There’s no country without a history…there’s no history without heroes…

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Fellow Kenyans,

Let me first and foremost thank you, the Abagusii, for your warm reception. 

To celebrate the cultural diversity of Kenya and strengthen our nationhood, my Administration made the decision to hold our national celebrations in the counties, on a rotational basis. 

Today, Kisii joins the counties of; Nakuru, Nyeri, Machakos, Meru, Kakamega, Narok and Mombasa in having played host to a national celebration.

In the near future, we shall announce where next year’s Madaraka Day will be hosted. 

We gather here today to celebrate 68 years of history and heroism as a country.  We are well aware that the Abagusii Community is not short of heroes.  

In the senior ranks of the Abagusii heroes, you will encounter Paramount Chief Angwenyi Kingoina Gichana, and Senior Chiefs Onsongo Angwenyi, Ooga Angwenyi, Zacharia Angwenyi Ooga, Musa Nyandusi and Assa Onyiego. 

The makers of the Kenyan Nation at Independence tapped into the abilities of your sons and daughters, heralding the birth of a strong and a vibrant Nation whose story cannot be complete without the mention of Lawrence Sagini, James Nyamweya and Zachary Onyonka.  

Thereafter, following in the steps of the independence Abagusii heroes, many others heeded the call to serve in the public arena with some rising to high echelons of the public service as high standing Cabinet Ministers, formidable legislators and influential judicial figures.

Amongst them being Hon. George Moseti Anyona, M.P., Simeon Nyachae, Justice Onyiego Nyarangi, just to mention a few. Once again, I thank you for your warm welcome.

On this day, in 1952, a State of Emergency was declared in Kenya by the British.

They arrested over 200 of our leaders, including the Kapenguria Six; and started one of the darkest chapters in the history of our Nation.

The atrocities visited upon thousands of our people during this emergency period can NEVER be described by any account of history.

Even the secret ‘histories of the hanged’ in detention camps, cannot capture the pain of what was later called the ‘dirty war’ between the British and our liberation heroes. 

Fathers were taken away from their families never to return; while those that did, limped back home, some having been castrated – and permanently robbed the joy of ever being a parent; mothers were maimed by marauding soldiers never to recover; and innocent children were forcedly conscripted into the war and turned against their own.  

The darkness of this ‘dirty war’ and its imprint on the psyche of our Nation, will remain alive in our memories forever. 

However, the Founding Father of our Nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta advised us that for our country to heal and move forward, “…We must forgive; but we can NEVER forget”.

This advice to forgive and not to forget, was not a call to begrudge the perpetrators of the darkest part of our history.

It was a call to remind our children about our past every Mashujaa Day; and to do it recognising that liberation is a process. 

The more we ponder our history in its truest form, the more liberated we become. 

But those who whitewash and dodge their history become victims of its ugly parts. 

This day, the 20th of October, was set aside by our Forefathers because there is no country without a history. 

And there is no history without heroes. The day was also set aside to remind us that history is not just about the past.

Our history is actually a torch that blazes a trail into the future as well.

And that is why I invite you, today, to reflect with me on the heroes and the heroines that defined our nationhood. 

Although we speak of October 1952 as a hallmark date in the history of our heroes, tales of heroism in Kenya date back to the 19th Century, well over 100 years ago.

And this is testament to the fact that our national pride is not a recent affair. It is something engrained in our consciousness as a people. 

Ground-breaking innovation

For instance, Chief Waiyaki wa Hinga led a resistance movement of the Agikuyu against the leadership of the British administration towards the end of the 19th Century.

His main complaint was that the colonizers were excessive in their demand for livestock and labour from his people. 

And during one of the disagreements, he is said to have burnt down a British establishment in his jurisdiction in 1890.  

Two years later, in 1892, Waiyaki wa Hinga was arrested and buried alive at Manyani Maximum Prison in Taita Taveta.

He died a hero. And today, I cannot be more proud than I was last week, when in the same venue in Manyani, I introduced the future heroes of our Nation.

This is a group of 800 young men and women engaged in ground-breaking innovations for the future of our country. 

Another hero from this era was Mukile wa Nameme, leader of the Bukusu Resistance of 1895.

A brave soldier and a skilled military man, Wa Nameme is said to have beaten the British soldiers in his first battle against them at Chetambe Hills near Webuye. He died a hero. 

But not all our 19th Century heroes were men. A Giriama widow by the name of Mekatilili wa Menza distinguished herself as one of the foremost warriors of her time. 

Born in 1840, she led the Giriama Resistance against the British Empire between 1912 and 1915.

Her grievance against the British administration was forced Giriama labour that undignified her people. 

She was arrested twice and put in colonial maximum prisons. And in both instances, she escaped.

The first escape was actually from here in Kisii, where after escaping, she walked for over 800 kilometers back home. 

She made her second escape from Kismayu in Somalia back to Kilifi to continue leading the Giriama Resistance.

Such spirit of resilience and constant ‘come-backs’ is what we have banked in our historical records as heroism. 

A new generation of liberation leaders, inspired by these 19th Century heroes, emerged from the 1920s.

They included among others; Jomo Kenyatta, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Harry Thuku, Achieng Oneko, Daniel arap Moi, Masinde Muliro and Paul Ngei, to name a few.

This generation was more enlightened in Western tactics and begun to use pen and paper to advance the course of the African people.

This is the generation that laid the foundation stone for our modern nation-state. And that is why we call them the Founding Fathers of this Nation. 

In the late 1940s, a new generation who had fought side by side with the British soldiers during the Second World War, emerged. This generation was heroic on many accounts. 

They fought the Mau Mau war against the British Empire and won. And thereafter, together with the Founding Fathers they negotiated and drafted our constituting instruments for the birth of a new nation-state; and fundamentally, they started the journey of founding our nationhood from scratch. 

But what enduring lessons can we highlight, as a nation, from the examples of these ordinary men and women who became our heroes? What must we teach our children every Mashujaa Day from the acts of these heroes? 

These liberation heroes were people who sacrificed themselves for an ideal bigger than themselves.

These heroes, some of them buried in unmarked graves, understood that no weapon is more lethal than the will of a free people.

They sacrificed for this high ideal, negotiated when they had to, but vowed never to surrender. 

Their resolve remained unbroken and unbowed.  Some historians have argued that these heroes were extra-ordinary people.  But nothing can be further from the truth. 

These veterans were ordinary people who became extra-ordinary because of the choices they made.  

They did not start out as heroes who did big things; their heroism was only revealed as they stubbornly confronted obstacles that stood in their path to freedom.

They only became heroes moment by moment as the liberation of our country from the shackles of the coloniser unfolded.

You may ask why I just said that creating our nation-hood is a journey started by our Founding Fathers, but one that is yet to be completed. I say so because nationhood is not an event; it is a process. 

When our Founding Fathers emerged from the liberation war with fresh wounds, bloodied faces and years of incarceration, they had only one desire.  

They had vanquished the enemy, alright, but the task of bringing together 42 nations into a single nation-state, was still daunting.  

They knew that this would be a journey. They knew that summoning the consciousness of 42 nations to a singular purpose under the nation-state would take constant negotiations and re-negotiation. 

And borrowing from their own historical experiences, this process of constantly reviewing our nationhood would only happen through the unremitting search for a constitutional consensus. 

This position was strongly advocated by another group of our heroes known as the ‘constitutionalists’.

Apart from being the architects of our new state and the engineers of our new economic order, they pushed for the practice of constantly building a constitutional consensus. 

Negotiating nationhood

To them, constitution making was not a rigid end-point.  It was a constantly moving target that required continuous consensus.

More so because they saw constitution making as being a process first, and then an act after.

While the act of constitution making is an end-state in itself, the process is a constant negotiation and re-negotiation of our nationhood.   

Guided by this philosophy of constitutional consensus, these heroes went through as many as four constitutions before landing on a workable consensus. 

And their mantra in this search was best captured by former Vice-President Joseph Murumbi, when he said that: “…there is nothing wrong with Kenya that cannot be fixed by what is right with Kenya”. 

If the Littleton Constitution of 1954 was wrong, it was made right by the Lennox Boyd Constitution of 1958. When this constitution outlived its consensus, the Ian McLeod Constitution of 1960, kicked in.  

And the search for a common ground continued until the independence constitution was adopted.

But even then, this constitution was adopted as a cease-fire document to facilitate independence. 

After independence, the Lancaster Consensus was replaced by a new consensus and the cycle of constantly negotiating our nationhood continued. 

When I cautioned against constitutional rigidity in my Madaraka Day address this year, this is exactly what I meant.

Our Founding Fathers and constitutional heroes did not intend our constitutional order to enslave us. They constructed it to serve us. 

And when it ceased to serve us, we are meant to borrow from the example of our Founding Fathers and rethink it. 

More so if the National Question of the day requires a constitutional settlement.  The second part of the President’s speech will be published tomorrow

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