An extraordinary account of how a laborer's son rose to challenge the power of despots, I Refuse to Die is both the autobiography of one gifted man who rose above the horrors of colonization, and an uncensored history of modern Kenya. The book is infused with the freedom songs of the Kenyan people, as well as dream prophecy and folk tales that are part of Kenya's rich storytelling tradition. Tracing the roots of the Mau Mau rebellion, wa Wamwere follows the evolution and degeneration of Jomo Kenyatta and the rise of Daniel arap Moi.
In 1979, wa Wamwere won a seat in the parliament, where he represented the economically depressed Nakuru district for three years. An outspoken activist and journalist, wa Wamwere was framed and detained on three separate instances, spending thirteen years in prison, where he was tortured but not broken. His mother and others led a hunger strike to free him and fellow political prisoners. Their efforts brought about a show trial at which Koigi was sentenced to four more years in prison and "six strokes of the cane," and escaped Kenya—and probably execution—only through the exertions of human rights groups and the government of Norway.