The drafters of the Constitution, in their perfect conscience, saw the need to dedicate a whole day to national heroes, which shows the importance of Mashujaa Day, which will this year be celebrated on Sunday.
The transformation of the day from Kenyatta Day during the 2010 constitutional change was designed to make it relate to more people, not confined to the Kapenguria Six, including First President Jomo Kenyatta, who were arrested during the Mau Mau crackdown in the 1950s.
In addition to posthumously honouring those who fought — or even sacrificed their lives — for the country’s freedom from colonialism, the ceremony will, almost predictably, be used to reward those who have dedicated their lives to the people and the nation.
A country that doesn’t remember and appreciate its history is dead. History preceded the present; the present represents the future.
The importance of the October 20 fete cannot, therefore, be overemphasised. Other than the independence day, Jamhuri, Mashujaa should never be scrapped from the law.
However, the manner in which the day is celebrated has become too routine, predictable and repulsive for an impatient young generation that abhors repetitive declarations and musings. Although the rotation of venues breathes freshness into the day, more should be done to make it more memorable, expansive and eye-catching. It ought to ooze creativity, so that it does more justice to its name.
Heroism is difficult to hide. Those who do heroic acts radiate all over. Why shouldn’t they be properly involved in celebrating this important day? Why should they play extras when they should be the protagonists? Why should they be guests and not the hosts?
We don’t lack inspirational men and women of repute. The country is endowed with an array of talented individuals who will not lack what to tell Kenyans, especially when new voices need to be heard.
The presidential addresses to the nation on public holidays are said to be flat, repetitive messages. The joke on the street is that anybody can easily predict what President Uhuru Kenyatta will say.
The President could give an opportunity to some of the heroes to give the keynote address during Mashujaa Day.
Some people may argue against diluting the presidential message and that’s perfectly understandable. But would the day be rendered useless if Peter Tabichi, for instance, was to deliver the keynote address? Tabichi, 37, was recently declared the world’s top teacher.
Would anyone feel slighted if world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge, who has been labelled the greatest of all time by respected fellow athletes and organisations, was to address the nation? What if David Rudisha, the 800 metres world record holder, was the chief guest? Or the great wordsmith, Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
Setting aside Mashujaa Day for the honourable men and women of this country should not take away the day’s flavour; rather, it will give some oomph to the dull monotone of officialdom associated with it.
The Kenya Heroes Act should be amended to guide how the speakers are picked for this auspicious event. In that case, the ordinary mwananchi could send suggestions to the National Heroes Council.
Mr Kiplang’at is the Nation Media Group Regional Editor - North Rift. [email protected]