Henry Rono and Steve Muchoki meet for the first time in 33 years and wonder together who will unlock the puzzle of their missing rewards awarded by the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta for their service to this great nation two days before he died on August 22, 1978.
When Nation Media Group Sports Editor Elias Makori early this year wrote exclusively about Rono’s desire to come back to Kenya from the United States where he had lived for 33 years, I went to his office to thank him and seek his advice on my intended plans once Rono was back to his motherland.
Daily Nation of November 20, 2019, had another exclusive - a full page by Ayumba Ayodi to signify to Kenyans and the world at large that at long last, Rono was back home. Thanks to Ayodi, I was able to get Rono’s phone number.
A few days ago, I called Rono and we had an interesting conversation after I introduced myself to him. I made it known to him that I had already talked to Muchoki with whom they were honoured by the late Mzee Kenyatta on August 20, 1978.
Rono was honoured with the Order of the Burning Spear (OBS), second class - which was the second highest honour that the President could bestow upon a Kenyan citizen. Muchoki received the Elder of the Burning Spear (EBS), third class.
The two were recognised for putting Kenya on the world map in their respective sports. This was in State House Mombasa. Rono had broken four world records – 10,000 meters (27:22.5), 5,000m (13:08.4), 3,000m steeplechase (8:05.4) and 3,000m flat (7:32.1). On the hand, Muchoki had beaten the best in the world as a flyweight to become the first Kenyan to clinch a world title in amateur boxing.
First, I had to visit Rono at his South C house so that we could know each other better since we had not met before. We shook hands then hugged each other like lost and found good old friends. I was happy and felt relieved as Rono, smiling broadly, asked me to follow him inside the house.
Once seated, and as we enjoyed a cup of tea, he would tell me in bits about life in America and how happy he felt to be back to Kenya. He said he was gradually trying to cope with the new environment in a country he left 33 years ago. A lot of development has taken place over the years - new buildings and roads all over.
Having lived for more than three decades in the United States where the good, the bad and the ugly had been written about him over the years, I asked Rono whether he felt sorry for the way he had lived his life. His answer was a plain no. He says much as he encountered many challenges, deep inside himself, he felt some hidden power to fight on to overcome, and not to give up or feel sorry.
Our meeting with Muchoki was for the following day and as I prepared to leave, he pulled a book from a shelf and handed it over to me. It is his own book, written in bold—HENRY RONO OLYMPIC DREAM.
Says Rono as he escorts me outside the gate: “This book will help you understand more about my life.”
That evening, I called Muchoki to let him know that I have already met with Rono and that we would all meet near Nyayo National Stadium at lunch time the following day from where we would agree on a quiet venue.
The following day, the three of us met as earlier agreed. It was quite a scene as two of Kenya’s greatest sports heroes shook hands vigorously and hugged emotionally. This is the moment I had been waiting for.
To bring these two gentlemen together, thank God together for having brought them this far and more importantly, to revive and seek a permanent solution on matters involving the gift Mzee Kenyatta ordered to be given to both Rono and Muchoki on August 20, 1978, at State House, Mombasa.
Each of them was to receive eight of the finest grade cows and a similar number of goats from the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) and a piece of land near their areas of residence. Mzee Kenyatta died two days later. Simply put, the two great Kenyans are yet to receive their rewards 41 years down the line.
My understanding about Presidential decrees, directives or orders is that they are supposed to be obeyed. I have my own experience about the way Mzee Kenyatta used to operate having been part of the choir teams that entertained him for many years at his Gatundu home. I attended many of his political rallies at Ruring’u in Nyeri in the 1960s and some were full of drama.
At one point, an former Mau Mau fighter who shouted loudly while Mzee was addressing the crowd asked about land that the freedom fighters had been promised to them. He was finally given the land despite the unprintable words Mzee hurled at the man for interrupting him. Mzee did many things for many people both publicly and privately irrespective of where they came from.
On that note, whatever Mzee Kenyatta wanted given to both Rono and Muchoki, it is my humble appeal to President Uhuru Kenyatta to look into this matter and bring back the smile on the faces of these two great Kenyans who have been in their own wilderness for 41 years.
Looking at this matter critically, the two aging but determined warriors have surpassed the period the Israelites spent in the wilderness after crossing the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) preparing to go to Caanan, the Promised Land.
President Uhuru has done his best to support sportsmen and sportswomen who have brought glory to this great nation and he continues to give support for them to do even better. However, there is a need for a special body only answerable to the President and his chosen appointee to monitor and evaluate the needs for individuals and sports teams.
For now, the main concern is for Rono and Muchoki to be remembered and be allowed to reach the land of milk and honey. Mzee’s noble intentions need to be honoured.