, to bring forth cheerful countenance and family progress, across generations.


The book is available at a 20% discount for pre-orders in Kenya. The offer is valid until July 12th 2023.

The payment is made to Sisi Afrika Books, which is an imprint of Sisi Afrika Foundation. SMS payment notification and delivery address to 0794 928 580.

All pre-orders will be autographed.

Deliveries will start on June 25th 2023, free for readers within the Nairobi CBD and at a cost across the country.

Sign up to receive the most diverting fiction, essays, analyses and news across Africa in your inbox, on Monday every week.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.