Kisio Munyao: The tragedy of a social hero

Like many before him, Kisoi Munyao, Kenya’s real symbolic face of independence passed on a poor semi-depressed man, laden with the burden of debt and most probably, carrying with him emotions of resentment and umbrage at the government of the republic whose highest mountain he scaled on the eve of independence.

It is unfortunate that the man who planted the country’s flag atop the country’s highest mountain, symbolizing the country’s triumph over the colonialists in the struggle for independence, and whose arrival over a quarter million people eagerly awaited for the first independence day celebrations to commence, has left behind a legacy of despair and strife. But is the unfortunate turn of events, to an extent the making of the independence hero?

On the eve of independence, nobody at the Uhuru Gardens celebration cared what Munyao’s contribution to the struggle for independence was; what was important was that he had successfully scaled the highest peak and firmly planted Kenya’s flag at the crest of the mountain.

After the celebrations, Munyao was dropped off at his residence at Nairobi’s Jericho estate; he had served his country and had forgotten his five minutes of fame; quite literally.

But just like nobody cared what Munyao’s contribution to the end of the tyrannical reign of the colonial period was on that night of celebrations, so do few care what legacy Munyao has left behind especially the government. Quite unlike the high pitched condemnations from a section of Kenya’s political class and reputable NGOs that followed Bildad Kaggia’s and other freedom fighters passing, few had little to say after learning of Munyao’s death.

Such is the fate of many social heroes, who in a blink of an eye, move from being the point of adoration of many, to the memory that many would rather remain just that; a memory.

Social heroes in today’s dynamic world have unfortunately been transformed into cheap public relation gimmicks devoid of life whose existence merely serves to form fodder for the political class and other interested parties. But Munyao’s is a unique case where hopefully the government wishes to gain political mileage. Few people in Kenya would be willing to offset Munyao’s close to half a million bill in the name of patriotism. Alfred Mutua’s Najivunia kuwa Mkenya campaign is evidence enough of that. Moreover, aside from scaling Africa’s second highest mountain, Munyao held little political clout so politicians who might have adequate resources to offset the bill lack a reason to do so.

The needle sways and hopefully it will fall on the government to prove itself as being an adequate protector of its heroes whether political or social. The bronze statue along Kimathi Street might be sitting pretty, but now the real test is at hand; is the government able to take care of those who were ready to sacrifice themselves for their country, or are our social heroes, the true patriots of Kenya condemned to die miserably dejected men and women. The government has on several occasions found it hard to justify what heroic acts precede one’s appointment to the cabinet, whenever it faces criticism for giving hefty payments to widows of some ministers and not others.

There is need for the appointment of a committee that will propose laws and criterion for identifying genuine national heroes. In other countries such as Namibia, how, why, and who qualifies to the roll of honour, and the awards and rewards due to them are clearly stipulated. Kenyans would appreciate if similar benchmarks were to be established.

NOTE: Government’s response to this editorial on The Leader can be found on

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2 Responses to Kisio Munyao: The tragedy of a social hero

Swahilijoe said...

This posting is simply a case of dogs barking at the wrong tree. Yes its sad that Munyao was ignored for all those years but i think the freedom fighters problems started from Kenyatta's era...floated into Moi's era and the ones that have not died have been inherited by Kibaki. Am not impressed with the Munyap saga how we praise our heroes when they are dead. Homeguards and Traitors took over and they still rule today. They dont care what Kimathi's or Munyaos family does.

Mutinda Kisio said...

His name was "MUNYAO KISOI" not KISIO ................ KISOI ... please note the difference and correct the mistake.

This mistake makes the whole write ....