They once told the story of the greatness, unity, and stability of a nation.
Indeed, towering statues and monuments contribute to a country’s history, much like its antiquated and contemporary architecture, the rhyme and reason of its national anthem.
But today the national monuments in the city are the face of neglect and hopelessness.
One of the most neglected is the Nyayo monument at Central Park.
It was erected to commemorate 10 years of former president Daniel arap Moi’s rule in 1988 and 25 years of independence.
The ceremony cost Sh300 million and was attended by 10 heads of state.
Today it is chipped and faded. The water fountain that breathed life into the tourist attraction now provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects.
The birds that quenched their thirst on the edge of the fountain have since abandoned it.
“This used to be my favourite place for relaxation as I enjoyed listening to the sweet melody of water coursing over the rocks at the base of the sculpture. Today, sitting near the monument is like offering yourself to the bloodthirsty mosquitoes,” said Dennis Karanja, a photographer
The monument has been reduced to a dumping site. Food wrappings and empty bottles float on the stagnant water with tiny stones at the bottom tossed by children and idlers in the park.
“Look around, the place is full of garbage. During holidays, children playing around the park throw stones, candy wrappings, and bottles into the stagnant waters. It gets very filthy sometimes before the city county workers clean it,” said Karanja.
Photographers based at Central Park said the monument that once provided an attractive backdrop for photo sessions is no longer pleasant to the masses.
“Many people prefer going to Kenyatta International Convention Centre or other monuments. This one has no life at all. The fountain was attractive, but I think people stole the water pumps,” said Karanja.
The story of the neglected monuments is not new, yet little has been done to preserve the national heritage. Even after repairs are done, the monuments are simply left to slide back into a poor state.
The Tom Mboya monument along Moi Avenue is often choked by hawkers, who spread their wares under the nose of the historical leader.
It took 42 years and Sh20 million for the country to honour the former Cabinet minister and unionist, one of its greatest fallen heroes, in cast bronze.
‘TJ’, as he was popularly known, was assassinated on July 5, 1969, as he stepped out of Channa’s Chemist, a few metres from where his statue stands.
On Kimathi Street, a statue of freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi stands with a broken homemade gun.
Restore the glory
These monuments have been the target of angry demonstrators. In February 1990, the Nyayo monument was damaged by student demonstrators, who hurled stones, dustbins, and other objects at it.
In October 2004, members of the Release Political Prisoners pressure group disfigured the monument, demanding that a truth, justice and reconciliation commission be established.
The county government charged with the responsibility of maintaining the monuments blamed previous administrations for the neglect.
The Nairobi County director of culture and heritage, Janet Ouko, said the new administration would restore the monuments and maintain them.
“It is sad that the former government did not find it honourable to maintain these important symbols of our heritage. This administration in its city beautification plan will restore and maintain them,” she said.