Former Headline Makers
1961, 1962… and then we have 1963, does that ring a bell? Am generous so I will let you what all those years mean to East Africa. I am talking about the years and days some of the nations gained their independence. 1963 is the proudest year of our nation KENYA, since then people have been celebrated, honoured and respected for being part of that most needed accomplishment. We have heard of all the obvious names thrown every now and then whenever this topic is raised. These are our heroes; they made what Kenya it is right now. We can finally enjoy the freedom and run our own country. Today, you might not hear about all the names you are used to, okay maybe a few. Am giving light to people whose names are rarely brought up and they have one way or another helped in building and shaping our country.
Kenyan trade unionist, educationist, Pan Africanist, author, independence activist, Cabinet Minister and one of the founding fathers of the Republic of Kenya Tom Mboya. He spearheaded the negotiations for Independence at the Lancaster House Conferences and was instrumental in the formation of Kenya’s independence party, KANU, which he served as its first Secretary General. He was only 38years old when he got assassinated by Bulgaria-trained activist Nahashon Njenga. Throughout the years questions have been raised; was Mboya a CIA agent? Why did he want power? Why was Kenyatta afraid of him? Above all, who killed Tom? So far no one is certain about the answers to these questions, just speculations. As Doctor Odhiambo said “There is a story to tell and the author tells it well”, in the book Tom Mboya: the Man Kenya Wanted to Forget the author did a good job in covering and answering almost all the questions asked about the late Tom Mboya.
Apart from being a politician Njenga Karume was also a successful business man in Kenya. He started his political career in 1974 as a nominated Member of Parliament Kiambaa constituency. He was also an active member of G.E.M.A. In his autobiography, Njenga traces his early life right from birth in 1929, and takes the reader through the various spheres of his inspiring; life characterized by an enviable work ethic, unpretentious patriotism, knowledge of human psychology and extraordinary intelligence. Here was an outgoing person who was born in poverty, received minimal education and then, through his own initiative, ventured into business during one of the toughest times in Kenya’s colonial history. Yet, he succeeded in business beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and rose to such prominence and popularity that he became a respected politician and Cabinet Minister who interacted intimately with all the first three Presidents of independent Kenya.
Did you know that Dr. Julius Gikonyo Kiano was the first Kenyan to earn a PhD? He set a good example to the whole nation when he returned to Kenya in 1956. He joined the University of Nairobi, then known as the Royal Technical College, to become its first African lecturer. He married a very strong and outspoken Africa-American woman who was later deported by Moi for having “shown herself by act and speech to be disloyal and disaffected toward Kenya” in 1966.Together with Tom Mboya, Kiano transformed many lives when he played a key role in the student airlifts to the US. The airlift would lay a foundation of the young country’s political and economic take-off. More than 5,000 Kenyan students went to Europe, India, Israel and the US. His book “Quest for Liberty represents the acme of his (name) life as a politician. He was among those who negotiated for a new constitution at Lancaster House Conference just before Independence. As a dedicated minister in both Kenyatta and Moi cabinets, he implemented various notable programmes such as the Africanisations initiative that set the country on the path to economic independence”
Now this one is my favourite, we all know ‘behind every successful man, is a woman’, and in this case, the phrase fits perfectly. The most wanted by then and most celebrated now, the freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi was married to the now referred to as ‘Mau Mau heroine’ Mukami Kimathi. Mukami was also a Mau Mau fighter just like her husband who didn’t get much credit until her husband died. For the country she fought so hard for, she was so saddened by the 2007-2008 post-election violence and often said: “Because we fought the colonialists, Kenyans now have arrow roots, sweet potatoes, bananas and yam on the table. But instead of eating, they are fighting!” At some point we’ve all had that kind of mentality that women like running their mouths, they can’t keep a secret but today I want to prove you wrong. Mukami has been a hard nut to crack whenever asked about the details of the fights because of the oath she took back the. She said in her book Mukami Kimathi: Mau mau freedom fighter “I will never, ever reveal what I swore to in the oaths I took. I will never betray the oaths I took,” She also wrote of how South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela wept on her after an emotional visit to Kenya in 2005. She said Mandela was full of admiration for her late husband.
These names played part in shaping our country but as years go by their names keep on fading and don’t get much appreciation as they should. What is not written is forgotten, all these books will ensure their story never fade away. Buy the books and pass them along to your children and grandchildren.