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GUYO: Madaraka Day should be time to reflect as a nation

Sunday May 31 2020
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The elderly collect their cash at KCB Bank in Kisumu on April 21, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By KALTUM GUYO

I must admit I had no idea Madaraka Day was in the offing. With all our energy focused on Covid-19, we were bound to get dates mixed up.

I have woken up many times not sure of the time or day. I am under lockdown in London. The first six to eight weeks with nowhere to go and strictly forced to stay indoors for 24 hours.

Apart from the odd walk to the park or supermarket allowed, every day was the same. Wake up, eat, read, walk, sleep ... repeat. 

The other reason Madaraka Day seemed a blur was because many of us born after independence share little of the suffering our forefathers endured to free Kenya. Every tortious moment we read linked to the Mau Mau movement is what we picked from history lessons. 

Fast-forward to the 21st Century and we got bogged down by a different kind of politics and global challenges — from climate change to, now, the pandemic.

In this Digital Age, many of the younger generation would browse the internet to find out about football scores, fashion and latest music on iTunes and Skiza than research on the birth and the being of Kenya.

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PENSION SCHEME

A friend of mine mentioning the Madaraka Day ceremony going virtual this time is what got me thinking about what it means and what we have done with 59 years of freedom. 

Many Kenyans born on the cusp of the actual madaraka (self-governance) on June 1, 1963 are knocking on the retirement door. The way they have fared in life should give us an insight on how far the nation has come since independence. 

One thing I picked up about my elder sister’s generation is anxiety around their pension once they retire. Not surprising, as many retirees have struggled to receive their pension due to mismanagement of the scheme. Many die before they could lay their hands on it.

Like many state institutions, the NSSF is bogged down by claims of corruption that have had a far-reaching impact on the lives of our senior citizens.

However, if our freedom fighters were to return, they would observe that, despite corruption affecting the lives of pensioners, there is a commendable scheme to help poor elderly people, which has given many of them some comfort in their sunset. 

SOCIAL WELFARE

The cash transfer scheme to the vulnerable people started during this pandemic is a success story that should not go unmentioned.

It is a scheme that needs to be part and parcel of our social welfare programme for posterity. Poverty in a developing country, such as ours is not transient but a daily occurrence.

They will also be impressed by the highways dotting the city and large skyscrapers to match. But they will certainly shed a tear or two for the way the country has been taken hostage by corrupt individuals, making their struggle for freedom worthless.

They will be shocked and saddened to see that the police still bear the hallmarks of the colonial forces that they fought so hard to eradicate.

Our officers’ knack for brutality and extortion is one thing they would never have imagined. They may have gone to the grave believing the mkoloni had gone, but alas!

They may be amazed by the technological advancement in the country. That a shuka-donning warrior in the back of beyond can easily connect with the rest of the world on a little handheld feature known as a mobile phone that can emit money at the same time without requiring one to tie hundreds of banknotes on the back of the donkey.

REVIEW POLITICS

The peace and tranquillity enjoyed by Kenyans are, thankfully, still there, but they will be concerned that if we slip up we may go down the path of other countries destroyed by conflict to end up as basket cases euphemistically referred to “failed states”.

The fact that a black president is still in charge will be a sigh of relief to them but will be surprised by the politics of division and violence.

I would imagine they hoped for a united and equitable Kenya. Today, on Madaraka Day, it may be worth taking time to reflect on the wrongs we have done and right them — at least, if not for us, for the future generations.

To say we have not been challenged in the political sphere is feigning ignorance to its damaging psyche to the country. 

As we celebrate the big day, we should call for a review on how to truly reform the police for the better to enable us to enjoy the freedom our forefathers fought hard for.

IDEALS

If ever there is a reboot of systems required, it is that of our politics. It does not appear that we are either coming or going on the political front.

Democracy faces a serious threat from the meaningless squabbles across political lines. Let our politics, like that of our forefathers, be politics of ideals that encourages progressives to stand up and be counted.

They are required now more than ever to take this country forward in the post-pandemic phase. Let the next 59 years be of shared prosperity and peace.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo

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