Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Mashujaa Day - A Country in Need of Heroes

MASHUJAA (Heroes) Day, formerly Kenyatta Day, is annually celebrated on October 20.
During this time of celebration and confrontation (Who should be designated a national hero? What exactly are the criteria), I can think of no better way to give people new vision and new hope than to point to those within their own society who are making a positive difference.
Like it or not, every society and every culture is built upon a moral and spiritual fabric. We are inspired by those around us to incarnate virtue.
Whatever the reputation of some of the nation’s founders, whatever the circumstances currently at work in the country, it is now time to look for everyday heroes among the people.
Some may be prominent while others quite insignificant by comparison.
Each one, however, is contributing to making our nation a better place in a very unique and specific way.
Just think what could happen when their names are made public and people across Kenya see that there are positive people and positive things going on. At that juncture, perhaps others will join and still others will not. In time, a new revolution - a moral, patriotic and spiritual revolution - can actually propel the nation in a new and more promising direction.
Mashujaa come from every branch of service, rank, race, gender and walk of life.
While addressing the Lenana school students on the eve of Mashujaa Day in 2012, then Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the country’s forefathers wanted nothing but the best for Kenya.
“They pursued this by working together, disregarding tribe, race or social status... this is the dream that faded before our eyes over the past two decades and it is a dream we have embarked on reclaiming,” Raila Odinga.
Harsh history For Western Kenya, it is vital to learn from our fallen heroes, and equally vital to remember their contributions.
At independence, however, because history has been harsh to the Luhya community heroes like Otiende were hardly heralded. Others like Musa Amalemba, Elijah Masinde, and Senator Machio and Arthur Caleb Ochwada of Samia, Dr Ngaira, Masinde Muliro and Martin Joseph Shikuku were sidelined and given decimal positions.
Our ancient leaders such as Mwanga, Muwanga, Shiundu, Nabongo Mumia ,Hammtalla, Namutala, Namachanja, Elijah Wanameme and others worked tirelessly to bring the community together, but how do we celebrate them?
Below are some of their stories:
Moses Amalemba pioneered initial steps at forging Luhya unity. Before independence Amalemba from Idakho formed Buluhya Political Union (BPU) as the voice of the Luhya in the political dispensation emerging in Kenya at the time. When he had a position in Kenya Airways, he was not ashamed to employ Luhyas. He is remembered by having a section of Kakamega town named after him- Amalemba Estate.
Eric Edward Khasakhala, former MP for Emuhaya, is indeed a fallen hero, who lived humbly without recognition of his role in pre-independence and independence struggle. This was justified during his death in July 2000, many were amazed at the response from leaders all over the country. Khasakala was born on March 26, 1926 as the eldest son of Daktari Zakayo Kwendo and Mama Damary Oyando Kwendo.
Like Jesus of Nazareth, he started off with a humble beginning, as the son of a Preacher and local doctor. He became an apprentice of his father, and at an early age he associated with the locals in assisting them in various projects.
Responsibility came calling at him at an early age of 29, when his father succumbed to illness and passed away on July 13, 1955. In 1958 he caused shock waves by defeating political heavyweight Tom Mboya to clinch the post of Secretary of All Political Parties of Kenya.
Mboya instantly became interested in this man and they became very close and intimate friends. Khasakhala, a Pan Africanist by heart, joined Gikonyo Kiano, Ronald Ngala, Mboya and others in travelling to Egypt and Mwanza, Tanzania to form the Convention of African Association, which would bring together African countries to form a united front to forge independence.
During his last dying moments, various people spoke volumes about this fallen hero:
“I have never witnessed such a crowd before; we even had people sitting by the pulpit”.
These were the words of Rev Peter Njoka, Provost, All Saints Cathedral.
“Eric was an honest man, never ready to change any aspect of his character to please anyone,” said former President Mwai Kibaki, then Chairman, Democratic Party of Kenya and old friend while addressing mourners.
“He was a good friend of mine, but more so of my father, the late Jaramogi Odinga Oginga. He always emphasized on enhancing unity among all Kenyans,” said Raila Odinga, then NDP leader addressing mourners.
“Hon Khasakhala emphasized that we should not let transient political associations divide the great Luhya nation,” said the late Kijana Wamalwa, Ford Kenya leader addressing mourners.
David Amunga, a renowned musician, born to a Luo mother, Elita Manyasa from the Umira Kager clan in Alego (the combatively traditionalist clan that made headlines during the SM Otieno versus Wamboi burial saga in the 1987), his maternal grandfather, Analo Okusimba was a traditional music artist and it was from his genes that Amunga owes his interest in music.
It was a talent that entertained both man and beast and brought fame if not fortune to young Amunga. Descended from Muchisa, the tribal ancestor who led the Kisa people from Samia several generations ago into their present locale, Amunga of the Abakambuli clan started singing as a herd’s boy.
Luhya musicians at the time included John Mwale from Tiriki, George Mukabi from Kisa, Bunyore Band led by Atwoli. Others were John Ondolo from Kisa, Jimmy Lasko from Idakho, Edward Nandwa from Maragoli, Joseph Kakai from Bukusu, Daudi Kabaka, John Nzenze and John Mwale all from Tiriki and Simekha from Bunyore.
Amunga’s first recording at Mwangaza studio - America to Africa - topped the music charts for six months and firmly established him as an accomplished professional artist and entrepreneur. Although inspired by his friend’s loneliness in the US, it was also a response to Daudi Kabaka’s Safari ya Tanganyika which was such a big hit it created a new benchmark on the local music scene.
The genesis of America to Africa started at a meeting in Kamukunji grounds at which Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga talked of airlifting people to go to America and Russia to study and return home to build the new independent 5 state.
This airlift which had started just before independence included US president, Barack Obama’s father. Although saints and heroes are never recognized in their own countries, for Amunga some measure of recognition came on December 12, 2004 when President Mwai Kibaki awarded him the Order of the Grand Warrior, the first Kenyan musician to receive a presidential commendation.
It was a fitting birthday present for Amunga, then 66, born on a day that would later coincide with Jamhuri Day.
While some of these heroes have all passed away, each and every day current service members distinguish themselves honorably in our communities. 51 years now, a lot of water has passed under the bridge.
Machakos County unveiled the state of Samuel Muindi Mbingu ahead of the 2016 Mashujaa Day.
While we celebrate Mashujaa Day with other communities here we will remember those who have served and continue to serve.
However, a question begs, what is our role today in creating a better future, not only for Luhya but for our nation as a whole?
Today marks a great milestone to us Kenyans.

A day our country is being reborn, a day that inspires by the opportunities that will make each day afford us to wake-up and live another day striving to reach our goals as a nation.

(Editing by @Obed Muindi)