Mau Mau Heroes: They returned from the war and found their children deep in illiteracy

By Raila Odinga

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 sellouts.

They returned from the war and found their children deep in illiteracy while the children of collaborators were in 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 little 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 honor commensurate with their struggle.

At the Bomas of Kenya constitution 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 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 of 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.