President Uhuru Kenyatta was faced with an awkward moment when Uganda People’s Defence Forces’ (UPDF) band played him a song praising a party he quit more than three years ago.
It is not disputable that President Kenyatta was once a stalwart in the Kenya African National Union (Kanu). It is also not in doubt he once chaired Kenya’s independence party after President Daniel Moi retired in 2002.
On Monday though, the UPDF played the song during a party of the rituals accorded to a visiting leader on a State visit.
But as the UPDF blew away the “Kanu Yajenga Nchi” on their trumpets, the body language of President Kenyatta indicated some kind of discomfort as he inspected the guard of honour.
The song, which loosely translates to “Kanu builds the nation” was popularised during the party’s era which many Kenyans associate with brutality and dictatorship.
The party was eventually vanquished from power by the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc); a grouping of Opposition parties, in 2002.
Incidentally, part of the reason the party was defeated was the manner in which President Kenyatta was handpicked by Mr Moi to be its candidate in 2002.
Disgruntled Kanu members then jumped ship and joined the Opposition to mount one of the greatest defeats for a ruling party in Africa.
At the time, Mr Kenyatta accepted the results and moved on, Mwai Kibaki became President and Kanu became associated with Kenya’s derelict past.
Mr Kenyatta would later ditch Kanu and formed The National Alliance (TNA), which swept to power in 2013 following a coalition arrangement with United Republic Party (URP) led by Mr William Ruto, Charity Ngilu’s Narc and Najib Balala’s Republican Congress Party.
One of the key pillars the coalition proclaimed in their manifesto was openness, a principle which had almost become alien during the Kanu years.
But as the Kanu song played, Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) turned the incident into a butt of jokes, some even questioned its significance.
Anne Kanina-Macharia (@Anna_Kanina) wrote: “Wah! We have started the week with a KANU song played in Uganda with President Kenyatta present”, while @JosephNdwiga wrote: “Why did the Uganda military band play KANU yajenga nchi? Any significance?”
Wilfred Mutuma (@williembig) weighed in: “The Uganda forces band just played "kanu yajenga nchi" tune before our president. They need be updated!!”
Thuranira Kaugiria (@doncorleon85) tweeted: “KANU yajenga nchi. Even Uganda knows that. Let me sit here and watch #KOT behave like it's not true,” while Betty Waitherero (@bettywaitherero) said “If you don’t get that Ugandan joke band playing Kanu song. Anyway wacha tu.”
The song may have been played out of sheer innocence and maybe because its keys are easier to master. But it also offered a lesson that a politicians’ past is indelible.