A beautiful daughter of a veteran Opposition politician got global respect for her acting prowess in no less a place than the international home of motion pictures – Hollywood, in Los Angeles, California – a first for Africa…indeed for Kenya. A lithe athlete shattered the world marathon record and the wife of the President slogged away for seven hours on the 42-kilometre marathon course in London for charity.
This is the story of the deluge of prestigious awards that Kenyan actor, Lupita Nyong’o, the daughter of Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o received. Lupita spent the year collecting one award after the other on the Hollywood celebrity circuit.
Daniel Kimetto’s new record at the Berlin Marathon and Margaret Kenyatta’s run for her charity to make sure “no woman should die while giving life” are some of the moments of pride that the country recorded in 2014.
The creative prose of Okwiri Oduor wowed the literary world as it earned her the Caine Prize for African Writing for My Father’s Head.
“My Father’s Head is an uplifting story about mourning. She exercises an extraordinary amount of control and yet the story is subtle, tender and moving. It is a story you want to return to the minute you finish it,” the lead judge on the panel said.
All these events had shades of patriotism in helping Kenyans define their heroes; and in a country where political divisions based on tribe always linger under the surface, these were rare moments of national pride.
On the political front, thousands of people braved the hot Nairobi sun to welcome their respective political heroes back home in moves that made poignant political statements for their supporters and opponents. That was the triumphant return of President Kenyatta after making history as the first sitting Head of State to appear before the International Criminal Court; and the heroic homecoming of Opposition leader Raila Odinga after a three-month hiatus in the US – a break he took following the botched elections of his party.
The President’s return after the humbling ICC appearance signaled the possible collapse of his case and just as he and his lawyers, plus some of the supporters had hoped, the judges leaned on prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to drop the charges.
With a heavy heart for the plight of the victims and some kind of resignation on the futility of trying to get incriminating evidence against Kenyatta from his government, Bensouda had no option but to drop the charges. For a man who has been fighting the dubious title of suspect for committing crimes against humanity, the dropping of the charges was good news, the best news, for the Kenyan President in 2014.
It was also a year of creative hashtags – keywords on Twitter to help one follow a conversation – some of which were pure fun to follow, while others rattled the Executive.
Raila’s return after spending three months in the US on a programme for African leaders spawned #BabaWhileYouWereAway, a viral hashtag that listed all the problems that the country had been facing—runaway insecurity; rising cost of living; corruption scandals in top government offices and nepotism.
After a well-attended rally and a follow-up public meeting on the Saba Saba anniversary, Raila and his supporters launched the call for a referendum to review the Constitution to shore up the powers of the county governments; have more money at the grassroots, strengthen the Senate and boost equal opportunity in baking and sharing of the national cake.
The campaign to have the Constitution amended is likely to go full-throttle next year. The fact that governors had a similar campaign dubbed Pesa Mashinani saw the public reminded of the inadequacies in the document.
Then there are the heroes of society such as the Osinya siblings who survived a barbaric attack in a church in Likoni, Mombasa County, and went on to become a symbol of optimism and resilience in the face of terror. There’s the Kenya Red Cross, which is always at hand to help with emergencies and disasters long before the Government wakes up.
And there were other heroes in the homosexual and transgender communities. The gay community’s confidence was boosted when one of Kenya’s most witty and famous writers Binyavanga Wainaina ‘came out’ with a confession about his sexuality, something that is not easy to do in the deeply conservative Kenyan society. That action alone generated a lot of debate about the diversity of Kenyan society.
In sports, there was Mercy Cherono who bagged a few medals, Julius Yego, the javelin man who learned his craft on Youtube and won gold and marathon winners Wilson Kipsang’ (London and New York) and Mary Keitany (New York).
World Cup sensation Divock Origi (he played for Belgium, so he is Belgian, but he’s a son of a former Kenyan international Mike Okoth and just the same way Kenyans claim US President Barack Obama, he is honoured in his fatherland) and of course Victor Wanyama, the son of the soil who plies his trade in the English Premier League, made us proud. He makes Kenyan football worth watching when he is playing for Harambee Stars.
Then there is Audrey Mbugua, the man who changed to a woman and forced the Kenya National Examination Council, through the courts, to recognise her changed status. Then, she managed to get the courts to order the registrar to have her new name in the books.
It was also a good year for the Kenyan online community, if the hashtags in the free-for-all digital grapevine that Twitter has become, are anything to go by. #MyPresidentMyChoice caused quite a stir and you might want to check it out, just to relive the moment.