Leaders from all corners of the country yesterday paid glowing tribute to veteran politician John Keen for his role in the fight for freedom.
The leaders from across the political divide joined Mr Keen’s family in paying their last respects in a service that was officiated by church leaders from different denominations.
Led by retired President Daniel arap Moi, the leaders who included Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaisserry, took turns to reminisce the times they spent with the veteran politician, praising him for his selfless deeds to liberate the country.
The former President eulogised Keen, saying he had been saddened by the death of a long-time personal friend and a fellow freedom fighter.
“He fought for the freedom of the oppressed and I am saddened by the loss of a very close friend,” said Moi.
He recalled how they met in 1955 and teamed up to give impetus to the struggle for freedom from colonial domination and for the dignity of the Africicans.
“In this regard, Keen was energetic, passionate and fearless,” Moi said.
The retired President added that while in his government as an Assistant Minister, Keen served with diligence.
Amid sobs and laughter, family, friends and leaders were granted an opportunity to say a few words on their encounter with the fallen politician.
The family remembered Keen as a family man who instilled discipline in his children and a strong patriarch who was determined to reform the nation.
“Not most of us will be lucky to see our parents at such an age. The absence of our father will leave a void in our lives. He valued education for his children,” said 53-year-old Antony Keen.
Mr Nkaiserry remembered Keen as his mentor in politics when he made a decision to leave the uniformed force and join politics in 2002.
“I remember going to Keen for advice and the first question he asked me was the party I intended to join. When I informed him that my intention was to join KANU (and not NARC as he had anticipated), he simply told me to go back to the army,” said Nkaiserry amid laughter.
He added: “But I told him I was a general and I could not back down so I worked my way up through his guidance to where I am today.”
Nack Kenya party leader Martha Karua recalled her time with the politician when she moved from Ford Asili to DP.
“Keen was my mentor. Our political thinking rhymed and our relationship moved from being a mentor and apprentice to that of colleagues. He has left a mark and legacy that all of us should emulate,” said Ms Karua.
Keen’s death was described by Narok Senator Stephen ole Ntutu as a rude shock to the Maasai considering it was barely three months after the death of another veteran leader from the community, William ole Ntimama.
“Even if we have lost Ntimama and now Keen, I ask our people not to be shaken. We still have many like them among us who will take up the mantle and continue with their agenda,” said Mr Ntutu.
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CORD co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka said Keen had insisted that free and fair elections was the only way of having a peaceful country.
“If we want a peaceful country, we must act justly like Keen and de-tribalise this nation. It is only through free and fair election that this country can be peaceful,” said Kalonzo who in the remarks threw jabs at Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda.
However, Sakuda was quick to reply saying the Opposition should put its house in order following the recent exchange in Parliament during the debate on the elections law.
In a tribute read by the late Ntimama’s son, Amos, on behalf of his mother, Dorcas said Keen was like a father to her children.
“They would take road trips to Arusha to visit Opposition leader David Lowassa and spend time talking and laughing. It was not unusual for my children to seek guidance from him and at times, he would act as emissary between them and my husband,” said Dorcas.
In the event, aspirants in the 2017 elections were asked to emulate the peaceful ways of Keen, and warned to steer clear of politics of division.
Nkaissery said he would never, under his watch, allow a repeat of the 2007 post-election violence that saw thousands displaced and others killed.
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Citing the ongoing heated exchange between Jubilee and CORD leaders, Nkaissery cautioned the politicians to trade their words carefully.