When Kenyatta warned Parliament against vainglorious debates

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and daughter Margaret in the 1960s. [File/Standard]
Kenya commemorates 54 years as a republic amid pomp and circumstance, the crowning moment being the president's speech. But, which presidential speech, and not necessarily on Jamhuri Day, has been the most memorable?.

Many believe it Kenya’s first President Jommo Kenyatta's address to parliament ranks among the best.

Kenyatta entered the National Assembly on Monday December 14, 1964 in Nairobi to speak on the way forward.

The then Speaker of the National Assembly Muinga Chokwe presided over the business of transferring the mace to President Kenyatta. To complete the ritual of transforming Kenya into a fully-fledged republic. Kenyatta would then hand over the symbol  of parliamentary authority back to the Senate.

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“Mr Speaker, the mace which formerly was held by the Senate of Kenya as a symbol of Authority from Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and which on the occasion of Kenya becoming a republic you have surrendered to me. I now deliver to you, to be held by the Senate henceforth as a symbol of your authority under the Republica Constitution of Kenya,” said Kenyatta.

According to the parliamentary Hansard report dated December 14, 1964 to May 12, 1965, Kenyatta would then proceed to tell the house that Kenya had been inaugurated as a republic after the ceremony, and that he would be now addressing them as constitutionally mandated head of state.

In his speech, he emphasised on the crucial roles to be played by the members of parliament. President Kenyatta went ahead warning them against being used by foreign powers or institutions to further partisan benefits. He would then proceed to caution the MPs against engaging in competitive debate at the expense of doing their work-representation.

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Memba waliopo hapa nataka kusema maneno mawili au matatu. Nyumba hii iwe ya kujadiliana sio ya kupayapaya…tusiwe tunajisifu ah! Fulani akileta Bill yake ataniona leo. Hiyo sio kujenga taifa,”( I want to say two or three things for members who are here. Let this house be for discussions but not negative and competitive discussions. Let’s not be proud by seeking to outdo one another whenever a bill is brought forward. That is not nation building), remarked Kenyatta.

Kenyatta would then highlight the national blueprints on handling economic matters. At the time when the world was polarised into two blocs of communism and capitalism, Kenyatta maintained that Kenya would remain neutral.

“We shall not allow interference in our affairs from East or West. Kenya will seek to contribute to world peace and a new economic order for mankind,” he stated.

With Kenyan neighbours Tanzania and Uganda also rising from bondage of the colonial masters, the countries were seeking political and economic associations. Kenyatta would then provide an assurance of the Kenyan commitment to the realisation of East African Community dream.

Kenyatta also spoke passionately about the involvement of Kenyan people in nation building.

The Hansard report reads in part: “…the success of building a Kenya nation lies entirely in the hands and the sweat of the Kenyan people in the spirit of Harambee.”

Mzee would then concluded his speech by apologising to the speaker for delivering an impromptu speech that was outside his plan.

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