A “troubled” Jamhuri Day in Kenya

The national holiday of Kenya is celebrated today, December 12, and each year commemorates the independence from the United Kingdom, which took place in 1963. Jamhuri is the Swahili word for “republic” and it is the most important holiday in the country. Our project manager in Kenya, Stephen Nzusa, reflects on this years’ celebration.

Kenyans will celebrate 54 years of independence with the usual pomp and pageantry. Some will remember independence with nostalgia; others will see it as another holiday, but for most people, it will be a disturbing reminder that the real independence, which must come with peace and prosperity, is still difficult to reach. But in such a relevant day for Kenyan society, we must reflect more on what kind of Kenya we want to have before 2018. Each one of us should reflect on a series of concepts that can help redefine our nationality, such as:

Citizenship: what does it mean to be Kenyan? is there anything else more than just having an ID card? is there a common ‘thread’ that unites us all? Can we define, promote and defend it?
Patriotism: do we owe anything to our country? to what extent do we have the collective responsability to ensure the dream of independence for future generations?
Leadership: what attributes should we look for in our leaders? Can we show politicians that character is more important than ethnicity? When will we point out and reject those who promise peace but make war? When will we begin to favour peace intermediaries who are less extravagant but genuine and true defenders of justice?

This year, Jamhuri Day comes with a new challenge because Raila Odinga, leader of the National Super Alliance (NASA), said some time ago that he would organise an assembly that would proclaim him president today, December 12, 2017, an hour after President Uhuru Kenyatta inaugurated his second five-year term.

Raila Odinga has revealed his greatest fear in an interview with The Standard, “the regression of the state and the implications this will have”. As Odinga explained, “Kenya is receding as a nation and the gains we obtained from intependence are slowly eroding”.

The opposition leader also revealed that NASA had what it called the authentic results of the August 8 presidential election, in which he claimed to have won by more than one million votes. In addtion, he assured that based on the results obtained from IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundary Commision) servers, NASA will proclaim itself the winner today.

Earlier this week, the general attorney Githu Muigai declared the event as unconstitutional, describing the high-level treason as punishable by death. Soon after, the police spokesman Charles Owino confirmed that the police were ready to arrest anyone who participated in the meetings of the People´s Assembly with the advice of the general attorney.

Finally, last Sunday, the National Super Alliance (NASA) postponed the expected and controversial proclamation of its leader, Raila Odinga, as the “People´s President”. Kenyans expressed mixed reactions after the unexpected movement of the coallition to postpone the swearing-in, which was going to take place on Jamhuri Day (today).

Some have criticised the opposition leader saying he should give in to pressure and allow President Uhuru Kenyatta lead the country for the next five years. On the other hand, Raila Odinga’s followers did not stay behind as they joined NASA´s decision to suspend the long-awaited ceremony.

In conclusion…

At the moment, the country has been taken hostage by the bad atmosphere, tensions and the political events that have been taking place for more than 2 months. The economy has suffered, which has meant that more people are now unemployed. The lives of the people have changed and the communal value of love has been replaced by hatred and bitterness. The political division is very clear and there is much confusion amongst the population.

“It was even rumored that Christmas, celebrated on December 25, could be interrupted and we would have to postpone it until January 25, 2018…This joke perfectly sums up how the population feels in this moment, people expect anything and won´t be surprised by what happens in the country. People are tired of this situation that must end to be able to return to normal”.

I repeat my own words: “politics is seasonal, it is never a living or dying situation”. The country, and Kibera as a disadvantaged neighborhood, need to rest from all of these events and we also need to heal from all of the social cracks that exist due to the tribal lines.

We hope to live a happy and peaceful Jamhuri Day.

Stephen Nzusa

Manager of KUBUKA projects in Kenya

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