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January 21, 2019

Publisher of ‘Things Fall Apart’ faces collapse as court orders its sale

Books arranged at a library in a school in Mombasa. /FILE
Books arranged at a library in a school in Mombasa. /FILE

The High Court has ordered for the liquidation of East African Educational Publishers (EAEP), marking the end of the road for the 53 year-old firm that has published several renowned authors in the continent.

Justice Francis Tuiyott has ordered that the book publisher be liquidated, following an insolvency petition by Printwell Industries which EAEP owes Sh21.77 million.

Another firm—Printpark Limited—joined the petition to support liquidation of EAEP over an unpaid Sh1.9 million debt that dates back to October 2011.

Read: Sell textbooks to private schools at fair prices, Uhuru directs publishers

EAEP is one of Africa's oldest publishing firms and boasts of having churned out books for many of the continent's top authors. The firm has also published several text books used in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana among others.

Among the authors whose books were published by EAEP are Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Pamela Kola and John Kiriamiti (Kenya), Chinua Achebe and Cyprian Ekwenesi (Nigeria), Austin Bukenya and Okot P'Bitek (Uganda), Said Ahmed Mohamed (Tanzania), Taban lo Liyong (South Sudan), Ellen Banda Aaku (Zambia) Peter Abrahams (South Africa) and David Rubadiri (Malawi).

Some of the most celebrated African books such as Things Fall Apart (Achebe), Weep not, Child and I Will Mary When I Want (Ngugi), Mine Boy (Abrahams) and Song of Lawino (P'Bitek) were published by EAEP but are just a scratch on the surface of the prominent books the firm printed.

Justice Tuiyott issued the order after Printwell Industries rejected all proposals by EAEP for renegotiating payment terms for its debt.

The judge ruled that EAEP had failed to prove that its assets are worth more than what it owes Printwell and Printpark. He also faulted the publisher for failing to respond to Printpark's claim.

“The debt by EAEP to the Printwell is due and owing. EAEP has been unable to pay this debt. EAEP does not have sufficient assets to match the debt and so the court cannot ask Printwell to look to the assets of EAEP instead of pressing for its liquidation,” the judge said.

“EAEP is hereby liquidated under the provisions of the Insolvency Act, 2015. The Officer Receiver is appointed as the liquidator of EAEP,” he added.

EAEP blamed its cash flow problems on various shifts in the publishing industry coupled with changes in the government's book buying policy which has denied it much needed revenue.

Printwell on its part insisted that despite accommodating EAEP on several occasions, even after filing the insolvency petition, the book publisher had still failed to repay the Sh21.7 million debt.

EAEP has alongside book authors been the hardest hit by piracy in the publishing industry.

The ruling comes as a blow for EAEP which is among five other publishers that were recently contracted by the government to produce literature under the government's "one textbook policy" which aims to standardise the material used by learners in Kenya. Others contracted were Longhorn, Oxford University Press, Moran East Africa and Kenya Literature Bureau.


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