Kenyans mark yet another Mashujaa Day today, an important milestone in the nation’s calendar. It is the day the country remembers the heroes and heroines who fought gallantly, took risks and made personal sacrifices to secure independence.
Previously known as Kenyatta Day in honour of the founding President Jomo Kenyatta, who was arrested alongside five other illustrious individuals in October 1952 and later jailed for leading an uprising against the colonial administration, it was renamed Mashujaa Day through the Constitution to recognise all who contributed to the liberation struggle.
Looking back over 56 years of political independence, there is every reason to celebrate, as the country has made remarkable achievements in realising the ideals of the struggle.
Attaining self-rule was in itself a major feat and being able to set up structures and systems for a stable and progressive nation is worth celebrating.
Whereas many African nations faltered and succumbed to cyclical military coups with consequent political and economic turmoil and humanitarian crises, Kenya has remained relatively calm.
But the country has equally gone through turbulent moments that on occasion threatened to tear the fabric that holds it together.
Coup attempts in 1971 and 1982, ethnically orchestrated violence in the 1990s and post-election violence in 2007/8 stand out as some of the most tempestuous periods in the nation’s history.
But in each case, the country was able to come to terms with itself, overcome momentary madness and pick up from the ashes, demonstrating remarkable resilience and stoicism.
After the 2007/8 turmoil in particular, the country was forced into introspection and that culminated in the recreation of governance through the adoption of a new Constitution, widely acclaimed as progressive because of robust civil liberties provisions and democratisation of institutions.
But the country remains on a slippery path. Political intolerance, ethnicity and nepotism define national politics. Corruption, pilferage and wastage characterise economic management. The country is reeling under heavy debt due to poor fiscal management.
Whereas the current administration has delivered some infrastructure projects, billions have been lost through other dubious and unrealistic ventures.
The war on corruption that began aggressively a year ago has died and the masterminds of larceny are back in full swing.
Already, there are dissonant voices about the current governance structure, with a growing push for a Constitution review to restructure the architecture of government.
Politicians have already hit the road campaigning for the presidency when elections are three years away. All these point to defects in governance.
An occasion like today should provide opportunity for reflection on the state of the nation and concomitantly, get the citizens and particularly the political leaders to redirect energies and deal with matters germane to socio-economic and political progress.