Why Kenya needs new criteria for State awards

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 06:02 |
Uhuru Award Kipchoge
President Uhuru awards the first human on earth to run a full sub two hour Marathon Eliud Kipchoge with an E.G.H award. PHOTO/STATE HOUSE KENYA

Last Sunday, the country marked the 55th Mashujaa Day. Symbolically, and coincidentally, it was a day of reflection, prayer, and thanksgiving.

The highlight of this year’s Mashujaa Day celebration was the recognition of the record breaking Eliud Kipchoge, who was honoured with the Order of the Golden Heart, the highest award in the land. 

He has joined a small club of elite achievers in the country, the crème de la crème of presidents and global laureates such the late environmentalist Prof  Wangari Maathai.  

Rightfully, Kipchoge deserved it. The President acknowledged that he is truly the “greatest of our time”. 

But let us be honest. Most of the Kenyan concerns now falling over themselves to be endorsed by Kipchoge would have dismissed him as a dreamer, not willing to invest a dime in such a daring event. It is only when you are through the fire that opportunists, who liked it baked, come calling!

Anyway, aside from the athletic feat, his determination, discipline, patience, honesty, resilience, humility and vision are the mix that we are searching for in our leaders.

Indeed, not all of us went gaga after Kipchoge won the global challenge of running the marathon in under two hours. There are those who squirmed, seeing how they frown on, and even discourage, hard work and vision.

As a nation, we have best practice in the developed countries we admire so much like the US, China, Japan, South Korea, Germany et al. The common denominator in the development journey of these countries is hard work, proper planning, discipline, and adherence to the rule of law.

Their systems are so calibrated and accurate that there is totally no room for shortcuts and wishful thinking. Critically, the leadership of these countries lead by example, unlike in our case where the top pushes water down the people’s throats, while they imbibe wine by the cask in private.

In order to avoid honouring people who do not deserve, or espouse the real values, hopes and aspirations of Kenyans, citizens should be given the opportunity to pick their own heroes from a list of candidates. But may be I am being utopian, if the way we vote in elections is anything to go by. 

Kenya is not short of people who have genuinely and selflessly put their lives at stake for the sake of fellow countrymen. This bars professions which one goes in knowing all too well the high risks involved.

Heroism is about going the extra mile, out of one’s comfort zone, to save lives. At the least, it is making life better for others at great inconvenience, and even danger, of one’s own. 

Due to some of its key officers being compromised, the Executive has often misrepresented heroism by fronting and awarding those who have made it to the public limelight through less than noble means.

Still, I am also human and feel the frustrations of those whose invaluable role and contribution in the service of others is ignored. For instance, the traffic police men and women who are paid a pittance after spending the whole day under the elements, trying to manage road hogs!  

The clerk in the lands office, who resist the temptation of bribery and being misused by wealthy cartels grabbing public land, and swindling other genuine land owners. The medics in our public hospitals who are ill-treated by employers for the grisly work they must do.

Ultimately, honesty is the best policy. We must all agree to be an open book in our public service, in order to serve as good examples to the generation following us. 

—The writer is a communication expert, and public policy analyst. [email protected]

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