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This Mashujaa Day, let’s honour deserving heroes

By Christopher Owuor
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In summary

Today the country marks the 11th Mashujaa Day. Before promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, October 20 was celebrated as Kenyatta Day and dedicated to Kenyan sons and daughters who sacrificed their lives to liberate the nation from colonialism.

The new Constitution turned it into a day of national reflection of celebrated champions in diversified fields and other post-independence heroes who fought justice and democracy.

However, one of the biggest criticisms against the commemoration is motivation and considerations for choice of the heroes.

There has been a tendency to reward individuals in the political realm, public officials, disciplined services, sports and the arts sectors.

This year, Kenyans have been advised to celebrate themselves as their own mashujaas.

It is also an opportunity to recognise individuals who made a difference in our lives, assisted us to overcome tough challenges, or improved our conditions.

It is noteworthy that the country is marking this year’s event amid a health crisis — an unprecedented pandemic that continues to be the cause of anxiety and uncertainty.

The past seven months have been particularly painful for Kenyans who are reeling from the effects of Covid-19. 

In a sense, the pandemic has tremendously reconfigured our definition and brought forth an unlikely set of heroes, different individuals borne out of a national battle in response to a crisis.

Think of the medical workers who continue to stake their lives to save Kenyans.

The country has lost valuable professionals — including medics — to Covid-19.

Or the landlord who waived rent to ease the burden on his tenants undergoing difficult times.

The parents who had to accept pay cuts and continue working because of their dependants.

Think of the relative who had to take in a family whose breadwinner had died or lost a job to Covid-19.

Those are the true heroes. We also celebrate individuals who have excelled in various fields, including sports, science and humanities. 

But going forward the opaqueness in the selection process must be addressed. There is concern the selection is made by individuals who end up picking associates and godfathers as beneficiaries.

Politicians with dubious moral standing and other underserving people have been decorated at the expense of real national role models in various facets of society. The people who touch lives of ordinary Kenyans everyday.

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