Does Kenya Need a New Independence Day?


12th December is Jamhuri Day in Kenya.

Jamhuri is the Swahili word for “republic” and the holiday is meant to officially mark the date of Kenya’s independence which happened on 12 December 1963.

A majority of Kenyans however, do not feel like the past 53 years offer much in celebration, what with corruption scandals being the order of the day. The health sector is in crisis, and the country mourns the death of at least 40 people killed in a highway explosion this past Saturday. In fact, as the President leads the country in celebration at the Nyayo National Stadium in nation’s capital, a group is at the City Centre, protesting. According to a poster doing rounds online, they are urging citizens to “#TakeBackKenya and take a stand against corruption.”

(As Reported by Standard Media on Twitter) BREAKING NEWS: Police use teargas to disperse a protest dubbed #TakeBackKenya along Moi Avenue, Nairobi; three people arrested

So is Kenya really free? One Dr. Wandia Njoya, a lecturer at a local university, offers her thoughts.

“Jamhuri Day, 2016. We’re supposed to be celebrating independence and nationhood. But Kenya feels less like a nation and more like a den of hustlers and crooks. The majority hustle while the minority loot. Nationhood is supposed to affirm our maturity and our ability to plan and run our own lives. Instead, we now suffer a medical strike about which we were forewarned, and 40 people have died in a road disaster that was shocking, but that has been in the making. We Kenyans have been unable to build a civilization, planting trees under whose shade we will not sit.

The United States celebrates its independence on 4th July, when some white men, some of them slaveholders, wrote a declaration of independence. France commemorates its revolution on 14th July, when French citizens stormed the Bastille prison, an icon of the monarchy. Haiti celebrates independence on 1st January, when Dessalines declared the nation of slaves to be free, and renamed the country after the indigenous people who had been wiped out. It is only in Africa where independence is celebrated on the date when the oppressors shook our hands and pretended to “hand over” nationhood to us. No wonder Lumumba had to remind the Congolese that they were not receiving independence from Belgium; they were commemorating their struggle.

We need a new date for independence.1 One whose pictures are of Kenyans raising fists in the air, or asserting their own freedom, not of Prince Philip handing over a paper to Kenyatta because the head of state, Queen Elizabeth, did not even consider Kenya a state with a head whose hand was worth shaking.

When Kenya has the revolution, I hope she will change the date of independence from the date when Prince somebody handed over the colonial mantel to Kenyatta, to a date when Kenyans asserted their freedom and humanity. A day besides the 12th of December whose fruits of independence are not even bitter. They’re poisonous.”

Dr. Wandia Njoya

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