Despite honouring many heroes and heroines during Thursday’s 7th Mashujaa Day celebrations, President Uhuru Kenyatta noticeably left out three iconic men whose contribution to Kenya’s struggle is irrefutable.
The names of Kenya’s founding Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Kenya’s second Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former minister Tom Mboya were missing from the list of Kenya’s heroes of various epochs read out in the President’s speech.
The first two – united in blood and cause – are undisputed icons of Kenya’s “opposition politics” and played important roles in second liberation struggles which freed the country from one-party rule.
Mr Mboya, the dynamite of Kenyan politics until he was stopped by a bullet at the age of 39, managed wondrous feats in the form of ‘education airlifts’ which opened up unimaginable opportunities for thousands of Kenyans.
From 1948 when he joined the Kenya African Union to 1957 when he was elected to represent Central Nyanza at the Legislative Council and long after, Jaramogi was resolute and steadfast in his advocacy for independence and unity of the African people
By Nzau Musau for STD
So resolute and stubborn was he that he rejected offers by the colonial government to form a government without Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru’s father, who was then in detention. However, the senior Kenyatta and Jaramogi fell out a few years after independence.
Because of his stubborn demand for re-introduction of opposition politics, Jaramogi was detained (house arrest) twice by the regimes of President Kenyatta and President Moi. In his third and final push for pluralism in the early 90s, Moi succumbed and freedom waters have continued to flow ever since. By the time he died in 1994, his was referred to as “the doyen of opposition politics”.
For Raila, it has been a classic case of “like father like son.” Jailed several time for a total nine years, he was at some point been the poster child of the opposition struggle.
In his official speech, President Kenyatta recognized the heroes in five phases. In the first phase he honored the country’s “prophets”- Masaku wa Munyati, Koitalel arap Samoei and Chege wa Kibiru for warning Kenyans of the dark days ahead of them at the turn of the 19th century.
In the second phase, Kenyatta honored those who rose “against the might of the British Empire.” In this category, he honored those who bore arms including Dedan Kimathi, Paul Ngei and Field Marshall Muthoni.
In the second category of this lot, Uhuru honored his father Jomo Kenyatta and Musa Gitau for founding independent schools to defend the dignity of African customs.
In the third category of this group, Kenyatta recognised those who fought with the pen and inspired freedom fighters — Henry Muoria and Pio Gama Pinto.
In the fourth category, he honored those who gave resources and worked beyond its borders. Here, he honored the late Achieng Oneko, Makhan Singh and Dennis Pritt. This category would have fitted Jaramogi whom by late 50’s had made connections with African nationalists such as Gamal Abdel Nasser.
But even more fitting in this category would have been Mboya whose Pan-Africanist connections straddling the breath of the continent and across the seas is unparalleled to this date.
In this phase, Kenyatta also honored the Kamba hero Muindi Mbingu, jailed for opposing the destocking policy and Kisoi Munyao who hoisted the independence flag on Mt Kenya.
“These men and women came from every part of the country — some were even born in foreign lands — but for this nation’s sake, they set aside their differences, endured the lash of the whip; the squalor of jail and the concentration camp; and the brutality of the Emergency,” he said.
In the third phase, Kenyatta honored heroes of the second liberation struggle of the 90’s. He said this lot “restored the freedoms we had lost.”
Here, he honored George Nthenge, a Machakos resident, Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, Masinde Muliro, Martin Shikuku and Ahmed Bamahriz. He said they “stand for many.” Again, both Jaramogi and his son Raila could not have missed in this category.
In the fourth phase, Kenyatta honored the post-2002 heroes who “dared to re-imagine our democracy.” He honored Ukambani’s sons- Nzamba Kitonga, the late Mutula Kilonzo and Governor Kivutha Kibwana.