Neglected city museums and monuments a big shame

Saturday February 2 2019

A visitor at the Mau Mau Monument at Uhuru Park, Nairobi. PHOTO | ODHIAMBO ORLALE

A visitor at the Mau Mau Monument at Uhuru Park, Nairobi. PHOTO | ODHIAMBO ORLALE 

ODHIAMBO ORLALE
By ODHIAMBO ORLALE
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Nairobi city has more monuments and museums than most residents care to know or to visit. But the sad thing is that some of the monuments, worth millions of shillings and recently erected using public funds, are already being vandalised and mistreated by the public.

The worst-hit are the Mau Mau, the Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi and the Tom Mboya monuments in the city centre, constructed with financial support from British and Kenyan tax payers.

The expensive marble and lighting materials used on the Mau Mau monument at Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park have been vandalised while on the Kimathi monument along Kimathi Street, the glass housing the commemorative plaque has been broken and trash dumped inside.

On the flip side, the best-kept monuments are Nyayo, at the junction of Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway; the World War II African and the British War Veterans’ monuments on Kenyatta Avenue next to General Post Office (GPO) and Sarova Stanley, respectively; the Jeevanjee Monument on Muindi Mbingu Street and the Uhuru Monument at Uhuru Gardens off Lang’ata Road.

The city centre has four museums that are not only refreshing to visit, but are a captivating journey into Kenya’s over half a century as an independent nation, and a century since it was colonised by the British government.

The four are the National Museums of Kenya on Thika Highway and Waiyaki Way junction; the Nairobi Gallery which houses the famous Murumbi Museum at Nyayo House on the Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway junction; the August 7 (Bomblast) Museum, at the junction of Moi Avenue and Haile Selassie Avenue; and the National Archives, opposite Hilton Hotel.

Once inside the Central Business District, there is the World War II memorial near General Post Office for the fallen British soldiers, and a similar one near Sarova Stanley, of three armed African soldiers, dedicated to Kenyan soldiers who lost their lives in the war pitting the British and the Germans and their allies.

VISIBILITY

A walk down Kimathi Street one comes to the imposing stature of Mau Mau leader, Dedan Kimathi, towering over the busy street at the junction of Kimathi Street and Mama Ngina Street.

Over 200 metres ahead on Moi Avenue between Standard Chartered Bank and National Archives is the Tom Mboya Monument, in honour of the flamboyant trade unionist and former Cabinet Minister for Economic Planning, who was felled by an assassin’s bullet a few metres from where the statue has been erected in 1969.

Other monuments are of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the founder of the nation; one is of him seated outside the imposing Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), facing the Kenya National Assembly, while the other is in a secluded place at the entrance of the august House, of him standing and waving his symbolic flywhisk.

However, the capital city has some monuments which have either been forgotten or are less visible to residents and/or tourists because of their location in the suburbs.

They are Uhuru Monument at Uhuru Gardens off Lang’ata Road, where the Union Jack was lowered as the Kenyan national flag was raised on Jamhuri (Independence Day) by the founder of the nation, Jomo Kenyatta, on December 12, 1963; and Karen Blixen Museum off Lang’ata Road in Karen area.

Noble Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai does not have a monument in Kenya, but was honoured posthumously with one in Peru, in South America.

In Nairobi the former assistant minister and founder of the Greenbelt Movement, has a road named after her and the University of Nairobi, where she lectured, has put up an ultra-modern Prof Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at its Upper Kabete Campus, off Waiyaki Way.

It is a global centre of excellence in environmental governance with linkages to peace and democracy and aims to create a culture of peace through transformational leadership in environmental governance.

Others are the St John Paul II (1978-2005) Monument in the form of a pyramid on Uhuru Park facing Parliament; this is where Pope John II held a historic mass during his visit in May 1980; and the African hut-shaped building on University of Nairobi grounds where Pope Francis held a historic African visit and mass in November 2015, soon after taking over.

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