JARAMOGI, MURUMBI, KARUMBA, PINTO AND OTHERS ALSO DESERVE MONUMENTS IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL.
By Dorcas Sarkozy
Indeed Kenya is a very interesting society – if not a peculiar one.
The country builds national monuments to honor certified authoritarians and despots.
It has deified, unabashedly so, known kleptocrats, land-grabbers and a motley crew of ethnic warlords masquerading as “national leaders”.
However, the country degenerates into childish prevarications and regionalism when called upon to do the same for the very people who made it possible for the aforementioned (and known) kleptocrats, land-grabbers and ethnic warlords to access the national pantry.
Last I checked, the remains of the archetypical land-grabber-in-chief and ethnic warlord Jomo Muigai Kenyatta rests in a multi-million shilling mausoleum IN Nairobi; a monument upkept at tax payers’ expense while the statue of the late Tom Mboya remains oftentimes unattended save for the kindness of citizens who every so often, pick up the ever-present litter and scrub the equally ever-attendant bird-droppings off the bronze statue that’s located in Nairobi’s ever-littered CBD – where the man was gunned down – by agents of the man whose name adorns the country’s main airport as well!
Jomo’s likeness is smack in the middle of the nation’s capital and his name adorns one of the country’s most iconic structure – the Kenyatta International Conference Center.
A glaring omission is the absence of any national statue or tribute to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a man whose clear-eyed and prescient, but now-proven ill-placed patriotism and nationalism move him to bequeath Kenya’s presidency to Jomo Kenyatta, a man whose legacy is now synonymous with unbridled ethnicism, shameless use of office for personal gain and ethnic loyalty over nation-building and loyalty to the larger nation.
In most societies save those where significant blocs are beholden to a cult of personality, the disconnect between the role the two men – Jomo and Jaramogi – played in shaping latter-day Kenya and the accolades bestowed either would be a travesty.
It IS an affront!
One man, Jaramogi Odinga, for all his personal flaws of which there were many, was a nationalist; a socialist who wanted to “spread the wealth” among all Kenyans.
The other one, Jomo Kenyatta, for all the deification he has been accorded, was irredeemably selfish and sought to amass as much wealth as he could; as quickly as he could and this he did at the expense of the displaced freedom fighters!
The list of figures and personalities more deserving of national recognition and nation monuments than Kenya’s first president is long and eternally more distinguished and less selfish.
It is on record that I don’t think much of Jomo Kenyatta.
To be clear, the lack of respect I have for what the man embodied, far from being “personal” as some are quick to assert, is not. My contempt for Jomo Kenyatta is predicated on where Kenya is today regarding its lack of cohesion, lack of consistent and long-term stability and lack of competence governance – all directly related to the country’s first president.
The disdain is exacerbated when Kenya is compared with countries whose leaders were Jomo’s peers – diverse societies that are comparatively cohesive and vibrant – with world-class amenities and competent leadership geared towards the majority; this instead of the loose amalgam of ethnic businesses/fiefdoms lorded over by ethnic lords with Jomo’s family and benefactors as the poster-children of said fiefdoms.
So no, Jomo Kenyatta does not deserve a statue in Nairobi.
Dedan Kimathi does.
Tom Mboya does.
And IF Kenya’s first president deserves a statue in the nation’s capital, so do the other more deserving stalwarts of Kenya’s fight for independence.
I would gladly contribute to a national fund to erect monuments in the nation’s capital honoring historic figures including Joseph Murumbi, Kungu Karumba, Pio Gama Pinto, Ronald Ngala and some members of the “Kapenguria Six”. These individuals deserve the very national recognition that Jomo Kenyatta has – given his now-exposed and sordid legacy.
While a statue honoring Jaramogi in Kisumu is long over-due, the regionalism symbolized by its location is consistent with how Kenya has treated the doyenne of the country’s opposition and forebearer of its democratic space – not to mention the man’s base!
Erecting a statue in Kisumu honoring Jaramogi, a man whose base but importantly, popularity cut a wide swath across the country and encompassed most regions of the country, should be the first step towards recognition of the man in the nation’s capital – especially since Jomo, a man who had to oath his Central/Mt. Kenya base into supporting his tribal rule AND terrorize / intimidate his opponent and the rest of the country in acquiescence, is memorialized in the nation’s capital.