BY WILLIAM OLE NTIMAMA
The newly adopted Constitution provides for a national day, designated Mashujaa Day to be observed on every October 20 in which we remember Kenya\’s national heroes and heroines who contributed in the nation\’s liberation struggle.
The Government through the Ministry of National Heritage has undertaken several initiatives to ensure our national heroes and heroines are honoured and the role they played remains in the conscious of Kenyans who now enjoy enormous freedoms as a result.
As part of this the Ministry constituted a Taskforce on March, 20 2007 to carry out a countrywide data collection on the criteria and modalities for identifying, recognising and honouring national heroes and heroines.
In their report the taskforce defined what it considered as the core values of Kenya\’s nationhood. That is; patriotism, unity in diversity, and mutual social responsibility. The core values became the ground on which to anchor the proposed National Heroes and Heroines Honour System.
The taskforce identified functional areas with the relevant requisite qualities from which heroes and heroines may be identified. These include liberation struggle, religious leadership, indigenous knowledge, cultural values and practices, arts; sportsmanship, scholarship, professionals and research, peace-making, statesmanship, entrepreneurship and industry, philanthropy. A special case for people with disabilities was also proposed.
There are several ways of recognising and honouring heroes. They include high respect that should be accorded to national heroes and heroines by the Government and the Society; putting up monuments in their honour; writing, publishing and displaying their names and histories depicting their works for all to know; naming things after them including buildings, stadia, and streets; and popularizing their names and acts in many other ways.
Other forms of honour include publishing a National Heroes and Heroines Roll of Honour, providing appropriate security for the heroes and their families, and according them state burials when they die.
Despite its relatively short existence and modest resources the Ministry has successfully implemented a number of these proposals in honour of our national heroes.
In 2003 the government lifted the ban on the legal notice which made it possible to recognise and honour the members of the Mau Mau movement.
Also recognized as heroes, are the Kapenguria six, namely – Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Paul Ngei, Bildad Kaggia, Achieng\’ Oneko, Kungu Karumba and Fred Kubai. The Ministry has constructed mausoleums for the late Paul Ngei, Bildad Kaggia and Achieng Oneko. Works are in progress for the construction of a mausoleum in honour of Fred Kubai while plans for the construction of a monument for Kungu Karumba in this financial year are underway.
A Mausoleum has also been built for the late freedom Hero, Kisoi Munyao who hoisted the Kenyan flag on top of Mt Kenya the eve of independence.
Likewise we have erected a statue in honour of Dedan Kimathi and works on Tom Mboya and Ronald Ngala monuments to be erected in Nairobi is almost complete. Others include the Construction of Koitalel arap Samoei Cultural Education Centre which is underway and development of the heroes\’ corner in Langata.
The Ministry has also developed a Draft National Heroes Bill which awaits Cabinet approval. It puts into a legal framework the report of the taskforce mentioned above which will govern all the affairs relating to the honour of the National Heroes and Heroines. This underscores the import we have accorded this matter.
Mashujaa Day is yet another opportunity to honour our heroes by presenting them and highlighting the role they played before the citizens of this nation and the world, as this day is set aside for that purpose.
In the past, there has been concern from the public about the participation of our freedom fighters in national days with complaints ranging from their absence to the concern that they are only remembered when the pass away.
The Ministry has severally been concerned about this perception of the Government despite our various efforts ass mentioned above. It is with that in mind that we as a Ministry propose to do much more this Mashujaas\’ day as an opportune following the adaptation of the new Constitution. There is a pervasive sense on national pride across the country at the moment which we can encourage further by showcasing the freedom fighters.
(The author is the Minister of State for National Heritage & Culture)