This article has been edited and was first published on June 1, 2016.
Madaraka Day is commemorated annually in Kenya on every 1st of June and is historically the first day that Kenya attained internal self-rule in 1963. It precedes the day Kenya acquired full independence from Britain on 12th December 1963.
Under Article 8 of the Kenyan constitution, Madaraka Day is recognized as a national holiday, and the President is required to lead the nation in remembering and celebrating the struggle for independence.
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Traditionally, Kenyans across the country and abroad are expected to reflect on their past and the achievements the country has made since it attained its internal self-rule. It is also a day to remember those who gave up their lives fighting for the freedom and sovereignty the country enjoys today.
History of Madaraka Day
In 1920, white settlers from Great Britain invaded Kenya and established a colonial rule that excluded native Kenyans from all political and administrative processes. The white settlers also occupied fertile lands in Kenya’s Rift Valley and Central regions, herding locals into concentration camps.
This repression led to the infamous Mau Mau revolt, as disgruntled locals fought the white settlers in attempts to regain their freedom. The struggle continued until 1st of June 1963, when Kenya gained internal self-rule and an autonomous Kenyan government was formed with Jomo Kenyatta, the man who would become Kenya’s first president, as the Prime Minister.
That achievement marked a new dawn for Kenya, which is today celebrated as Madaraka Day.
Madaraka Day Activities
Customarily, Kenyans gather at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi where the president presides over a colourful ceremony characterized by speeches, dances and military performances.
In his speech to the nation on Madaraka Day, the president is expected to address certain national issues such as economic development, human rights, employment, security and national cohesion.
Since not all Kenyans can make it to Nyayo Stadium, many follow the event from home as it is usually televised live on radio and television. Many organizations mark this day by engaging in community service activities like planting trees and visiting orphanages.
Madaraka Day 2018
This year’s Madaraka Day will be different following the government’s announcement that national celebrations will be moved to Kinoru Stadium in Meru County from the customary Nyayo Stadium.