Written by West Fm
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“Let me point out to you that freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be”- James Baldwin.
On 22/08/2012 the sun set on the life and times of Martin Joseph Olukhanya Shikuku popularly known as the “People’s Watchman”.
Born in 1933, by the age of 19 years in 1952 Martin Shikuku was politically active as the struggle for Kenya’s independence gained momentum and raged under the auspices of the Mau Mau Movement. In 1960 Martin Shikuku was elected by Kenya Africa Democratic Union (KADU) as its national youth leader. Martin Shikuku was to form part of the delegation of Kenya leaders that traveled to London in the early 1960s to negotiate the Constitution that underpinned Britain’s grant of independence to Kenya held at Lancaster House, London.
Martin Shikuku rode the wave of independence under the banner of the Kenya Africa Democratic Union (KADU) of which he was a founder member and when Kenya Africa National Union (KANU) enticed the top echelons of KADU to defect to KANU in the 1963-1964 independence euphoria Shikuku stayed put and was the last man to cross over.
The swallowing of KADU stalwarts by KANU at impendence in 1963 was the harbinger of the KANU dictatorship monolith that came to suffocate independent Kenya until the exit of President Moi in 2002.
Martin Shikuku despite his humble educational background once he entered Parliament thoroughly mastered parliamentary procedures, processes and Standing Orders in Kenya and the Commonwealth that he became a living encyclopedia of the same and the infallible reference point.
Martin Shikuku dedicated all his life in politics fighting for the cause of the oppressed the weak, the meek, the humble, the deprived, the ordinary Kenyan, the victims of injustice. He spoke and lived the truth.
Martin Shikuku speaking to Shad Bulimo in 2009 in the United Kingdom about his life and times recounted how he was detained by the Kenyatta dictatorship as follows:
“I was making a contribution to a motion on the J.M. Kariuki murder inquiry in parliament when Clement Lubembe (then MP for Shinyalu) challenged me and I said “you want to kill this motion the way KANU was killed”? At which point, Lubembe rose on a point of order that I should substantiate. “There is no need to substantiate the obvious” came the famous rebuttal from Jean Marie, Seroney, who was in the speakers seat. Kenyatta who was given to listening to parliamentary debates on his “Kameme” (radio link) at State House, immediately dispatched special branch officers who arrested me and seronely inside the precincts of parliament.
I was detained at all of Kenya’s four maximum security prisons- Manyani, Kamiti, Shimo La Tewa and Naivasha. Detention is supposed to kill you. If you have never been to detention in Kenya, here is a glimpse. As a detainee you live in a block of cells within the prison fortified with a 25ft wall. The cells are 7 ft by 13ft and a ventilation of 4 by 4 inches with two four inch steel bar. You have a bucket for a toilet. You do not see anyone or hear anything. Food is passed to you like a dog through a small opening. I was not allowed to read anything. I was given a Bible only after two years. For beddings, I slept on a cold cement floor rolled up in only one blanket. My legs suffered.”
Martin Shikuku endured detention between 1975 until 12/12/1978 well after the death of President Kenyatta on 22/08/1978. Martin Shikuku said in 2009 in the interview with Shad Bulimo that he lost his mother while in detention and he was never informed about it nor given the telegram sent by his brother informing him of her death.
Martin Shikuku came from detention on crutches on 12/12/1978 and he looked physically a pale shadow of the exuberant and athletic man that was grabbed from the precincts of Parliament in 1975 and thrown into detention by the Kenyatta dictatorship.
Martin Shikuku picked his pieces and returned to politics and continued from where the Kenyatta dictatorship had callously interrupted his mission of being the people’s watchman and the defender and crusader of truth and justice in the Republic of Kenya.
Martin Shikuku inevitably as the Moi dictatorship became more atrocious and intimidating found himself yet again on the frontlines and in the trenches of the struggle for multi-partyism in the early 1990s.
The newspaper cutting is from the Daily Nation of Kenya published on Sunday, November, 17, 1991.
And yes the pinnacle of Martin Shikuku’s struggle for freedom of association, freedom of conscience and freedom of assembly was epitomized in the heady days of the struggle to bring multipartyism in 1991 when together with the likes of the late Masinde Muliro, Hon. James Orengo they took the famous ride on a pick-up on Landhies-Jogoo Roads in Nairobi enroute to Kamukunji in full defiance of the Moi dictatorship machinery that had outlawed a rally the FORD had convened at Kamukunji and the state outlawed the same. It was during the prelude to that epoch making ride to the Kamukunji rally that the late Masinde Muliro famously quipped that only those prepared to die in that epic encounter mount the pickup.
West fm states that Martin Shikuku was a man who personified courage, a man who was prepared to put his life on the line for the truth. A man who called a spade a spade. A man who feared nobody because he had nothing upon which he could be framed to be persecuted for his convictions. A man who was a crusader against corruption and impunity all his adult life.
Martin Shikuku was never afraid to listen to the Truth. He preached the truth and justice all his life and he died a free man. His life was a testimony of courage and freedom. The greatest tribute all Kenyans can pay to this grand warrior for freedom is to ensure that the promises and dreams for a prosperous and peaceful Kenya contained in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 for all Kenyans are vigilantly safeguarded and nurtured.
West fm states that the youth of Western Province and North Rift and the whole of Kenya must emulate the late Martin Shikuku for the noble and enduring character DNA of being courageous, fearless, truthful and a crusader for justice. And if the youth and more so the men of the region emulate those qualities of Martin Shikuku then indeed the region will not be saturated and paralyzed by young men who echo the words of German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) as follows:
“In nooks all over the earth sit men who are waiting, scarcely knowing in what way they are waiting, much less that they are waiting in vain. Occasionally the call that awakens-that accident which gives the ‘permission’ to act – comes too late, when the best youth and strength for action has already been used up by sitting still; and many have found to their horror when they ‘leaped up’ that their limbs had gone to sleep and their spirit had become too heavy ‘It is too late,’ they said to themselves, having lost their faith in themselves and henceforth forever useless”.
Martin Shikuku lived a full life of active political action. The people of Western Province must immortalize Martin Shikuku by naming some key streets in major towns of the region or institutions in his honour for he was truly a hero, afighter, a protector, a champion of freedom before independence, at independence and during his whole life after independence and all other liberation struggles in post independence Kenya. Fare thee well Martin Shikuku the Peoples Watchman. The authentic grand warrior and freedom fighter per excellence in pre-colonial and post-colonial Kenya.
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