The fanfare during the Mashujaa Celebrations at the Mama Ngina Water Front in Mombasa was a good attempt at making up for the silent return of sporting heroes; Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei. Their individual record-breaking moments in Vienna and Chicago respectively gave Kenya a moment to be proud of, one that will linger for a while.
The highlight of these annual celebrations must have been the moment that President Uhuru Kenyatta presented Eliud with the Elder of the Golden Heart (EGH) medal. There was a countrywide consensus that Eliud was deserving of the award as he has continuously displayed true heroism and patriotism through his many achievements. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, he has singlehandedly reignited a sense of hope and optimism among the youth especially, to pursue their dreams without tiring.
The award was also a departure from the last two years’ which were characterized by public complaints and controversy, brought about by the credibility of those to whom the honours were conferred. Instead, thought and process seems to have been given to this year’s awards, with deliberate efforts to only recognize those deemed deserved of the awards. This was in line with the guidelines in the National Honours Act 2013. Section 4 of the Act defines the “persons on whom national honours to be conferred”.
A person shall merit the conferment of a national honour if the person is – (a) a person who exhibited or exhibits exemplary qualities, actions or achievements of heroism, sacrifice, bravery, patriotism or leadership for the defence, benefit or betterment of the country or a county; (b) a person who has made an exemplary contribution to the country or a county in the economic, social, scientific, academic, public administration, governance, sports, journalism, business, security or other fields;” it says. This should perhaps be a lesson for both the national and county governments as they seek to recognize those who have made sacrifices for and contributed to the nation.
It is without a doubt that Eliud embodies these qualities making him the perfect recipient of the award, adding it to his decorated wall of achievements. A sentiment that was widely shared in the Senate during a motion on his commendation a week ago.
Among the issues that consistently arose during the debate was the manner in which leadership acknowledges and commends exemplary feats by local talents. Senators recognized that because of the unfriendly environment within which sportsmen operate in, it’s become difficult for their achievements to avoid being trivialized or tribalized when they happen. For years, government support has been conspicuously absent at the beginning of an athlete’s career only for the same government to quickly take credit when they attain the ‘elite’ status.
“One of the best ways of ensuring that young persons in this country continue walking in the right path is to appreciate success,” said Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko. An area that the government can and should improve on through consistent investment.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the years to come. Eliud has set a great precedent for future heroes to be accorded the recognition they so deserve. Those who happen to share a lot in common with past heroes that charted the way forward for our nation. Those who selflessly endeavour to improve the spaces within which they operate in, either through charity or policy provided better frameworks.
These heroes continue to inspire masses through selfless acts of leadership that are guided by integrity and love for the country.
The hope is that our leaders can borrow from Eliud and other heroes. That through his journey they can learn to live by the values of self-discipline, integrity, patriotism and hard work in their respective positions. That they should know that in the spirit of #NoHumanIsLimited, no dream is too big for Kenya either.