Uganda’s Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi has won the Kwani? Manuscript Project, a new literary prize for unpublished fiction by African writers and will receive the winning prize of 300,000 Kenyan Shillings (equivalent $3500) for her novel The Kintu Saga.

Liberia’s Saah Millimono came second for her novel, One Day I Will Write About This War while the third place went to Kenya’s Timothy Kiprop Kimutai for novel The Water Spirits.

*Jennifer Makumbi

Reacting to the award, the excited winner, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi said: “It is hard for me to express my joy because sometimes language can be limited – even for a writer. When you have been writing as obsessively and for as long as I have, winning a competition like this one is like stepping out in the sun after a protracted period in the dark.”

The winners were selected from a shortlist of seven by a high-profile panel of judges chaired by award-winning Sudanese novelist Jamal Mahjoub and including Deputy Editor of Granta, magazine Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, leading scholar of African literature Professor Simon Gikandi, Chairman of Kenyatta University’s Literature Department Dr. Mbugua wa Mungai, editor of ; Zimbabwe’s Weaver Press Irene Staunton and internationally renowned Nigerian writer Helon Habila.

Chair of Judges, Jamal Mahjoub said: “All three titles chosen by the judges display an urge to engage with the complexities of modern day Africa. They tackle issues such as civil war, the struggle against poverty, and the continent’s historical heritage, among other themes. As a manuscript award this prize naturally seeks to focus less on finding a perfect finished product than work which shows literary promise as well as a breadth and depth of vision. The winner and two runners up all reflect these values.

The winner, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s The Kintu Saga, is an ambitious attempt to bring the history of Uganda into the present lives of the novel’s protagonists. Through successive generations, the author sketches out the continued relevance of the past in the present.

The winner will receive 300,000 Kenyan Shillings (equivalent $3500), with 2nd place receiving 150,000 KShs and 3rd place 75,000 Kshs at an award ceremony billed to hold in Nairobi in November 2013 as part of Kwani Trust’s 10th anniversary celebrations.

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