My fellow Kenyans, we have come a long way since that glorious day on December 12, 1963.
All the numbers show that in all the key economic and social parameters, Kenya has grown in leaps and bounds.
We are an independent nation blessed with proud, hardworking, resilient people.
Kenya is indeed a shining jewel, an economic, political, and communications hub on the continent.
We have good reason to stand tall and proud, my fellow Kenyans.
However, it has not all been a success story.
Our lopsided development today starkly brings home the truth of JM Kariuki’s prescient observation of the 1970s.
What the great patriot called a nation of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars is now a nation of 40 billionaires and 40 million beggars.
My fellow Kenyans, if we closely analyse our national situation, we should be crying over what might have been rather than celebrating what is.
Our founding fathers sacrificed so that their children may grow up in a land of equal opportunity for all, free of the triple threat of ignorance, poverty, and disease.
We have not conquered the enemies identified at independence.
WHAT TO AVOID
We have, instead, added to the list, and now we have to contend with runaway corruption, insecurity, and tribalism.
Add to that a host of inter-related transnational crimes that include money laundering, terrorism, poaching, narcotics, and arms trafficking.
All these challenges pose real and existential threats to our very survival as a nation.
We did away with the one-party dictatorship and adopted a progressive new constitution, but our people are yet to reap the full benefit of those seminal evolutionary steps.
Instead, we have regressed into a corrupt, backward society, a perverted democracy defined by ethnic competition for power.
If we, indeed, want to regain our nation, we must all closely re-examine ourselves.
We must start by renewing the war against corruption rather than wasting our energies on a war against those who blow the whistle.
In turn, those who campaign against corruption must not just use it as a cynical political ploy, but must start by removing graft from their own ranks.
With the 2017 General Election around the corner, we must also renew our commitment to democracy and to the Constitution.
My dear Kenyans, we must reject campaigns for piecemeal constitutional amendments to serve short-term political goals.
The drive to disenfranchise Nairobi people by replacing the elected governor with a presidential appointee must be rejected outright.
So must any move to create additional leadership offices just to satisfy the pursuit of political deal-making.
My dear Kenyans, the only guarantee against another descent into anarchy is not sterile calls for love, peace, and unity, but a just election with a credible outcome.
We must adopt civil and mature politics devoid of name-calling, slander, and lies.
All of us must call off our attack dogs on political platforms, social media, and now the vernacular radio stations that are becoming personal vehicles for hate speech and ethnic incitement.
Every stakeholder — be it voter, candidate, or political party, be it religious grouping, civil society, or media — has the right and duty to closely monitor the campaigns, the voting, the counting, the tallying, and every other step in the process.
Only a party with something to hide would get alarmed that another wants to set up an independent monitoring centre.
Development partners willing to aid such steps that are so vital to the electoral process should not be condemned, but welcomed.
It is hypocritical to hold out the begging bowl for funds to run the elections and at the same time wail about foreign interference.
MAKE A CHANGE
And knowing our history of engineered political violence, the run-up to a pivotal General Election should not be the stage to agitate for withdrawal from international justice institutions.
Never should personal challenges drive national policy.
Finally, my fellow Kenyans, we must continue to hold our leaders to account and to call out their misdeeds.
However, those leaders do not elect themselves.
We cannot elect a thief and expect transformation into a saint.
We cannot elect an ethnic warlord and expect a nationalist, patriot, and peacemaker.
It is in our hands, not our failed leaders’, that the future of Kenya lies.
[email protected] @MachariaGaitho