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Mbeki set for honorary degree in Kenya visit

Former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki will tour Nyeri in a move to honour fallen Mau Mau fighters who are heroes in the Rainbow Nation for inspiring the anti-apartheid struggle.

Some of the strategies used by South Africans in the fight were borrowed from the Mau Mau.

Mr Mbeki will be in Kenya on April 28 to attend the sixth graduation of Dedan Kimathi University of Technology. He is also expected to visit various sites that were used by the fighters.

Mau Mau inspired the Africa National Congress in its struggle against racial discrimination. When he was released from jail, anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela visited the widow of Mau Mau leader Dedan Kimathi to honour the family.

So renown was Kimathi’s legacy that when Mandela visited Kenya in July 1990 shortly after he was released from prison, he asked for the location of his grave.

The university’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Ndirangu Kioni, confirmed Mr Mbeki’s attendance and he will be awarded an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters, honoris causa.

“The Senate specifically recognizes Thabo Mbeki’s early age political consciousness which led him, while still a teenager, to become politically active and to commit himself to pursuit of freedom and justice,” part of the university’s citation by Prof Kioni reads.

The institution considered the shared military strategy in both South Africa’s and Kenya’s liberation struggles.

Specifically, at some point the African National Congress (ANC) adoption of a military strategy though Umkhonto we Siswe, embodied the spirit of the Kenya’s Mau Mau.

“This was a key and bold change in people’s and leaders’ mind set on the approach to confronting seemingly insurmountable societal challenges; it was a renaissance-like leap,” it went on to say. Kenya and South Africa share an almost similar history of being a force of universal liberation against colonial atrocities.

So renown was Mr Kimathi’s legacy that when he visited Kenya in July 1990 shortly after he was released from prison, the late Mandela asked for the location of General Kimathi’s grave.

During the visit, he put the national government on the spot for failing to acknowledge the Mau Mau as national heroes and Kimathi as a legendary figure who inspired other freedom fighters in Africa.

Had he not visited Kenya and asked for Kimathi’s widow, Mukami, the legacy would have faded. It is after the visit that several Kenyans highlighted her neglect by the government.

The world’s greatest living statesman, Nelson Mandela and Kenya’s legendary Mau Mau figure Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi struggles are a true reflection of their unique place in the world’s history.

Until recently when he was honoured with a statue in Nairobi, General Kimathi remained an unsung hero, his remains buried in an unmarked grave known only to the British.

In December 2012, retired president Mwai Kibaki awarded a charter to the new Dedan Kimathi University of Technology.

It was a great moment for Kimathi’s widow, Mukami, seeing an institution of higher learning named after her late husband.

Funds to establish the university came from individual contributions from the community, among them many poor subsistence farmers. The entire effort was reminiscent of the spirit which guided them to wedge the Mau Mau war of independence, against Britain colonialism.

“The initiative was spearheaded by leaders who suffered but survived the national war for Kenya’s liberation in the 1950s. It was a creative educational initiative which recognised that the appropriate weapon for the war to improve the basic welfare of the society and to create a prosperous society would now be science and technology,” the university said.

Mandela, who was elected South Africa’s first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison died of lung infection in 2013.

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