Our heroes deserve better

What you need to know:

  • The council’s main role is to identify heroes and, among others, ensure they have good upkeep for themselves and their dependants.

Kenya’s trailblazing Olympian Ben Jipcho died yesterday, adding to the long list of legendary sportspeople who have passed on in recent times.

Besides winning an Olympic silver medal at the 1968 Olympic Games after unselfishly pacing gold medalist Kipchoge Keino in Mexico, Jipcho captained Kenya to the successful 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he won two gold medals and a bronze. He died while undergoing treatment in Eldoret, aged 77.

As we join his family and the athletics community in mourning the legend, Jipcho’s demise, for the umpteenth time, raises concern over how we treat our legends.

He joins a long list of heroes and heroines who have passed on without proper recognition, some in abject poverty. 

They include pioneer track runner Nyantika Maiyoro, 1972 Olympic relay gold medallist Robert Ouko, and football legend Joe Kadenge, who all died last year while pleading for recognition.
President Uhuru Kenyatta did meet with some of the legends in July last year, and even visited Kadenge in his Nairobi house as the former international battled illness, but despite the President’s directive that these veterans be accorded institutionalised support, nothing has been forthcoming.

Many more stars are on their death beds as we wait to see activity at the National Heroes Council established via the Kenya Heroes Act of 2014.

The council’s main role is to identify heroes and, among others, ensure they have good upkeep for themselves and their dependants. But all this is on paper, with nothing having been implemented.
Our legends deserve better. Rest in peace, Mzee Ben Jipcho.