Nyeri County government has feted James Kagambi, the retired teacher who made history by becoming the first Kenyan to summit Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.
During a ceremony held in his honour in Nyeri town on Friday, Kagambi was issued with a certificate of recognition as a county hero. He also received a set of Kikuyu traditional regalia which included a spear, a shield and a three-legged stool from Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga in recognition of his achievement.
In his remarks, the county boss called on the National government to recognise Kagambi as a national hero.
Kahiga said that the county would be presenting Kagambi’s name to the National Awards Committee for consideration for a state commendation.
“As a county we are sorry we took long to reward him because of the elections but today we have recognised Kagambi as a son of Nyeri. We would like the government to consider adding his name to the list of those who will receive a state commendation this year because what he has done does deserve to be acknowledged,” he said.
The governor further stated that the county had started the process of honouring heroes and heroines from the county.
He said that the county executive would be sponsoring a motion in the county assembly through which the county will set a day to award county heroes.
Kahiga noted that there was a tendency of honouring local achievers and heroes in their death and pledged to address the plight of some of the surviving heroes who had placed the county on the international map.
“Today Kagambi has opened the way for us as a county to start looking for heroes in our county and ensuring we look into their welfare and push for their plight to be addressed. There are many heroes including Mau Mau freedom fighters in our midst like Field Marshal Muthoni and others who are yet to be recognised for their positive contribution and it is unfortunate we do not honour them when they are alive,” he said.
The 63-year-old who hails from Naro Moru, made history in May last year when he endured 40-days climb before reaching the mountain’s peak which stands at a staggering 8,849 metres above sea level.
He is also the first black African to summit the Denali, North America’s highest mountain peak which stands at 6,190 metres above sea level. In 1994 he became the first black African to summit the Aconcagua, the highest summit in the Americas whose peak stands at 6,961 metres above sea level.
While describing the experience as rewarding, Kagambi narrated how he endured the high altitudes and old age to make history.
He explained that in addition to the extremes, he equally had to contend with a 15-kilogram load on a daily basis which consisted of an oxygen cylinder, several layers of clothes and climbing shoes for 40 days.
“Despite scaling up many other mountains I wasn’t sure if I would make it alive because all mountains are different and also because of my age. However, I had a lot of support mostly from my family which was a big motivation throughout the entire journey,” said Kagambi.
In addition to the recognition, Kagambi was also appointed as Nyeri’s tourism ambassador.
In his acknowledgement speech, the elated mountaineering instructor said he would use the opportunity to help the tourism department to market Nyeri as a tourism destination.
“The first assignment will be to identify all attraction sites in the county and ensure that they meet the required local and international standards and then from there we should be able to come up with ways of improving these facilities to attract visitors,” said Kagambi.
By Wangari Mwangi and Joyce Kiragu