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The media’s duty to African history

“Njaanuary” has rushed to a close. Hurray! Sign of a fresh new decade that might hold great hope. In the past, “Njaanuary” lasted about 67 days. Not anymore.

January 12 marked the 56th anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution that overthrew the rule of Arab sultans and created the People’s Republic of Zanzibar in 1964 led by Abeid Karume of Afro-Shirazi party.

On January 17, 1961, DR Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Emery Patrice Lumumba was assassinated. This year marks the 59th anniversary of the death of this leading Pan-Africanist.

On January 20, 1973, Amílcar Cabral, secretary general of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), was assassinated. Cabral, through his writing and organizing, was by far the most important African politician in the fight against Portuguese colonialism.

Now, these and many other great men and women of Africa are disappearing into the mists of history with the passage of time. Their thought and work no longer inspires especially the younger generations who may never have heard of them. They risk being forgotten.

The media has a duty to history. Not only are scribes the writers of the first drafts of history (a fact we are happy to repeat on these pages) but also the guardians of a people’s precious heritage.

January has passed without a word in the pages of our newspapers, in our radio and TV broadcasts, on our online platforms about the men, women and events that shaped our history.

Kenya is a Pan-Africanist nation. The liberation of our land from colonialism was inspired by the dream of an independent and prosperous Africa.

Last August, President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Jamaica as the Caribbean nation commemorated the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of African slaves in the Americas. The visit signaled Kenya’s awareness of its Pan-Africanist identity and the historical imperative to promote the unity, total emancipation and shared prosperity of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.

In February, Kenyatta addressed the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, saying: “I am a Pan-Africanist who believes that African peoples have a common cultural heritage and historical experience that we must understand if we are to have clearer sight of our desired destination.”

The common African cultural heritage and historical experience will be forgotten if it is not reflected upon and celebrated by succeeding generations.

The media has a critical role to play here. Where are the stories that commemorate significant events and personalities of African history?

When funds will be available (the Observer’s avocado and malenge farms in Koibatek are doing very well) we shall begin by taking scribes on a tour of the streets of Nairobi to understand some of the African heroes they are named after.

Who is Haile Selassie, named after one of the city’s longest roads? Cabral has a short road between Moi Avenue and Tom Mboya Street behind Imenti House.

Who is Mondlane? Moktar Dadah? And Nyerere? In Westlands, a road dedicated to the memory of our very own Pio Gama Pinto connects Sarit Centre to Waiyaki Way. Who is Pinto?

Luthuli Avenue is known for electronics shops. But who is Chief Albert Luthuli?

And so on. Without history, the nation project is an exercise in futility.

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