November 22nd 2017

Opinion / Commentaries

It's time to end our national obsession with Kenyatta, Moi and honour other heroes

It is unwarranted and unjustified to have so many Kenyan landmarks across the entire country, named after just two people, and it is time that steps are taken to rename several of the above Kenyan landmarks after other deserving Kenyan men and women.

By Michael Mundia KamauTuesday, 12 Sep 2017 13:12 EAT

The KICC in Nairobi, one of the several landmarks named after Kenyatta.

Numerous locations across Kenya have landmarks named after Kenya's first President, Jomo Kenyatta, and after Kenya's second President, Daniel T. arap Moi. Several different locations across Kenya have a Kenyatta Avenue/Kenyatta Street and/or a Moi Avenue/Moi Street. Several different locations across Kenya have a Kenyatta Stadium and/or a Moi Stadium. Several different locations across Kenya have a Kenyatta High School and/or a Moi High School.

In addition, there is a Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and a Moi International Airport, there is a Kenyatta National Hospital and a Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), there is a Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), and a Nyayo House, there is a Kenyatta University, a Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), and a Moi University, there is a Lake Kenyatta, a Moi's Bridge, at least two different statues of Jomo Kenyatta, at least two different Nyayo monuments, a Moi International Sports Centre, and before the new Kenyan constitution came into being in the year 2010, we even had a Kenyatta Day public holiday every 20 October, and a Moi Day public holiday every 10 October.

It is unwarranted and unjustified to have so many Kenyan landmarks across the entire country, named after just two people, and it is time that steps are taken to rename several of the above Kenyan landmarks after other deserving Kenyan men and women, including but not limited to the ones below:

1. Dr. Henry Rono, who remarkably broke four world records in athletics over the period of four weeks, back in 1978;

2. Robert Wangila, who became the first person from Africa to win a gold medal in boxing at the Olympic Games. This was at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Robert Wangila still remains the only African to have won a gold medal in boxing at the Olympic Games after 29 years, and the soonest that this record can be broken is at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games;

3. Prof. Washington Okumu Jalango, who brokered a last minute deal between Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), and Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), thus salvaging South Africa's first post-apartheid elections of 27th April 1994;

4. Gen. Mahmoud Mohamed (then Brig. Mahmoud Mohamed), for his heroic role in crushing the attempted military takeover in Kenya on 1st August 1982;

5. Freedom fighter Koitalel arap Samoei;

6. Freedom fighter Mekatilili wa Menza;

7. Freedom fighter Otenyo Nyamaterere;

8. Freedom fighter Mwankega wa Malowa;

9. Fadhili William, for his iconic and timeless Kiswahili love song "Malaika" ("Kenya's second National Anthem"). Over the years "Malaika" has been redone by a number of internationally renowned music artistes such as Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Boney M and Angelique Kidjo, recordings which are posted on the internet at YouTube.

10. "Them Mushrooms" for their iconic and timeless song "Hakuna Matata" ("Kenya's third National Anthem"). "Hakuna Matata" electrified the 1980s and 1990s not just in Kenya, but in many parts of Europe. To this day, there are still quite a number of tourists from Europe, Asia, North America and the Oceania, who's first words uttered when they land in Kenya, are "Hakuna Matata".

The phrase " Hakuna Matata" is even used in the iconic 1994 movie, "The Lion King". Through " Malaika" and "Hakuna Matata", Fadhili William and "Them Mushrooms" have helped raise the profile of the Kiswahili language of East and Central Africa.

There are even high profile individuals, like West Africa's Wole Soyinka, who are pushing for Kiswahili to be made the Lingual Franca of the entire African continent. This will not be easy. For one, Kiswahili would face stiff competition from other major languages on the continent such as Arabic, Yoruba, Lingala, Zulu, Xhosa, Mandingo, Amharic and Munukutuba.

It is instructive though, that the Kiswahili word "Mjadala" (Debate), was the official title of the historic debate, the first debate of it's kind, to select the President of the African Union Commission in early 2017. Should Kiswahili ever become the Lingua Franca of Africa as a whole though, then we will have the likes of Fadhili William/"Malaika" and "Them Mushrooms"/" Hakuna Matata", to thank;

Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel T. arap Moi have their place in history, and this place should not be negated or demeaned. Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel T. arap Moi are not however the only two Kenyans deserving of honour and recognition, a misconception, notion and impression that needs to be corrected. Let us honour a much broader base of Kenyan men and women, such as those mentioned above.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi.





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