“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain.
Last Saturday Kenya celebrated one of her most important days when our motherland gained independence 56 years ago. Kenya had finally gotten out of the shackles of slavery and colonialism and was now taking back the reins to finally attain its purpose.
Sure enough, our country started on a high. With the leaders then speaking in one voice and selling the promise of a united, progressive nation. Things came crashing shortly after our founding leaders opted to pursue individual gain over national cohesion. Which then birthed the current divided nation we are in. Year after year, we’ve swung our flags high on every 1st June to commemorate Madaraka Day but when the noise of celebration dies down we retreat to our ethnically divided mindsets. We go back to condoning corruption that has made us lag behind those who were our peers in the ‘60s. We set the bar even lower with acts of nepotism, hate speech, abuse of power and blatant disregard of the rule of law.
We have seemingly forgotten what our national values are. Article 10 of our constitution makes a good attempt at summing them up as follows; patriotism and unity, sharing of power, democracy, participation and rule of law, dignity, equal rights and justice, integrity, transparency and accountability in public life and institutions; and sustainable development. The joy about these values is that they’re intertwined in such a way that exercising one of them creates a domino effect that makes the rest fall into place. However, our actions and those of our leaders have eroded us of our sense of nationalism to the point where celebrating Madaraka Day feels insincere.
The onus has always been on us, the citizens, to steer the country the right way. The greatest obstacle perhaps would be the chains that have bound our minds to the point where we have lost faith in ever achieving the purpose of our nation. When one of the musical greatest, Bob Marley sang the “Redemption Song” he must have had Kenya in mind. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”. These words right here are what we’re supposed to live by. True patriotism compels each of us to own this country’s visions and to work towards them. True patriotism compels us to hold to account those we elect to attain this vision. It also calls on us to rid ourselves of negative ethnicity and demand for equality and equity for all.
So that when our leaders address us at a time like this next, we should be able to see and feel the change they’ve impacted. We should see politics that have morphed into ideologies that work towards achieving our country’s vision. Politics that embody respect for all and observe the rule of law. As we aim for this, let us keep in mind that the responsibility doesn’t fall squarely on our leaders but on us too.
Going forward, every annual celebration should be characterized by milestones that have lessened social ills and brought us closer. May we strive to live by the black, white, red and green stripes that truly paint a picture of the Kenya we ought to be.