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The day of Kenya's heroes

By | Oct 21st 2010 | 5 min read
By | October 21st 2010

By Martin Mutua

They turned up in their thousands to honour valour and gallantry and pay tribute to heroism and sacrifice for the nation’s sake. On foot, in cars, and in every village and township they arrived at the venues of the first Mashujaa Day fete to pay glowing tribute to those without whose blood, sweat, and pain Kenya’s would be a different story.

Led by the President and the Prime Minister, the names of the heroes and heroines easily rolled off the lips -  but even the forgotten and the unknown had their day.

It was the day Kenya’s past, present and future formed a confluence of emotions — a river that flowed flawlessly reminding all and sundry where the freedom narrative began and where the liberators wanted the nation to be.

Later it would be the moment to remember, the living and the dead, those without privilege of office and social tags, have rewritten Kenyan story through their resistance to injustices, or won Kenya honour on the track, sporting fields, or even from their humble seats of public service.

Kenya's heroes at the national Mashujaa Day fete on Wednesday. Photo: Stafford Ondego/Standard

The post-Independent heroes and heroines were assembled and walked before the national dais at the national celebrations at Nyayo National Stadium, on Wednesday, with the gait of Spanish matadors.

Though bogged down by advancing age, their eyes dazzled with the joy of recognition, the realisation that in their lifetime their achievements would be celebrated.

As they walked briskly, which in itself was a statement against age and years that have flown by since they left the drenches, they symbolised Kenya’s renewal following promulgation of the new Constitution on August 4.

It was also something akin to a generation handover, what with thousands following on television the measured and deliberate steps of the widow of Dedan Kimathi at Nyayo Stadium.

Kenyans may not know where the colonists buried her husband after his vile execution. But, on Wednesday, there was no doubt who he is to them — despite the light of his life being extinguished before the sun of Independence lit the skyline in 1963.

President Kibaki, who declared Kenyans would finally have their own Heroes Square by next year, took note of the historical significance of the fete, saying it was the first such day, and the first since the promulgation of the new Constitution, which transformed Kenyatta Day into Mashujaa Day.

“The new Constitution provides us with the framework for shared economic prosperity, social inclusion, and political stability. Let us embrace this new order with courage and optimism,’’ he said, as he weaved a thread through Kenya’s Independence narrative and the unfurling of the Second Republic, through a new Constitution.

Pages of history

The day also ushered Kibaki and Raila into the pages of history as they presided over the first Mashujaa Day, which is meant to extend the honour to all national heroes.

President Kibaki declared Kenya belonged to all Kenyans, and all were free to live and work anywhere without fear.

“Our country is ours and any country that develops is where people resolve to work hard,” he added.

Raila was applauded when he told the police to change the way they have been doing things since the country had turned a new leaf.

“Our police must now know that we are in a new era and a new constitutional dispensation, and gone are the days they responded by beating Kenyans up with batons,” he added.

Raila said scenes where Kenyans were being shown being beaten up by police even when one had surrendered must never be repeated. He, however, reminded Kenyans they have a duty to follow the law.

“If you see anybody having grabbed a school playground you must report to the authorities, and action must be taken,” he added.

The President noted time had come with the establishment of the 47 counties for Kenyans to uplift their standards as a matter of right. While lauding the pre-Independence heroes the President said they had left a lasting mark in the lives of Kenyans and in the history and development of the country.

“They are men and women who have taken great risks in service to save, advance, and protect their fellow citizens,” he added.

Kibaki went on, “These are also men and women whose hard work, courage, and perseverance have had a great impact on the socio-economic well being of our people.”

The President paid special tribute to founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the Kapenguria Six — Ramogi Achieng’ Oneko, Paul Ngei, Bildad Kagia, Kungu Karumba and Fred Kubai — as well as Dedan Kimathi and his comrades. “These great Kenyans, through courage and determination, galvanised the struggle for Kenya’s independence,” he added.

The President noted while the Kapenguria Six and many others were in detention, the flame of independence struggle was kept burning by other nationalists, among them, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Ronald Ngala, Masinde Muliro, Tom Mboya, Martin Shikuku, Jean Marie Seroney, Bernard Mati, Lawrence Sagini, James Gichuru, and retired President Moi.

Global athletics leadership

He pointed out the country had also witnessed the present-day heroes who, through their hard work and perseverance, had made great strides in fields such agriculture, and industry, among others.

“Until Kipchoge Keino and Naphtali Temu won gold medals in the Mexico Olympic Games of 1968, we had never imagined that an African could win an Olympic gold medal,” he added.

He further noted that until, recently when athletes Catherine Ndereba and Tecla Lorupe stamped their authority on the marathon circuit, nobody imagined Kenyan women would command the global athletics leadership.

The President put on notice those engaged in corruption, saying he had instructed relevant Government agencies to take necessary action against them.

“Corruption is a great impediment to good governance. We must all do more to effectively and decisively deal with this vice,” he added.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka said the first Mashujaa Day was an opportunity to, “salute our past heroes, applaud our current heroes and heroines, and present a challenge to those who will take baton in the future.”

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