No sooner had our founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta been inaugurated as Kenya’s first prime minister, than he took to the podium to address the then ‘infant’ nation, speaking of a misunderstanding that plagued the colonial era, and inferring that it was only by our actions that we could show that we meant business.
It was a new dawn for Kenya, a country who, as a British colony had previously watched in pain as any of her most beloved children who showed signs of resistance were labelled as terrorists. While I do not agree with all what the MAUMAU did, some of it to our fellow forefathers, nothing sounds more ridiculous than someone coming and taking your land, your dignity and your freedom, and still having the audacity to call you a terrorist when you resist. At the very least, this was a classical example of the kettle calling the pot black.
Kenya watched in agony as the cultures she held dear not only to herself, but also for her very diverse people were hung out, one by one, to dry. Her traditional religions were labelled barbaric, her people savage, backward and primitive. Her time tested modes of dressing were slowly thrown out of the window since they did not conform to the acceptable, civilised standards. Her people were made to feel inherently inferior and ugly. Hair longer than 1 cm was seen as a sign for of resistance and protest and woe unto any of her children, if their hair was in locks.
Needless to say, only the very brave could raise a finger, let alone a hand, to this colonial rule. However, after watching the suffering and the hopelessness in the wake of another concentration camp’s establishment, or the ganging up of the administration and the church to afflict and calm down the people respectively, many a few of her sons and daughters said enough is enough! The thief had surely taken enough and the owner was starting to notice.
Many of our grandfathers and mothers came together to form a resistance to which we largely owe our freedom today: The MAUMAU fighters. Why do I say men and women? Remember that for every hand-made gun that roared in the forest or the banana plan, yet another arrow-root, sweet potato or yam was readied for cooking. As the men fought in the forest, the women probably flanked by the children, ensured that they were fed. With full knowledge of the presence of colonial informers, they chose to put their lives at risk to end this madness that had engulfed a county that was, in the first case divided by foreign influences. It is the people who formed this whole network that I salute today as my Mashujaa! We owe a great deal to you and any among us who is under any illusion as to how important independence and stable governance is should look at the ongoing refugee crisis.
Back to Mzee and a few minutes into his speech, he switched to Kiswahili, expressing regret at having to speak to his own people in a foreign, and for that matter, colonialist language. This was perhaps the first instance of the post independence effects of colonialism or what is called neocolonialism, some of which ensue up to this day.
It is precisely 52 years, 10 months and 8 days since we attained independence and in this time, we have had quite a few heroes. Adding to the celebrated ones like Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai, I choose to honour our mothers, fathers and guardians, who have, and still go out of their way to raise us into people who can take responsibility. I salute the parents who encourage our cultures and diversities and discourage neocolonialism, a continuation to the very thing that brought about this day in the first place. For the parents who desist from uttering terms like, ‘Leo uko smart kama mzungu,’ to their children, I salute you. You ensure that they do not grow up thinking that someone else is the SI unit of beauty.
For all of you out there who understand that success is simply making the best out of the available resources, you are heroes too in your own right and this day is for you.
This day is for friends of Kenya as well, those who look beyond race, ethnicity and travel advisories to contribute to the multicultural society, without which Kenya would be incomplete.
Happy Mashujaa Day!
Til next time,