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Peg national heroes’ selection on merit

By Demas Kiprono | Aug 7th 2020 | 3 min read

In 2014, Kenya Heroes Act was enacted to establish National Heroes Council, a framework for the recognition, identification, selection and honouring of national heroes.

It is noteworthy that the 2010 constitution recognises those who heroically struggled to bring freedom and justice to Kenya. Moreover, our national values and principles of governance under Article 10 include patriotism, national unity, human dignity and human rights.

Another constitutional provision that the new law gives life to is Article 73, which demands and outlines the guiding principles of leadership and integrity to include selection based on personal integrity, competence, and suitability or election in a free and fair process - designed to protect against political patronage that has, sadly, contaminated almost every facet of Kenyan society. 

The National Heroes Council (NHC) and its Secretariat must finally put together a transparent and veri?able process of selecting and nominating heroes and heroines for national recognition that should inspire much needed national pride and patriotism.

Other functions include connected research and evaluation; collection and verification of data on proposed national heroes; documentation of nominations of national heroes to the council; fund-raising and the management of funds and resources; management of information; and management of heroes’ squares and other monuments to national heroes.

The law comes against the backdrop of the national spectacle from December 2017 when the selection of national heroes came into question. That year, Martin Kamotho, aka “Githeri Man”, was nominated for simply queuing to vote and becoming an internet sensation and social media meme.

Additionally, several presidential employees and political allies were also commended, leaving many to posit that the process was opaque and lacking in criteria, merit and objectivity.

2017 also happened to be a problematic and divisive year following the contentious general election that resulted in the annulment of the presidential outcome by the Supreme Court.

Many pointed out that there were many other more deserving Kenyans in academia, science, sports, arts and culture, business, philanthropy among others - who had done exceptionally well for themselves, their respective sectors, Kenya, the region, Africa and the international community.  

It is hoped that the new council will contribute to the expanding sense of belonging beyond our blood ties - so that we come to regard every Kenyan to be worthy of our commitment and ownership in accordance with the first BBI report, which earmarked a lack of national ethos as a particular area of concern.

Our national heroes and heroines, who form a vital part of our history, will help Kenyans unite despite initially being an amalgamation of diverse tribes, cultures and religions. However, increased politicisation and ethnic-based politics such as the ongoing debate on county revenue sharing formula is, sadly, causing palpable tension and balkanisation.

Basically, “it is not a nation unless it feels like one” meaning Kenyans must-own and perceive that they share similarities such as values, and common history such as leaders, national heroes and heroines and monuments which bind them together. The Council must, therefore, internalise and understand the role it plays in this.

Massive change

Lastly, a nation bound in unity automatically makes the promotion of the welfare and socio-economic development of all the main priority of stakeholders, especially decision-makers and other leaders - thus causing a massive change in the kind of politics through an all-inclusive, nontoxic and patriotic agenda that permeates all politics and political behaviour. This seems to be the gist of the current constitutional architecture and should be the aim of us all, including the NHC.

Another vital role for of NHC is to fundraise and manage funds on behalf of or for the benefit of national heroes. The council can be important in ensuring resources are available for Kenya’s heroes and heroines’ when they fall on hard times.

Of course, the solid, transparent and predictable formula for identifying beneficiaries and accounting for the funds rais and spent must be formulated to prevent abuse.  

Mr Kiprono is a Constitutional and Human Rights Lawyer. [email protected]

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