Remarks of Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga at Inauguration of Mau Mau Monument, September 12, 2015

Volume 12, Issue 3  | 
Published 01/03/2016

I am honoured to witness this significant event that is both a closure and a beginning.

The fate of the freedom fighters in Kenya has been extremely close to my heart.

As Prime Minister in the grand coalition government, I was privileged to discuss the fate of Mau Mau fighters with the highest officials of the British government.

I urged that we needed get to some acceptable closure to this dark chapter and open a new one of mutual respect and dignity.

I appointed that indefatigable Kenyan Hon. Gitobu Imanyara my special envoy on this matter. Hon. Imanyara backed the efforts of equally tireless fighters and lawyers some of whom are represented here today. I congratulate those who stayed the course. I thank the British government for giving the negotiations a chance.

I am proud to witness this new beginning. Kenya and Britain have worked hard, done much and better to ensure history brings us together rather that tear us apart. We have worked together to change history and change the future.

This event takes place only two days after Her Majesty’s Government awarded a record 30 scholarships to young Kenyans to study various degree courses in top universities in the UK.

On behalf of these young Kenyans and their parents, I thank the British government for investing in the future of our country. I hope the scholarships can double next year.

I cherish all efforts geared at changing the future by being faithful to history. It’s a tradition we ought to instil in our children.

The recognition that Mau Mau fighters were victims of human rights abuses and torture is a significant step towards the recognition of our past and its impact on our future.

The men and women who paid the ultimate price so that we may live in freedom only had the nasty reward of being called bandits and terrorists when the war was over.

They returned from the forests and found even the little land they had, taken by home guards. They left the forests and found their wives taken by collaborators and sell-outs.

They returned from the war and found their children deep in illiteracy while the children of collaborators were in the best schools and universities, locally and abroad.

And they came out only to find the home guards were the new rulers to whom they had to bow and salute and take orders from. The bitterness lives on.

I can feel the pain of the Mau Mau and the other freedom fighters. They must have concluded that life is cruel and worthless and that Kenya has no place for heroes.

This small monument erected here today is our little way of saying, we remember the sacrifices made, the pain suffered and the shame bravely borne by patriots who fought for our freedom but could not positively answer the question ‘what have you got to show for it?’

But this must only be the start and not the end to the journey to seek and honour the men and women who made sacrifices that Kenya may emerge as a nation among nations.

It must be followed by a genuine and honest effort to identify Kenya's heroes, past and present and accord them the honour commensurate with their struggle.

At the Bomas of Kenya constitutional conference, we agreed to reserve a site to bury our heroes and a day to remember them.

But the Heroes Acre remains unoccupied at the Uhuru Gardens because as a nation, we are too scared of our past to agree on who our heroes are.

For far too long, Kenya has been running away from its past and struggling to change it to suit the image of those in power.

To every such attempt, the resounding response has been that the past is stubborn. It stands its ground. Heroism can never be purchased with money. It can only be earned.

Because Kenya is running away from its past and seeking heroes out of villains, we have never embarked on an honest search for Dedan Kimathi’s remains. Decades after his death, Dedan Kimathi is still a threat to the forces of the status quo who want him confined to some unmarked grave.

We do not want to honour Waiyaki wa Hinga because he reminds us of how small our contribution is to the emergence of the Kenyan nation. So we would rather let his memory fade because he brings to shame our claim to heroism.

The time has come for Kenya to stop this war with its past if we are to march into a peaceful and honourable future.

This honour for Mau Mau fighters must therefore mark the beginning of the search for our heroes from other communities. The struggle for Kenya's freedom was a collective effort of patriots from virtually all parts of Kenya.

The other day, I was in Kisii with Prof Ngugi wa Thiongo who immortalised a son of the community, Otenyo Nyamaterere.

Colonial settler North Cott, who chopped off his head and shipped it to England but buried the body in Kenya, killed Otenyo. He deserves recognition. So do Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Me Katilili, Elijah Masinde, Tom Mboya, Koitalel Arap Samoei, Ojijo Oteko, Muindi wa Bingu and Makhan Singh, among others. We must go beyond Mau Mau.

Post independent Kenya too has its heroes and victims. Pio Gama Pinto, Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, Alexander Kipsang Arap Muge, Masinde Muliro, George Anyona, Katama Mkangi, Jean Marie Seroney, Henry Okullu, Martin Shikuku, Wangari Maaithai, Chelagat Mutai, and many fighters for our Second Liberation deserve their honour.

Our constitution identified the post-independence abuses and called for actions that will lead to an amicable and satisfactory closure.

Subsequently, a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was set up to look into all human rights abuses. The TJRC report needs to be implemented without further excuses.

Thank you for this day.

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