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Taban Lo Liyong (born 1939) is one of Africa's well-known poets and writers of fiction and literary criticism. His political views, as well as his on-going denigration of the post-colonial system of education in East Africa, have inspired criticism and controversy since the late 1960s.

Taban Lo Liyong
Gulu, Acholiland,[1] Uganda
Occupationpoet, fiction writer, literary critic
NationalitySouth Sudanese


He was born in South Sudan. After matriculation there, he attended Howard University and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, where he was the first African to graduate in 1968. On the completion of his studies in the US, the tyrannical regime of Idi Amin prevented him from returning to Uganda. He went instead to neighbouring Kenya, and taught at the University of Nairobi. He has also taught at international universities in Sudan, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Japan, and South Africa. In collaboration with Henry Owuor-Anyumba and Ngugi wa Thiong'o, he wrote On the Abolition of the English Department in 1968.

Liyong, Owuor-Anyumba, and wa Thiong'o were criticised for advocating cultural or even racial purity within academia. Rather, they sought to re-establish in East Africa traditional modes of knowledge and understanding in literature, in an effort towards authenticity and as a means for the region to better understand itself in the context of national independence. By placing African culture at the centre of education, "all other things [would] be considered in their relevance to [the African] situation, and their contribution towards understanding [itself]". This philosophy was also politically significant at a time when East African governing bodies were struggling against the influence of colonial powers such as the US and Britain .

Independently, Liyong has had published over twenty books. These include Carrying Knowledge Up a Palm Tree (1998), an anthology of poetry that addresses various contemporary issues and follows African progress in recent history. The East African Literature Bureau (EALB) published many of Liyong's earlier works in English as well as East African languages.


  • The Last Word (1969)
  • Meditations in Limbo (1970)
  • Franz Fanon's Uneven Ribs (1971)
  • Another Nigger Dead (1972)
  • Ballads of Underdevelopment (1976)
  • Another Last Word (1990)