I met Adhu Awiti in the early 1970s when he was an assistant town clerk in Kisumu town from where he would pick me up in Nakuru town in his small Volkswagen car and together we would visit some university lecturers in Kenyatta University College to secretly discuss with them how we could liberate Kenya from one party dictatorship and slavery of capitalism.
We were then part of a generation of young Africans who after independence realized they had a mission to finalize the struggle for independence by fighting for democracy without which self rule could not be called independence.
Later when I was detained and Adhu was free, he visited and encouraged my family, then exiled in Norway, to stay strong and my wife to visit me in Kamiti Prison. Subsequently my wife flew to Nairobi where she was kept waiting for 8 hours before she was allowed into her own country.
Ultimately my wife was allowed to see me in the office of the Officer-in-Charge, a sign that dictatorship was responding to local and international pressure.
A little older, Dr. Adhu Awiti taught me that leadership means showing the way which no one can without reading as hard and as widely as possible to acquire knowledge. Patriots can hardly liberate themselves, lead others or change the country for the better in darkness of ignorance without the light of knowledge.
When we started the fight to democratize Kenya, we believed that Kenya’s worst problems were one-party dictatorship and capitalism both which allowed all our other problems like poverty, corruption and negative ethnicity to blossom.
Therefore we dedicated all our energies to fighting them. It was our unshaken conviction that Kenya needed and still needs social democracy to eliminate her problems of hunger, disease, ignorance, moral depravity and leap-frog it from backwardness and poverty to the development of First World.
It was obvious in early seventies that as long as Kenya was shackled by imperialism, she would not attain democracy that many western governments regarded as a bedfellow of communism, then the number one ideological enemy of the West that would do anything including engineering of military coups to overthrow leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, assassinating leaders like Patrice Lumumba and agitating for the detention without trial of nationals that were fighting for democracy.
Dictatorship was therefore not our only enemy. Western governments fought against democracy until the collapse of communism, Berlin War and the Cold War.
As we fought for the total liberation of Kenya and Africa, we did so as brothers, patriots and nationalists never as Kikuyus, Luos, Kambas or members of any other community and nor did we oppose Presidents Kenyatta and Moi because of their ethnicity but misdeeds of their governments.
Later, Adhu Awiti would adopt politics of cooperating with Kanu government under the conviction it was easier to change a government more from within than from without. This strategy remains controversial to date.
Unfortunately there is not much celebrating of Adhu Awiti as a national hero because our vision of heroes is marred by negative ethnicity and many young people who were born after the restoration of multiparty democracy can hardly visualize the hell of one party dictatorship to appreciate the greatness of those who fought against it. What exactly did heroes like Adhu do to make Kenya better?
As Mau Mau had to go to Second World War to know they could kill Europeans and liberate themselves from their colonialism, we their children had to go abroad to realize self rule without democracy was not enough independence, people could defeat dictatorship and life in Europe and America was possible in Kenya and Africa.
After our stay abroad, some of us returned with a dream of making Kenya a better home for everybody and a patriotic duty of putting Kenya at par with the rest of the world – very much like Lee Kuan Yew and his comrades who returned to Singapore from their university in UK convinced they could transform their country into a First World country.
Though we appreciated Mau Mau, we realized that British midwifery had delivered Kenya’s self-rule safely but substituted white masters with black masters and white dictatorship with black dictatorship. This made liberating ourselves from black masters and dictatorship the mission of our lives.
But having looked at other people’s struggles, dictates of Cold War and viciousness of one party dictatorship, we knew our struggle for democracy would be very difficult but we were prepared to pay all for freedom.
As our struggle advanced, our dictatorship metamorphosed into a monster that silenced all but the president, took away all our freedoms of thought, expression, association and assembly, turned police into enemies of the people, tortured and assassinated anybody who dared question dictatorship, turned whole country into one big prison, rigged elections and drove many into exile.
To appreciate Adhu Awiti as a hero, we need to remember that, for forty years Kenya was a terrorized homestead that black lions had invaded, attacking, mauling, killing and eating its children and livestock and only a few dared and risked their lives to fight it.
While dead Mau Mau and Second Liberation heroes are not perfect, they are modern day saints, sitting together with God in heaven where Adhu Awiti has joined them. And while these heroes have gone to heaven, their dreams of freedom will live for ever on this earth. Go Thee Well My Friend and Comrade Adhu Awiti.