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Gardens should remind us of dark past, inspire us to build bright future

By Editorial | Dec 12th 2021 | 3 min read

A view of the main dais during the 58th Jamhuri Day Celebrations at Uhuru Gardens, December 12 2021. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The newly remodelled Uhuru Gardens along Lang’ata Road, Nairobi, was unveiled yesterday. This venue that carries great symbolism in the search for self-rule and independence that culminated with the dethronement of the British colonists when the Union Jack was lowered and the National Flag hoisted on the midnight of December 12, 1963.

The gardens, long used by families on weekend picnics and outings, has been transformed into a modern arena replete with halls, tunnels, boulevards and galleries that will capture what the president said is our  “unedited history”.

That history includes torture, the psychological warfare and the sheer brutality of the British colonists on Kenyans. It also includes the fight put up to reclaim our freedom, our land and our pride. Known then as the People’s Gardens, it is estimated that up to 10,000 Kenyans were held at the concentration camp.

‘History,” said Uhuru, “provides invaluable lessons to be learnt and gives context to the present. By looking back, we are better able to look forward.” It is hoped that Uhuru Gardens will help the country “recall the darkness of our colonial past, but not to be stuck in the pessimism that dark memories can breed.” For instead of breaking down in the camps, heroes of our freedom struggle became stronger. Through the architectural designs and the past, the present and the future will converge.

The gardens is therefore a place of sombreness, of remembrance. It is a place Kenyans will go “to renew the Soul of the Nation,” as Uhuru put it. It will also be a place to reconnect with our unsung heroes; those who have put country before self and those who have brought us immense pride. And there are many of them; from the athlete who wins gold at the Olympics; to the doctor and nurse who attends to the sick in far-flung areas; to the teachers who put in countless hours to ensure that our youngsters gain adequate knowledge to take the country forward; to the KDF officer who puts his life and limb in harm’s way to protect our borders; to the farmer toiling in his farm to feed us and the big-hearted Kenyan who extends help to a stranger. Some of them were recognised yesterday in complete departure from the norm where politicians and other ne’er-do-wells were decorated.

The monument will cause us to think about our neglected freedom fighters and their families who frequently exist in conditions worse than those which their kin fought against. Besides the concrete and glass, government ought to make stipend payments to these families as a way of appreciating them for their sacrifice to motherland.

The place should make us recognise the importance of peace. For, as Uhuru admitted, Raila was instrumental in the refashioning of the gardens. That won't have happened had they been at loggerheads.

It is also a place to search our souls and find out where we went off the rails. And hopefully, a place we will recognise that remaking Kenya is a personal choice we make every day.

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