In the words of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”; it would be sad for Kenyans to forget how far they have come to attain the many liberties they enjoy today.
Because of the many lives that were lost and the innocent blood that was shed by our forefathers during the struggle for independence, Kenya is a completely autonomous state today. It is in this spirit of sovereignty that the government of Kenya earmarked June 1 of every year to be a public holiday for Madaraka Day celebrations.
Madaraka Day commemorates the day Kenya attained internal self-rule on June 1, 1963, preceding full independence from Great Britain on December 12, 1963. It is one of the National Holidays encapsulated in Article 8 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
This year’s Madaraka Day has been described as a special day for Kenyans since it comes at a time when the country is gearing up for several important events that are likely to have a lasting impact on the current and future generations.
Launch of KES327 Billion Standard Gauge Railway
This year’s Madaraka Day coincides with the much-touted launch of Kenya’s first-ever Standard Gauge Railway line whose overall cost is 327 billion Kenyan shillings ($3.8billion). President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to launch the first phase of the project today, May 31, just a day before Madaraka Day.
Kenyatta will be joined by a convoy of special local and international delegates as he takes the maiden passenger train ride on the new railway from Port Reitz in Mombasa, Kenya’s coastal city, to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
The railway line, which has been labeled the “Madaraka Express”, is the biggest infrastructure project in Kenya since independence and is expected to transform the country’s economy by cutting down the cost of moving goods and passengers from the port of Mombasa to other parts of the country and the larger East African region.
It is also expected to provide job opportunities for Kenyans and create business opportunities in towns and villages located along the railway line.
August General Elections
This year’s Madaraka Day also comes just three months to the next general election, which is considered one of the most important elections in Kenya’s history. It’s an important election because President Kenyatta will be seeking a second and final term in office, while his longtime political rival and Kenya’s main opposition leader Raila Odinga will be trying his luck for his fourth and final time.
With Kenyatta being the son of the first President of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta and Odinga the son of Kenya’s first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the stakes couldn’t be any higher. It is also an important an important juncture in Kenya’s history given that the two families have had a not-so-friendly relationship since the two founding fathers fell out in 1969.
For some Kenyans, the election, which will be held on August 8, will determine whether Odinga is strong enough to unseat President Kenyatta and make him a one-term President, while for others it will be a chance for Kenyatta to put the last nail in the coffin of Odinga’s lifelong dream to be president.
Apart from the apparent supremacy tussle between the two royal families, Kenyans are preparing to go to the coming election with the wounds of the 2007-2008 post-election violence still fresh.
The violence, which left at least 1,500 people dead and hundreds of thousands internally displaced, broke out immediately after the former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner, beating his closest competitor Raila Odinga, who claimed he was the legitimate winner.
So, as Kenyans celebrate the day they attained internal self-rule, the thought of experiencing a repeat of the ugly scenes witnessed during the post-election violence a decade ago is a major cause for concern.
Kenyans are therefore calling on the government to take the appropriate action against anyone who will be found guilty of inciting communities against each other. As Kenyans, we must also adhere to our National Anthem, which calls us to let “justice be our shield and defender” and “to dwell in unity, peace and liberty”.