By KIUNDU WAWERU

On July 5, 1969, Tom Mboya was assassinated along Moi Avenue and 42 years later, he has been immortalised in the form of a bronze statue just 50m from the spot where he was gunned down.

The statue was mounted on Monday night by a Nairobi City Council crane, as members of the public watched in awe. The spot, between Tom Mboya Street and Moi Avenue and near the National Archives, had been fenced off for a while, shielding people from seeing what was going on inside.

The Tom Mboya statue being installed along Moi Avenue in Nairobi on Monday night. There is talk that President Obama will unveil the statue later in the year. [PHOTOS: BONIFACE OKENDO]

After many false starts, including an accidental fall from the crane though it wasn’t damaged, the monument stood majestically, one hand outstretched as if addressing a crowd.

The statue is carved image of Mboya, wearing flowing West African attire, and Mboya’s trademark cap. Artist Oshottoe Ondula, did a good job of it, as the monument’s face closely resembles that of the late fiery trade unionist and powerful orator.

"The picture I used was taken in 1962 at the City Stadium when Mboya was campaigning for a parliamentary seat," says Ondula.

Cast in bronze

The monument is a project of the Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture, which was started by President Kibaki two years ago. It celebrates the nation’s heroes and heroines by erecting monuments in the streets and public spaces in their honour.

"The ministry tendered for artists to work on the Mboya monument," explains Ondula adding, "twenty of us applied, and I was chosen for I had got the face and concept right".

His concept is simple. He designed the monument’s stand to look like the rocks found in Mbita (Mboya’s original home), and indeed it resembles a giant rock though it’s made of fibre-casted rock, which feels like plastic. Birds painted in white, as a sign of peace, surround the rock under Tom Mboya’s feet, which, Ondula says, symbolises the 1960s students’ airlifts project that Mboya initiated.

The monument will face the National Archives, where Mboya’s artefacts will also be displayed. Ondula designed the monument’s eyes downcast and outstretched hand to portray him ‘addressing’ a multitude that forever rushes through the street.

The monument cost the Government Sh15 million while the whole project took about Sh20 million. "I first modelled the monument in plastecine at the City Hall’s basement where I was working on it, then took it to China where it was cast in bronze. The process took about three years."

Though it has not been confirmed yet, there is talk that President Kibaki might have invited US President Barack Obama to unveil the statue.

At face value, it might seem like not a huge event to be presided over by the world’s most powerful president, but Mboya and Obama are forever crafted together by history: Barack Obama Senior, President Obama’s father, was a beneficiary of the student airlifts. It was during his studies in America that Obama Senior met President Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham.

Those who braved the midnight chill to watch the spectacular moment had this to say about honouring our heroes:

National hero

Computer specialist Titus Odhiambo said: "Mboya is a national hero, especially because of the student airlifts that saw many Kenyans get a better education. However, coming at a time the country is battling hunger in some areas, the move may bring out some heated debate."

Keziah Naliaka, a student, said: "I am not sure it if remembering the heroes’ at this time, especially the ones who fought for independence was not a little too late."

The statue was once again sealed off from the public until its official opening at a date to be announced.

monument Tom Mboya