Mashujaa Day was commemorated on Sunday, but what has Kenya achieved over the 50-plus years of independence?
The founding fathers were very optimistic. Their desires, hopes and dreams were for a nation that would enjoy the fruit of their struggles; where the masses would equally benefit from national resources — unlike during the colonial times.
Indeed, the country started well after Independence. Policies were formulated which have since seen an increase in school enrolment, more access to healthcare, higher life expectancy and improved gross national income as well an unprecedented technological growth. Add to that an expansion of road networks and a huge drop in child mortality.
However, these developments are overshadowed by many challenges, including a struggle with national cohesion and unity among its diverse groups of people.
Majority of the population identifies more with their ethnic groups, which, in most cases, supersedes fidelity to the State, negating the spirit of patriotism and nationalism.
Numerous efforts have been made to build unity in diversity among communities; however, the disunity has, at times, been worsened by political leaders, who consciously promote ethnic discord for their selfish benefit.
Political parties, which are supposed to promote nationalism and development ideologies in their manifestos and composition, have inadvertently brought about further widening of the fracture in unity. Their support base, which is mostly fanatical, is from regions or ethnic groups where the party leaders belong.
The party in power is often linked to unfair allocation of resources to its strongholds and appointment of people from its regions and ethnicity to strategic positions. This has been the main cause of conflict, especially ethnic upheavals.
There is also a high rate of inequality with 42 per cent of the 44 million Kenyans living below the poverty line, as per a Unicef report. Access to basic services such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation is still a luxury by many.
Exposure to trade imbalances resulting from an economy structured to be a primary producer and over-dependence on grants and borrowing, resulting in a huge debt burden (at 56.4 per cent of gross domestic product) have made the citizens more vulnerable to socioeconomic challenges.
With 75 per cent of the population comprising youth, many of whom are able-bodied yet unskilled, jobless and feel alienated, several become ready material for mob action during political and economic crises.
Natural disasters such as droughts, famines and floods have been persistent, especially in arid and semi-arid regions, with millions of people suffering from starvation regularly.
Corruption and mismanagement has led to destruction and loss of a considerable amount of public resources. This practice has thrived irrespective of critical institutions such as the EACC, the Judiciary and civil society.
Despite considerable progress towards the realisation of the mashujaa’s dream, more need to be done. The leadership and the citizens ought to jointly take serious measures towards solving the challenges the country is grappling with without fear or favour. Only then would it be rightfully said that Kenya is, indeed, on a trajectory towards becoming a First World nation.
Ms Ronoh, an administrator at the University of Kabianga, is a PhD student in leadership and governance. [email protected]