As we celebrate the 60th Madaraka Day, we also begin a countdown to the 60th anniversary of Independence.
It was on June 1, 1963, that Kenya attained what was billed as ‘Internal Self-Government’. Jomo Kenyatta was installed as Prime Minister and Head of Government by virtue of being leader of the Parliamentary Majority, the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), but Kenya was still a British Colony with Queen Elizabeth II remaining Head of State, represented by Governor Malcom MacDonald.
It was not until six months later, Independence Day on December 12, 1963, that Kenya removed the last shackles of British colonial rule as the Union Jack was lowered and our Black, Red and Green raised. It then took another one year for the constitutional engineering, by which we ditched the Westminster Parliamentary model and adopted the Republican system, hence Jamhuri Day.
As a nation, we reach the ‘sixth floor’ having come of age. We have grown in leap and bounds on virtually all the measures we would want to look at. No doubt, there is a lot to look back at with pride and satisfaction on momentous progress over the past 60 years of freedom. And here we can talk of freedom not only from colonial occupation, but also freedom from our own dictators and tyrants.
We can proudly proclaim ourselves one of the freest societies in Africa, if not the world. We enjoy a robust and unbridled democracy that should be the envy of any other country that has within a relatively short time transited from colonialism to single-party dictatorship and on a multi-party system.
We have a very free press, and every person can openly and without fear criticise the government, ignore or challenge edicts from those in leadership, and even mock or insult the President.
However, we still have a long way to go. We have made stupendous strides virtually all developmental indicators, but we must constantly ask ourselves why we have not realised our true potential.
We should be knocking on the door for developed-country status, but on so many measures we have regressed into some backward and primordial state.
Visitors flying into the county might admire the modern international airport and skyscrapers reaching into the sky as they zoom atop the elevated Nairobi Experssway to impressive five-star hotels in beautiful suburbs, manicured county clubs and catch onward connections to game lodges and beach hotels.
But they will not see below and around them the putrid slums, uncollected garbage, burst sewers and the hungry teeming masses.
Somebody somewhere said that Kenya is not only broke, it is broken. I am the eternal optimist but one increasingly fearful that this beautiful county blessed with so much promise could be headed for economic collapse and with that the attendant risks of political instability.
As Bob Marley taught, a hungry man is an angry man. And as Chou en Lai told us so many years ago, Kenya is a country ripe for revolution.
Economic meltdown is what can push us to the tipping point. Angry, alienated, jobless masses are the powder keg just waiting to be lit by powerful and wealthy selfish politicians forever out to exploit the desperate for their own selfish ends.
Instead of genuine efforts to stave off economic collapse and all the dangers that heralds, what we are seeing is an endless pissing contest between two individuals who are prepared to see Kenya burn as long they can establish dominance over the other.
As we celebrate Madaraka Day, we must now all as citizens determine that we will not look forward to Jamhuri Day while still hostage to the power plays of either President William Ruto or opposition leader Raila Odinga.
We have it within our powers as citizens and voters to call both men to heel.
The minimum we can demand right now is that President Ruto abandon the arrogance of power exhibited in his ‘mpende msipende’ approach to the contentious taxation measures in his governments Finance Bill, particularly the proposed Housing Fund. He is not a foolish man and will listen to the voice of the people.
From across the other side, Mr Odinga must abandon the intransigence which makes his approach to bipartisan ‘peace talks’ no more than crass blackmail. He cannot forever keep adding new conditions and threatening to walk away from the talks and resume street protests.
If the two individuals will not engage in meaningful ways and also call their respective barking dogs to order, we must look for alternate solutions to our national malaise.
[email protected]. @MachariaGaitho