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Friday, August 17, 2007

How Kenya Treats Her Real Heroes And Heroines With Contempt

It must have been quite a sight witnessing the hanging of one Dedan Kimathi at Kamiti Maximum Security prison in 1952. I can imagine those penetrating eyes staring as if at nothing. Even as the heavy hood was thrown over his face and the rope fastened. When the trap door is opened what is supposed to happen is that the neck breaks, but death rarely comes quickly in hanging. People often urinate and pass feaces before the legs begin to jerk and kick incessantly signifying that death is close.

Kimathi's only regret was probably the fact that he did not have the opportunity when dieing to clasp the soil and speak those famous words in Kikuyu signifying what that it was for the soil that belonged to them that they had died.

Brave man, this guy although he was not fighting for independence. He was fighting for the land taken away by the colonialists to be restored to its; rightful owners. Still, there is no doubt that the Mau Mau uprising was very effective in attracting attention to the plight of the majority indigenous African Kenyan. This alone classifies Kimathi a true Kenyan hero.

It would take over 50 years for Dedan Kimathi to be honored. But with what? A statue on Kenyatta Avenue, that KJ of Redikulas fame says scares tourists?

JM Kariuki braved some unimaginable conditions in colonial concentration camps. Amazingly his spirit was never broken. He survived and that story should have ended up as most fairy tales do with the word "and they lived happily ever after" because at independence he was appointed press secretary to Jomo Kenyatta. Instead the man who survived death by a whisker in the hands of the ruthless colonialists ended up being felled by his very own people. To date few Kenyans know anything about the contributions JM made to Kenya and probably the majority are saying what was said here recently by a reader about a national hero; he said "I would care less to find out" or something along those lines.

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It is really amazing how a nobody called Thomas Odhiambo, born one evening to an illiterate sisal picker from Rusinga Island at the Kilimabogo sisal plantation (near Thika) and with very little formal education ended up being a masterful negotiator who almost single handedly delivered independence for Kenya. His very effective strategy was to negotiate for what he could get immediately and then before the ink even dried on the signed agreement he would immediately embark on a new campaign to ask for even more. That is how the country swiftly moved from 8 indigenous African representatives in the Legco in 1957 to 16 and then to independence much more quickly than anybody had expected. Thomas could speak several local languages. He learnt Kikamba first because that was the dominant tribe in Kilimabogo where he was born, then at Jeanes School he learnt fluent Kikuyu. A brief stint later in Tanzania enabled him to pick up fluent Kiswahili. But when the country finally attained her independence, he became an obstacle to those who wanted to make fantastic riches at the expense of the masses so on one afternoon in broad daylight, he stopped two bullets outside a chemist on what is now Moi Avenue in Nairobi. To date the British and Americans and even an Australian political scientist have done a much better job at recognizing this man as a national hero. Kenyans to date don't care. By the way this man Thomas Odhiambo is better known to Kenyans as Tom Mboya.

Kenneth Matiba was in perfectly good health and was said to be as fit as a fiddle when he launched a campaign against the single party dictatorship of Kanu in the late 80s with Charles Rubia. Today Kenyans enjoy much more democratic space but Matiba is virtually a cripple and his once prosperous empire is struggling for survival. Kenyans would care less, let alone want to honor this true Kenyan hero who risked all so that we could all have a better life.

There is yet another prominent politician who when detained by the Moi government and came out to find that his wife had already been taken over by somebody else, which was just as well because while in detention the authorities wiped out his manhood forever. That is how much sacrifice this Kenyan man has given, but do you think Kenyans care?

There are many other names like Wangari Maathai, Kungu Karumba, Gama Pinto, James Orengo, Martin Shikuku and more recently John Githongo. Selfless Kenyans who put their lives on the line.

But not only do Kenyans care less but they have tended to hand over the presidency to anybody but their heroes. Jomo Kenyatta walked out from detention to have the presidency handed to him on silver platter by others who risked more. Daniel Moi, a collaborator with the local colonial government before independence became the second president of Kenya. Mwai Kibaki a well established fence-seater of many years who had remained mum at crucial points in our history was handed the president on a silver platter at Uhuru Park to become Kenya's third president.

Meanwhile our heroes and heroines continue to linger in obscurity. Is it any wonder that those we have settled on who mostly did not know the pain, ended up being selfish grabbers who were out to greatly enrich themselves at the expense of the masses?

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