Top individuals and little-known Kenyans made to the list of individuals who were honoured by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday, October 20 during the country's 58th Mashujaa Day celebrations.
Sprinting sensation Ferdinand Omanyala, the fasted man on the continent is among the personalities feted as he continues to fly Kenya's flag high in 100 metres.
Omanyala has made it to the list of 220 persons recognised as national heroes and heroines during this year's event in Kirinyanga County.
Among other athletes honoured include football legend Dennis Oliech and rugby star Humphrey Khayange.
Africa's fastest man in his appreciation speech noted that he considers himself a hero for using his talent to shutter record after record.
“It is so humbling and I feel great being identified as a Shujaa. That is a big achievement and I would want to thank the government and the people of Kenya for recognizing and appreciating my efforts on the track. All I do is sprint but people like it and it feels great. I believe I am a Shujaa and I am excited to be recognized as one,” Omanyala noted.
According to the sprinter, his journey to stardom was full of challenges but through hard work, he has managed to win the hearts of Kenyans.
“It’s been a long journey and most people are not aware of it. I started out in 2016 and I am here right now because of years of hard work, sleepless nights, and early mornings and I am glad that it is paying off now.
The most important thing is living in the moment and that is what I am doing but I am looking forward to an even greater season next year,” Omanyala explained.
Oliech is a household name. His excellent years leading the Kenya National Football team, Harambee Stars have finally paid off.
On his part, Khayange captained Kenya Seven 7's to various world series. He was part of the Kenyan squad at the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens, reaching the semifinals. He was nominated for IRB Sevens Player of the Year in 2009.
Other athletes on the list include Tokyo Olympics Marathoner Lawrence Cherono, former footballer Bob Oyugi, 2016 marathon gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir and National Prisons Wrestling Coach Linus Wachoka Masheti.
Deaf Handball player Dickson Manyange, former weightlifter Abudu Juma Waziri, Kenya's deaf golfer Isaac Makokha, Sports Sign Language interpreter Winnie Adoyo.
Apart from athletes, entertainers have also been honoured. Among those feted include Peterson Githinji, also known as Pitson - a renowned Gospel musician, songwriter, and performer, Chris Adwar - an established pianist, songwriter, performer, music producer, audio engineer, and director and Elly Mirasi, popularly known as Dr. Osito Kalle - a maestro Luo Benga musician who has been in the music industry for more than 4 decades.
Others include Linet Akinyi Otieno, famously known as Linet Aluoch Pamba - a renowned Luo Benga musician, Madona Erupe - a Gospel artist from Lokichar in Turkana South among others.
Virginia Aoko also became the youngest Kenyan to be feted. She received the coveted recognition after braving the raging crocodile-infested waters of Budalangi during floods to row her pregnant mother to a health center to deliver.
The 13-year-old noted that she was forced to perform the courageous act despite lacking prior experience.
Amina Abdalla, the Chair of Mombasa Women Empowerment Network also received the award. She was honoured for her exemplary work in rescuing and treating mentally challenged people in the Coastal region.
Abdalla narrated during her recent interview that she was abandoned by her close friends and parents after she resolved to take care of patients with mental challenges.
“They used to ask me if I never had something to do and some claimed that it was the responsibility of the government to take care of the patients. My family too faulted me, stating that some cases of the victims were as a result of witchcraft,” she explained.
Each county was given an opportunity to nominate individuals to be honoured by President Uhuru Kenyatta as heroes during his last Mashujaa Day celebration as the head of state.
Others on the list include Dr. Nelly Yetich from Baringo County who spearheaded the pandemic prevention measures and Wanja Mwaura, a nurse known for her acts of kindness.
Esther Wairimu Ndegwa - She was celebrated for her efforts in initiating programmes geared towards girl-child empowerment and fight against retrogressive cultural practices such as early marriages and FGM. She is an ardent motivational speaker and is currently involved in the provision of sanitary towels to girls from vulnerable backgrounds.
Didas Mzirai - He was honoured for his immense contribution towards peace and peaceful co-existence among the communities living in the Taita Taveta area. He is an entrepreneur who has offered employment to many youths in the region.
Mary Wakio Kilei - Mary was honoured for her unmatched contribution to Education through sponsoring bright but vulnerable children. She has been at the forefront in fighting for women empowerment and poverty alleviation programmes in her county.