(Prof Washington Okumu Jalango)
Over the years there are a number of events, individuals and personalities that have helped place Kenya and the Kenyan people on the global map that is our star athletes of almost seven decades running now namely, Nyandika Maiyoro, Wilson Kiprugut, Amos Biwott, Naftali Temu, Ben Jipcho, Kipchoge Keino, Michael Boit, Robert Ouko, Charles Asati, Julius Sang, Hezekiah Nyamao, Henry Rono, Julius Korir, John Ngugi, Paul Ereng, Geraldine Shitandayi, Rose Tata-Muya, Julius Kariuki, Peter Rono, Yobes Ondieki, Cosmas Ndeti, Paul Tergat (current President of National Olympic Committee of Kenya – NOCK), Douglas Wakihuri, Mathew Birir, Henry Wanyoike, Noah Ngeny, Samuel Wanjiru, Ezekiel Kemboi, Sally Barsosio, Tecla Lorupe, Catherine Ndereba, Janeth Jepkosgei, Prisca Jelimo, Nancy Jebet, Vivian Cheruiyot, Hellen Obiri, Wilfred Bungei and Eliud Kipchoge.
There are then Kenya’s boxers once famously known as the “Hit Squad,” amongst whom have been the likes of Peter Wariunge, Dick “Tiger” Murunga, Stephen Muchoki, James “Demosh” Omondi, Robert Wangila and Omar Kasongo. In particular, Robert Wangila remains the only person so far from Africa to have won a gold medal in boxing at the Olympic Games by way of the gold medal won by Wangila on 1st October 1988 at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
The East African Safari Rally/Kenyan Safari Rally/Marlboro Safari Rally/555 Safari Rally/Trust Bank Safari Rally, also placed Kenya in the limelight for 30 years from 1973 to 2002 when it was a World Rally Championship event and rated the toughest rally in the world.
The epic 1985 movie “Out of Africa” also put Kenya in the global spotlight with it’s stellar cast that included Sydney Pollack, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, plus the seven Oscars won by “Out of Africa” at the 1986 Academy Awards.
The 1987 movie “White Mischief,” also on Kenyan History like “Out Africa,” was less high profile than “Out of Africa,” though “White Mischief” was also key in further placing Kenya on the world map.
Enter Gor Mahia Football Club of Kenya and Gor historically clinching the 1987 continental Africa Cup Winners Cup.
Kenya has also hosted many Global conferences over the past six decades e.g. the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) Global Conference held in Kenya in September 1973, the first of it’s kind to be held in Africa, the Nairobi Global Women’s Conference held in Kenya in July 1985, ten years before the Beijing Global Women’s Conference of 1995, and the Global Eucharistic Congress of August 1985 that was held in Kenya, attended by Pope John Paul II.
Dreadlocks which are now a global socio-cultural trait, are attributed to Kenya’s Mau Mau Libaration Movement of 1946 to 1960, and the trademark dreadlocks donned by Kenya’s Mau Mau fighters.
There are then Prof. Wangari Maathai, the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Lupita Nyong’o the first Black African to win an Oscar at the Academy Awards.
Additionally, there are a number of Kenyans who have enhanced Kenya’s global profile over the years by breaking into professional ranks globally in sports rated lower than athletics in Kenya, such as Simi Goyal in Hockey, Hassan Juma, Dennis Oliech, Patrick Oboya, MacDonald Mariga and Victor Wanyama Mugubi in Football, and Edward Rombo in Rugby. Not many Kenyans remember, but MacDonald Mariga in particular, played for Inter-Milan of Italy in 2010 under legendary Coach Jose Mourinho, in a season that Inter-Milan won Italy’s Serie A Cup, the Italian Cup and Europe’s Champions’ League Cup, all three gold medals in Mariga’s and Kenya’s distinguished Cabinets and Rolls of Honour. MacDonald Mariga for President. Divock Origi also, is a Belgian of Kenyan origin i.e. both of Divock’s parents are Kenyans, and Divock even speaks very good Kiswahili. Divock scored the winning goal for Liverpool Football Club of the United Kingdom, which won Liverpool the 2019 European Champions’ League Cup, and Divock also scored a spectacular last minute winning goal for Belgium against Russia at the 2014 Football World Cup. Divock Origi too, for President of Kenya.
There is then Barack Hussein Obama Junior, 44th President of the United States of America, who is half-Kenyan.
Last but not least is the Kenya Rugby Sevens Team, winners of the 2016 Singapore Sevens, past semi-finalists at the 2009 and 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cups, and past runners-up at the Adelaide Sevens, the Auckland Sevens, the Canada Sevens and the Hong Kong Sevens.
You want to be Kenyan? Please apply at a Kenyan Embassy nearest to you anywhere in the world, and please do so soonest otherwise the queues may be way too long when you do.
Actually this country of ours should by now be having booming self-supporting Sporting, Socio-Cultural and Tourism sectors, if nothing more then we are asleep, all of us, not just our leaders and/or our Government.
For example, all we have been talking about since 1992 are elections and referendums, when there is so much unharnessed, untapped and unexploited potential in this country of ours.
For example, President Barack Obama came and went as US President from 2009 to 2017 just like that, with no spike in tourism numbers to Kenya. Barack Obama gave us free publicity, free marketing and free goodwill and we didn’t use it. Unbelievable. Are we a serious people? It is very disheartening to still hear many Kenyans make casual remarks like “What has Obama done for me?” and/or “Barack Obama is not Kenyan” and/or “Barack Obama is not a Kenyan.” If Barack Obama is not Kenyan, why was President John F. Kennedy the 1st Irish-American US President? If Barack Obama is not Kenyan why is Robert De Niro referred to as an Italian-American?
For example, many tourists to America still visit George Washington’s birthplace and resting place, and many tourists to America still visit Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s final resting place.
Next to no tourists have visited Barack Obama’s ancestral roots in Nyang’oma-Kogelo, Nyanza Province, Kenya, since 2009. There has got to be something wrong with this, something wrong on the part of all we Kenyans, and not just our Government.
By now also, we should be returning back from the Olympic Games with at least 18 gold medals, from the Commonwealth Games with at least 24 gold medals and from the All Africa Games with at least 30 gold medals rather than this continued empty talk of ours on being the next Governor of “X” County, or the next Member of Parliament for “X” Constituency or the next Member of the County Assembly (MCA) for “X” Ward, or the next Women’s Representative for “X” County. If we do not want to join hands and develop this country of ours together, someone else will. The British found us asleep in the 19th century subdued us, and continue to. Someone else, if not the British, could do the very same thing to us in the 21st century if we do not wake up. We are the problem, all of us, not just our Government. Our attitude needs to change, not just our Government.
In conclusion, homage above is rightfully paid to several Kenyans, past and present.
There is however the little remembered Prof. Washington Okumu Jalongo (RIP), mentioned at the very beginning. Who is or who was Prof. Washington Okumu Jalongo, and why is he also deserving of a tribute when it comes to Kenyan History?
Prof. Washington Okumu Jalango brokered a last minute deal in 1994 in South Africa between Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) and Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), salvaging the historic 1st Post-Apartheid South African elections of 27th April 1994 i.e. both the ANC & IFP had declared they would boycott the historic South African elections of 27th April 1994, though the diplomatic skills of Prof. Washington Okumu Jalango averted this, and rescinded the boycott by both ANC & IFP, and the historic 1st Post-Apartheid South African elections of 27th April 1994 were held as scheduled.
Just before the 1st Gulf War of January 1991, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia at the time, flew to Iraq to try and convince Saddam Hussein to relent and vacate Iraqi troops from neighbouring Kuwait after Iraq had invaded Kuwait in August 1990, declaring Kuwait was an “Iraqi Province.”
Imagine Kenya invading neighbouring Tanzania and declaring Tanzania a “Kenyan Province,” or vice versa, imagine Tanzania invading Kenya and declaring Kenya a “Tanzanian Province?”
Saddam stood his ground and Kaunda returned back to Zambia “empty handed.” The 1st Gulf War of 1991 began soon thereafter.
Not Prof. Washington Okumu Jalango in 1994, Jalango did not return back home to Kenya “empty handed” from South Africa in 1994.
There you have it … you now know about one more Kenyan legend.