Tuesday, March 28, 2006
BURDEN OF HISTORY The visit to the Constitutional Hill elicited questions more than solutions as I battled with the issue of history in my mind. How should we relate to the past as we live the present and look forward to the future? For instance, should the 2010 World Cup be a futuristic celebration or a stark reminder of how dark our past was (despite all that happened to us, we have risen from the ashes to this far!)? You can aye both questions or otherwise. But yes, being the first African country to host the glamorous soccer event is a fact, so is the British invasion and apartheid! It is also a fact that Con Hill is a great heritage site and a historical monument. Forgive and forget then, or what do we chose to remember? Renowned African scholar, Ali Mazrui, suggests that perhaps part of the pervasive transformation of independence is that there should be a revision of the nation's martyrology. The traditional pattern of the immaculate hero and damned villain must be replaced by a process of "selective memory" wherein the independent citizen attempts to honour his past without condemning any of the countrymen with whom he must build a new nation'. Freedom, according to Mazrui must rest on a sympathetic understanding among all citizens and that understanding can only emerge through a balanced examination of the past and present. A concise reading of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat can be a useful reference especially when considering the character, Mugo. A revision of martyrdom is also very necessary, and that yesterday’s heroes can be today’s villains and vice versa. Maintaining the Old Fort and Number 4 buildings as national monuments and heritage sites though is crucial, but we should never over rely on the burden of our history. We should instead appreciate prison as a school, which has produced great leaders like Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Kenyatta of Kenya etc. The location of the Constitutional Court, the highest in the land at the center of site where atrocities to the people of the land happened is a novel idea. History has played its role, and has its place in this country; what about us, the citizens? We should not be prisoners to our history at all. After all, our present will be history tomorrow. The past can be viewed as a source of inspiration but more importantly a pointer to the challenges of nation building and an indication that we can learn from the mistakes and forge ahead to build a better nation.