National anthem, the glue that holds Generation Z together

Several youths who attended a church service at Holy Family Basilica said they were against Finance Bill 2024. [Collins Kweyu,Standard

I cannot put my finger on exactly how the protests on Tuesday were organised, or if spontaneous, what thread held the protesters together. They were not in one location. They were spread across the country.

In fact, the traditional protesters in Kibra and Mathare were very silent this time.

The bringing down of the wheelbarrow and banners of the Kenya Kwanza leadership in Uasin Gishu and Kericho are examples of a deeper undercurrent that drove the young people, mostly Gen Zees, to come out in the open and articulate their desires.

Beyond the words and presentations of all manner that have dominated the media, I was, for the very first time pushed to reflect on what the national anthem is all about.

I have sung the national anthem for decades. But, it has never made so much sense to me as it did this time. Why?

Of all songs Gen Z knows, what united them near and far, at least when together during the protest is the national anthem.

They sung it at every turn. Some sang the three stanzas, others two but most sang the first stanza.

The young voices belted out meanings I have never so closely paid attention to. For purposes of clarity, here are the lyrics especially for stanza two and three which some Kenyans would not sing without:

“Ee Mungu nguvu yetu, Ilete baraka kwetu, Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi, natukae na undugu, Amani na Uhuru, Raha tupate na Usitawi (O God of all creation, Bless this our land and nation, Justice be our shield and defender, May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty, plenty be found within our borders)

“Amkeni ndugu zetu, Tufanye sote bidii, Nasi tujitoe kwa nguvu, Nchi yetu ya Kenya, tunaiyopenda, Tuwe tayari kuilinda (Let one and all arise, Wth hearts both strong and true, Service be our earnest endevour, And our homeland of Kenya, Heritage and Splendor, Firm we stand to defend).

“Natujenge taifa letu, Ee ndio wajibu wetu, Kenya isitahili heshima, Tuungane mikono, Pamoja kazini, Kila siku tuwe na Shukrani (Let all with one accord, In common bond united, Build this our national together, The fruit of our labor, Fill every heart with thanksgiving)”.  

First, this anthem is a prayer. It invokes the name of God upfront. It makes us appreciate that we need God’s blessings to be just and defend justice.

What pierced my heart is watching the Gen Z repeatedly sing “may we dwell in unity…” And, yes united they were.

Every corner of the country sung these words. I am not sure the Baby Boomers, Generation X or even the Millennials have sung this song so fervently as to unite us in action.

Second, the words, “nchi yetu ya Kenya, tunayoipenda” blew me away. Whether their grievances were genuine or not is irrelevant.

Here are young people who truly go out there, to defend their homeland because they love it. Watching them, including Generation Alpha, clad in the national flag singing the anthem made me emotional.

The only other time I get this strong nationalist sensation is when our athletes bring great honour to our country and our national anthem has to be played. I have learned a lesson that there is something in a motherland that can never be taken away and must be passed on to generations to come.

Baby Boomers

Third, as I listened to the young people sing the words “tuungane mikono, Pamoja kazini” I felt ashamed and guilty that we the older generations, particularly the Baby Boomers and Xers, have not done our bit to secure the present and future of children.

Not only should we ensure they have degree certificates but allow them an opportunity to develop their talents.

Each human being is gifted. An enabling environment will bring the best out of the young people.

The national anthem has powerful words that carry deep meaning. We are one people, one nation, with one destiny and must not let down young people under any pretext, each one, each institution and especially the government according to its capacity.

Dr Mokua is the Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication