By Charles Mulila
Over the years, Kenyans have flocked various stadia and other public places on October 20, to celebrate Kenyatta Day – the precursor of Mashujaa Day we are celebrating today. Traditionally, the day honours the heroes and heroines who gallantly fought for internal self-rule culminating in independence in 1963.
During former President Moi and President Kibaki’s era, the day was an occasion to remember and sometimes parade the people who fought for independence. Pre-independence heroes like the late Ochieng Oneko and the late Paul Ngei, among others, would be invited to the national celebrations and mentioned in good light during such occasions.
After the promulgation of the new Constitution, the Kenyatta Day concept was redefined beginning with renaming it Mashujaa Day. Post-independence national heroes and heroines were brought on the table for recognition. In came the front liners in the second liberation, eminent sports men and women, captains of industry and ordinary Kenyans doing extra-ordinary things for the public good.
As a nation however, we must search our collective national conscience to ensure that the reasons we celebrate this day underline our every day endeavour. Other than the renaming the day Mashujaa two years ago, what has the post independence generation done to foster nationhood?
Forget the usual punching bags –tribalism and nepotism – which have become the easy excuse for our inability to participate in nation building initiatives. What has individual citizens done to grow the Kenyan brand that our forefathers, and mothers, paid the ultimate price to build? On a daily basis, we continue to abet crime, fuel corruption and nepotism by involving ourselves in activities that do little to sustain nationhood.
Seldom do we pause to ask ourselves what we can do for this country other than pride ourselves as nationals of Kenya.
If we are to interrogate ourselves on what we have done for this country, other than complain about anything and everything, most of us will be very sorry; and we should be. Three incidents will underpin this argument: The indictment of Kenyan leaders at the Hague-based International Criminal Court, the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall and the ongoing construction of county governments.
The reason(s) why our President and his deputy and journalist Joshua arap Sang were indicted are well known and documented. Few of us however bother to analyse the real cause of this problem and how past and present Kenyan leaders have contributed to it.
Since the advent of multipartism, Kenyans have continued to view each other with suspicion especially during elections. This explains the so-called land clashes in 1991 and 1997 in which many people lost their lives. The Akiwumi Report documented the motivation for these clashes. No action was taken against those mentioned.
The irony is that during the years of the clashes, we continued to define ourselves as nationalists whose singular aim was to ensure national unity. The Westgate incident last month may have reignited our sense of nationhood. But why should it be reactive?
The fact that the attack took place leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. Did the public conceal information that would have helped to detect and stop this crime? We have no business priding ourselves as citizens of this country if we do nothing to protect it.
And now that power has been devolved to the 47 counties, what is the way forward? While celebrating national heroes is a duty of the central government, a system must be put in place to identify and celebrate heroes and heroines in the county governments. There are men and women in counties who have excelled in promoting agriculture, healthcare, education, tree planting and other public interests.
As we celebrate this day, let us call to mind the many times we have failed this country and decide to put Kenya first in all we do. Let us be brave enough to foster unity of purpose by killing the primitive idea that only our tribesmen can deliver prosperity.
The writer is a media consultant