John Batista Wanjohi Kiriamiti was born on 14 February, 1950 in Thuita Village, Kamacharia Location of Murang’a District in Central Kenya, he is the second of nine children born to Albert and Anne Wanjiru Kiriamiti, both primary school teachers (now retired) in Murang’a.
Kiriamiti studied for and passed his Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) at the local primary school in Thuita Village. He was privileged to be among the first nine African students to join the dominantly‐white Prince of Wales School (now Nairobi School) at a time when most Africans could not afford the Ksh 1,080 school fees charged. Although Kiriamiti received bursaries as a gifted African student, he joined Prince of Wales school as a day scholar and stayed with his uncle in Bahati Estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands where his elder brother Sammy stayed too.
His academic life at the Prince of Wales School was short‐lived though because in his last term as a Form One student, at the age of fifteen, he was expelled from school after being the ring leader in a student’s strike. That marked the end of Kiriamiti’s formal education in spite of pleas from his parents to take up schooling elsewhere.
As a punishment for his ‘misconduct’, Kiriamiti’s parents decided to deport’ him back to Murang’a where they wanted to enrol him in a village secondary school. Kiriamiti could not hear of anything else besides schooling in Nairobi and declined his parents’ request to attend the local school. Eventually he decided to sneak back to Nairobi, getting away with his father’s Ksh 600.
In Nairobi he had nowhere to stay as his uncle refused to take him in.
Subsequently, Kiriamiti resulted to wayward behaviours, and by the age of twenty, he was already a known robber and in the police “VIP list”, as he calls ?the most wanted’ police list. As a criminal, Kiriamiti went by the names John Khamwene, Charles Lukindo, Richard Mwangi, Albert Ngure, Albert Wanjohi and Jack Zollo (a name which he later used for his fictionalized self in both My Life in Crime and My Life in Prison) among others.
In 1971, after a long cat and mouse game with the police, Kiriamiti was arrested and sent to jail for twenty years with forty-eight strokes of the cane. It is at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and Naivasha Government Maximum Prison that his first novel, My Life in Crime, was written, and the initial ideas of My Life in Prison born.
Five months after the publication of My Life in Crime (in 1984), Kiriamiti was released on grounds of good conduct, having served thirteen out of his twenty year sentence. Kiriamiti’s freedom however did not last long for two years down the line (in 1986), he was sent back to jail by President Moi’s regime for allegedly being involved in what the government deemed a seditious movement meant to overthrow the government (Mwakenya).
This time Kiriamiti found himself head‐on with the law after Benga musician‐turned‐soldier, Hajullas Ochieng Kabaselle, implicated him in crime. Having had interacted with most of the brains thought to be behind the Mwakenya movement like Onyango Oloo, Prof. Katama Mkangi, Mwandawiro Mgangha, Joe Ombuor and others, Kiriamiti was a natural suspect to the authorities.
Resultantly, he earned himself a seven‐year sentence for the alleged involvement in a clandestine movement. However, he was released after four years, on 11 February, 1990 (the same day that South Africa’s freedom icon, Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island). As fate would have it, two days later, what was thought to be the political assassination of the Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. John Robert Ouko on 13 February, 1990 linked him to yet another ?suspicious look’ from Kenyans, as rumour had it that he “was released to kill Ouko” (Ombuor 2005:2).
Nevertheless, since his trading of the gun for a pen, and his subsequent release from Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, Kiriamiti has become a renowned philanthropist and social reformist rehabilitating street children and thieves in his rural Murang’a home. Besides writing novels, Kiriamiti also owns and edits a newspaper, The Sharpener, which he established after the government ban on the Gikuyu version, Inooro, in 1995.
Kiriamiti has also embarked on a programme that seeks to counsel the youth in various Kenyan Secondary and College institutions on Behaviour change and role modelling. He is now a committed family man with a wife and 3 daughters.
Kiriamiti is currently working on 2 more books that are expected to hit the book stores soon. The Abduction Squad and City Carjackers are adult fictional novels that are sure to grip his ever growing fan base of African book readers.
My Life in Crime – 1980
My Life with a Criminal – 1984
Son of Fate – 1994
The Sinister Trophy – 2000
My Life in Prison – 2004
The Abduction Squad