Low turnout in Nyeri mar Madaraka Day celebrations

Mau Mau Veterans Association members

Members of the Mau Mau Veterans Association presents a song during Madaraka Day celebrations at DEB Muslim Primary School in Nyeri town on June 1, 2022.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Residents of Nyeri were treated to a dull Madaraka Day celebration that was marred by a low turnout.

The event meant to mark the day when Kenya attained self-rule, ended up being a gloomy day for the about 250 locals and Mau Mau veterans who attended the fete right in the county where most of the struggle for independence was fought.

The Dedan Kimathi Kamukunji Grounds, the iconic ceremonial grounds named after Kenya’s most prolific freedom fighter, was unavailable for the key celebration as it has been converted into a hawker’s market.

In early 2020, Governor Mutahi Kahiga allocated the area to the traders as a way of managing the growing number of hawkers within Nyeri town.

The move forced the government to host the celebrations at the playground of the D.E.B Muslim Primary School.

The hasty decision to host the celebrations at the school, located about 100 metres from the Dedan Kimathi Kamukunji Grounds, saw chiefs and their assistants hang tents at 10.00am, a time when the event was scheduled to start.

Contrary to past Madaraka Day celebrations when both the county and national government formed a committee to organize the annual ceremony, there were no county government officials at the event which was presided over by county commissioner Mohammed Barre.

In previous Madaraka celebrations, Mr Kahiga graced the ceremony accompanied by leaders of the Mau Mau Veterans Association.

During such occasions, the freedom fighters, who were transported to the venue with the help of the county government, were given a platform to air their issues to the government as they reminisced the days before independence with the public.

The event was lastly held in 2019 at the Narumoru stadium.

Unlike before, in today’s ceremony, only two groups - the Administration Police (AP) band and a group of PCEA Muguru Girls High School students - entertained the crowd.

Most of the people in attendance were children who ended up leaving the venue before the event that lasted more than five hours was over, leaving rows of chairs empty.

The Chairman of the Mau Mau Veterans Association Mr Paul Ngatia, called for peaceful campaigns in the county.

He asked residents not to accept to be used by politicians for malicious reasons in exchange for money.

“Even though we attained our freedom as a country on this day, most of the youths in the county survive under the mercies of politicians who are using them to incite violence,” he said.

County Commissioner Mohamed Barre said that the police officials were ready and alert to act on residents who incite violence.