As we mark Mike’s 11th anniversary today, his daughter Michelle still asks me to tell her about her dad. She is an avid reader of Kenyan history and anything written about her dad. Unfortunately, none of the scribes who have written about the late vice-president has done his memory justice.
The task has fallen on me to tell her who he was and what his legacy to Kenya is. During our time in Australia, Michelle and her classmates did a project on political historical figures. Apart from past Prime ministers in Australia, Michelle managed to get her dad on that list of five. When the children did research on the Internet on him, it was sad that all they came up with was that there was a lot of acrimonious cultural issues during his funeral and that he did not own his own house.
Wikipedia tries but does not get close to who the man was. I have told Michelle that her dad was a man like any other man with his share of shortcomings. But he had also devoted his life to righting wrongs and expanding democratic space in Kenya. He took a great interest in the welfare of widows and the education of their children, especially the girl child. I have told Michelle that after he passed away, I set up the ‘’Touch Africa – Michael Wamalwa Foundation’ to formalise their education and care. He had, until his death, done this privately and without any recognition.
He urged his constituents to get civic education and care for Kenya and their neighbours. He believed his people could use their votes to change the laws and the lawmakers. In his formative years, Mike admired leaders like Masinde Muliro, who spoke passionately for civil rights and democratic space. They demonstrated the power of words, which fascinated him. This fascination with language helped him score high in school and university. He attended prestigious schools, which helped him see his future as a leader, and the disparities in Kenya more clearly. As a young student, he loved reading Shakespeare and listening to the great speeches of former US president JF Kennedy, among others. He also loved Socrates and Plato.
He would later stir people’s minds as well as their emotions with his eloquent speeches and sense of humour. Michelle wants people her age to know her dad the way she knows about the greats in history. She wants to write her dad’s history warts and all, so that people doing research can know more than what is available.
I miss Mike more and more each year. I thank God for the fact that he lived a more fulfilled life than spend his time crying. I have come to remember something that he said to me once when I asked him why he felt so driven to help people out. He quoted someone and said, “Honey, help anybody you can because when you are in trouble it is not the noise and sadness that your enemies make that will be remembered, but the silence of your friends.” The significance of this came back to me after he passed on.
His biggest legacy that I want his daughter and other Kenyans to remember about him is loving your country and being your brother’s keeper. He was a man like any other man, with faults and positives, but this is the legacy he left to me.
The writer, Yvonne Wamalwa, is the widow to the former vice-president Michael Kijana Wamalwa. She is currently the deputy director, Parliamentary and County Government Directorate.
Photo: Beverlyne Musili
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