Where are Kenya’s heroes and heroines? Who are they and how are they determined? These and many more burning questions will run through our minds today as freshly minted heroes are unveiled today on Mashujaa Day.
For decades, Kenyans have paid lip service to the men and women whose selfless endeavours have touched the lives of millions. And although the 2010 Constitution changed what used to be Kenyatta Day to Mashujaa (Heroes) Day, there appears to be no clear guidelines or policies on who should be regarded a national hero.
A 13-member National Heroes Council, which was to be established as prescribed by the Kenya Heroes Act 2014 to formulate criteria for identification, selection and honouring of national heroes, is yet to be created. Instead, cronyism and hero worship seem to have been adopted as the yardsticks of awarding national honours. It is little wonder then that our jails are populated with holders of national honours cheered on by lawmakers more famous for breaking the law than upholding it. In a country where national values and integrity are in short supply among occupants of high public offices, it not surprising that uniforms meant for Kenyan sportsmen and women, are hawked on the streets.
Tokenism and materialism have become so prevalent that Kenyans who do duty for their country sometimes end up in court demanding to be paid for their sacrifice. There is need for a collective national soul-searching to redefine patriotism, nationhood and citizens’ duties and responsibilities.
Once this happens and the right values are inculcated in our youth, the country will save billions of shillings used in safeguarding national examinations from cheats. The country will be richer if laws are obeyed and police officers stop spending hours on roads to shepherd indisciplined users. When this happens, our roads in cities and major urban centres will be named after real heroes and not influence peddlers. May the real heroes and heroines stand high to be feted today.