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The shame of heroes crying for care in a sea of greedy souls

The filthy water below the Nyayo monument. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Nairobi is increasingly becoming a city of monuments of shame and by extension, wasted public resources.

Only the Jomo Kenyatta monuments outside KICC and Parliament Buildings exhibit a semblance of care from city authorities. The statue outside the Supreme Court of the peeing naked boy donning a wig and clutching a fish to portray justice as naked and slippery as a fish has enjoyed reasonably good care from the Judiciary.

The imposing Nyayo monument at Central Park that once featured on Kenya’s Sh100 currency note is today in a sorry state and has nothing to show for the Sh18 million spent in 1988 to build the shrine. It was a commemorative show-piece for President Daniel Moi’s 10 years at the helm after he took over from founding President Jomo Kenyatta in 1978.

The monument symbolically mounted with a snow-capped Mt Kenya and depicting Moi’s rungu, which was the former President’s emblem of authority, sticking out prominently in the firm grip of his hand has been left to the elements as seen from the dull facade it presents today in the absence of a revamping effort.

Dead creatures

The cockerel, symbol of independence party Kanu, cereals for food security, a mother and her children representing the general population and a dove for peace remain intact, but the sheen is gone and sections are peeling. The flowers are gone too and the once clean water at the base has turned green as it chokes with polythene papers and dead creatures.

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Also gone are the crowds that frequented the site to relish the beauty of the shrine where national and other flags flattered. Save for a few bored photographers chancing on the rare visitor, the place is desolate with idlers dozing on the rusty seats fixed under trees.

The scenario is repeated in cities and towns across the country where smaller but equally extravagant Nyayo monuments built at the same time with the Central Park one are decaying under the skies unattended.

The Sh4.5 million bronze Dedan Kimathi statue at the junction of Kimathi and Mama Ngina streets stood splendid on a graphite plinth until recently when, for unknown reasons, the plinth’s glass belly was stuffed with all manner of trash, obfuscating the writings echoing the hero’s contribution to the Mau Mau war for independence.

Kimathi, who embodied the Mau Mau resistance, sacrifice and commitment to ideals of nationalism, is portrayed drably dressed in military fatigues, holding a rifle in the right hand and a dagger in the left.

The fence that safeguarded it from rape since 2007 when it was unveiled by President Mwai Kibaki has been broken, apparently with no intervention from city authorities.

The Tom Mboya statue standing off Moi Avenue, about 20 metres away from where the hero was felled by an assassin’s bullet on July 5, 1969, has degenerated into an eye sore since it was unveiled on Mashujaa Day in 2011. It stands on what symbolises Rusinga Island where the former minister was buried.

The monument’s base until recently held a stinking mass of water where all manner of dirt, including dead frogs, rats, peels and polythene papers amassed. The water that occasionally spilled on the pavement in front of Standard Chartered Bank House has been drained and the site fenced off with corrugated iron sheets, but the rot remains heaped in one place with no visible work in progress.

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Gone are the water fountains that periodically washed the statue and its surroundings where flowers thrived and the flamingo images under the statue shone. Touted as Nairobi’s most popular icon until it was totally consumed by neglect, the Tom Mboya statue cost the Kenyan taxpayer Sh20 million by the time it was unveiled on October 20, 2011.

Magnet to residents

The 100-foot Uhuru Monument on Langata Road designed by Hamid Mughal at a cost of over Sh15 million is in bad shape, with little if any care going into it. Once a magnet of sorts to city residents and visitors alike, the grounds where it stands are mostly forlorn even on public holidays.

The monument features the sculpture of a man standing in front of the Kenya Court of Arms ready to “protect our interests and resources”.

At the centre of the monument is a pair of white marble palms embracing a heart and a dove on top to symbolise the Nyayo philosophy of “Peace, Love and Unity”.

Monuments elsewhere, even in Africa, are as a source of national pride. N’Djamena in Chad and Abidjan in Cote D’Ivoire are cases in point where visitors and locals flock to sample their exquisiteness.

Nairobi County Social Services Chief Officer Andrew Mwangi says the county government is not responsible for the care of the monuments, adding that it falls under the National Museums of Kenya. He says the stuffing with litter of the Kimathi monument is unfortunate.

“We’ll repair the breached fence and remove the rubbish,” he says.

A museum official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says monuments have not been abandoned and their refurbishment is subject to availability of funds. He says the Tom Mboya monument has been fenced off in anticipation of impending major refurbishment.

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