This week I will ask my readers to indulge me a little because I want to blow my trumpet just a toot.
Last weekend, I learnt that the Nairobi Governor is set to receive a commendation from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission barely a week after he kicked squatters out of cemetery land in Kariokor. The commission’s Director-General, Victoria Wallace, is due to visit Nairobi on December 2 to deliver the Commonwealth Commendation to the governor. Mr Sonko welcomed the commendation, stating that it was a testament that his efforts to recover grabbed land were proving to be successful.
The commission promised to dedicate funds towards the renovation of Kariokor Cemetery which had been illegally occupied by scores of families that the governor sent packing. The renovation is meant to transform the facility into a heritage site to attract more Kenyans to learn about its history.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s work is to commemorate individuals who lost their lives at war, investing in efforts that include building and maintaining cemeteries and memorials in more than 150 countries and territories. In November 2016, I wrote about Kariokor Cemetery where African war veterans lay in utter neglect. Although the cemetery had been gazetted as a national monument in 2015, the illegal structures and activities remained in place.
It is gratifying that at long last something positive is happening to restore the dignity of our war heroes and their families. In my article, I also noted that while Armistice Day is celebrated with pomp at the mixed- race Nairobi War Cemetery on Ngong Road each year on November 11, Kariokor Cemetery maintains a most eloquent silence on that day, as if abandoned forever. I am told that this year there is likely to be some activity at Kariokor Cemetery. Already the cemetery is under heavy security to dissuade any intruders.
In May 2016, I wrote an article about the Nairobi Railway Museum which narrates the story of how the railway created the country we know as Kenya. In the article, I noted how there was a general atmosphere of neglect, starting with the road leading to the museum. The Managing Director of Kenya Railways, at the time, wrote to me in response and promised to do something about it. I am glad to report that by early 2017, the entire museum had been given a facelift and new offices with modern computers installed. The road leading to the museum was newly tarmacked, while the engines and coaches displayed in the now well-manicured open yard had been given a gleaming coat of new paint. What a pleasant surprise that was!
My greatest satisfaction, so far, is the McMillan Library which I wrote about in March 2016. At the time the library was facing severe challenges in raising sufficient funds for upkeep of the premises to the required standards and updating its stock of books. There were leaks in many portions of the roof while the wooden tiles on the floor were badly worn.
In 2017, two wonderful young ladies, Angela Wachuka and Wanjiru Koinange launched the “Book Bunk”, a project in conjunction with the Nairobi County Government to modernise the McMillan Library as well as the public libraries situated in Makadara and Kaloleni.
Through this initiative the McMillan Library has received a complete makeover; the library has been re-catalogued and is now undergoing the process of digitising.
Although the approach for all three libraries is the same, each library targets different demographics. While McMillan, the largest, targets a general interest readership, Kaloleni specialises in children’s literature and Makadara focuses on teenagers. Book Bunk organises activities on Saturdays which include reading, poetry, skits, music, video shows, visits to the game park and lunch for children mostly drawn from Eastlands. I am also pleased to report that the Church of the Torch and The Scott-Watson Memorial at Thogoto, Kikuyu, both of which I wrote about in 2015, have received substantial rehabilitation since.
Work on the general rehabilitation and underpinning of the foundation of Fort Jesus is mostly complete. I wrote about the dire need for rehabilitation of this monument in December 2016 and it is satisfying to learn of the work that has taken place so far.
Without appearing to take all the credit for these developments I am sure my contribution, no matter how small, went some way towards making them a reality.
In a sea of negative news let us also speak of good things when they happen lest we be caught up in a vicious cycle of cynicism about our beloved country.
It might not make you a millionaire but the satisfaction of making a positive change in other people’s lives is priceless.