Every year on the 12th of December, Kenyans gather in different venues to celebrate Jamhuri day. This is a significant day in the history of our country; Jamhuri is a Swahili word for republic; and thus, the holiday is meant to celebrate the day when Kenya became a republic, 12th December 1963. And honesty, Jamhuri day is a day that is meant to inspire hope, a sense of nationalism, and pride as a people. This day did not come easy, it was a result of bloodshed, of people who united and fought for a country they had so much faith in. And that Unity is the glue that made us a republic, one nation. I can imagine the emotions of those alive today who fought for our freedom and witnessed this memorable day 57 years ago when our founding president rose up to shouts of freedom from a people who had for long been at the mercy of a brutal colonial government, with no freedom in their own land.
I remember my grandfather, whenever he narrated to us what they had to endure through the colonial times, the constant threat on their lives, having to run and hide in forests and live like animals in their own country; with limited rights even on what you can farm in your own land; the pain of being separated with your family forever. and I could sense the pride in his voice of how far we had come as a country; to him, the freedom we enjoyed was everything; he had experienced the brutality of colonialism. The best gift that he ever longed for was that day when he would wake up and have a black man rule over his people. And that day came and went. If he was able to speak his mind today, I don’t know what he would say; whether that pride and expectancy would still be rife in him, or whether he would think about his future generations and shed a tear for them. Perhaps, if he could read the bible, he could only take me to the book of 1 Samuel 8, where the Israelites asked for a King; they needed one who was like them and had grown tired of God as their King, they needed a person who would lead them to war, and God gave them Saul; the rest is history.
For this group of our independence heroes who have survived over the years, the 12th of December must now be a painful memory; a reminder of the mistakes that we have made as a country; a constant pain of how greed and selfishness can be a heavy burden to a people for generations. It is such a wonder that those alive 57 years ago, who should be the key pillars of the freedom they fought for, have been the masters that have united over time with the people in power to curtail the freedom they fought for, tear our national fabric and bring our country on its knees through divisive politics, tribalism and theft and plunder of our country’s resources.
Over the years, one thing i’m certain of is that apart from the traditional dancers who withstand the scorching sun to entertain the very people who have been responsible for the mess we find ourselves in as a country, there is nothing to smile about or even celebrate on this important day. Kenyans feel left out of the governance issue and for once, mumurs of the citizens being used as pawns in our national fabric are going round. The talk of the “dynasties” is nothing more that the voices of millions of Kenyans who feel betrayed by the government they have over time voted for over the years only to end up being a pain on their necks that a solution to our societal problems.
Could we be better off under colonial rule?
Over a century ago, the British government built for us a more complex railway system than we will ever be able to build in the next several decades, right? But then again, but I may be wrong. As much as we celebrate our ‘Jamhuri’, the reality of our time is that Africa, not just Kenya, has been failed by successive regimes ever since the majority of our nations attained self-rule. The freedom our forefathers fought for makes no sense today as successive regimes have taken turns to ruin our economies and the lives of the very people that they are meant to protect. It is no wonder that after almost 60 years of independence, we are still a nation dependent on our colonial masters for budgetary support, for health and infrastructure funding, and even for maintaining our national security apparatus. The freedom that we fought for, that we come out to celebrate every 12th of December thus makes no sense. It is a gimmick to keep us thinking we are going anywhere while in real sense a few people are.
It is indeed unquestionable that our people suffered during the colonial times, but today, our young men and women suffer because of a lack of jobs with a majority of educated youths being jobless and forced to do menial jobs by the same government we would expect to be laying a strong foundation for our prosperity. Our prisons are full of youths caught not wearing masks as people who steal billions buy easily their freedom leaving out petty offenders who cannot afford a bribe rotting in prison. We elect the most corrupt, murderers and thieves to chart the path of prosperity for us and for our children, as the churches and other religious groups turn a deaf ear to the social injustices on the very flock they are supposed to shepherd. 57 years after independence, more than two-thirds of our population has no access to clean drinking water and more than that can barely afford a balanced diet or adequate shelter. We have built a system that rewards populism and political patronage over peoples abilities, and we are still celebrating being a republic where every politician in the country identifies more with the ‘tribe’ than the nation; where we perceive power not as a common good for the country but as only beneficial to the community where those in power come from. The political class for long neglected its responsibility, instead, greed and selfishness have become the noticeable virtues of every politician. Do we have anything to celebrate today? To the few privileged in society, yes, but to a majority of us, there is nothing to smile about…