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Diwali: Monday not a public holiday

 Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i. [File, Standard]

The Interior ministry says Monday, October 24, won’t be a public holiday amid speculation online that the government could declare the day a holiday to celebrate Diwali.

Diwali is a Hindu festival with lights, held in the period of October to November.

It is particularly associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, and marks the beginning of the financial year in India.

The festival, the most important within Hinduism, usually lasts five days, or six in some regions of India, and is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika.

There was speculation online, and even offline, that the government could declare Monday, October 24 a public holiday to mark Diwali.

A senior communications officer at the Interior ministry has told The Standard that Diwali won’t be gazetted as a public holiday.

“Monday (October 24) will be a normal workday. The government won’t gazette it as a public holiday,” said the Interior ministry rep.

“It could be an occasion celebrated by Hindus in Kenya and other parts of the world, but as per the government’s holidays calendar, it won’t be celebrated by all Kenyans countrywide,” added the informant.

In previous years, especially in 2019 and 2021, fake gazette notices setting aside Diwali public holidays circulated online, prompting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to issue a public statement dismissing the notices.

The Kenyan law says the five days of Diwali may “in every year be public holidays for all persons belonging to the Hindu faith”, and not all Kenyans.

“We’re yet to receive an official communication from the Hindu Community in Kenya alerting us of the Diwali days,” said the senior Interior ministry communications official who spoke to The Standard.

The Hindu population in Kenya, as per official estimates, shows that the community makes up about 0.13 per cent of Kenya’s total population.

In October of every year (Diwali days), the only gazetted public holidays are two – Utamaduni Day on October 10 (formerly Moi Day) and Mashujaa Day on October 20 (formerly Kenyatta Day).

Kenya has a total of 12 public holidays annually, excluding special occasion holidays gazetted on-need basis by the government.

The 12 are New Year (January 1), Good Friday (mid-April), Easter Monday (late mid-April), Labour Day (May 1), Idd-ul-Fitr (early May), Madaraka Day (June 1), Idd-ul-Adha (early July), Utamadauni Day (October 10), Mashujaa Day (October 20), Jamhuri Day (December 12), Christmas Day (December 25) and Boxing Day (December 26).

Religious distribution

The government estimates as of 2019 approximately 85.5 per cent of the total population in Kenya was Christian and 11 per cent Muslim.

Groups constituting less than 2 per cent of the population include Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’is, and those adhering to various traditional religious beliefs.

Non-evangelical Protestants account for 33 per cent of the population, Roman Catholics 21 per cent, and other Christian denominations, including evangelical Protestants, African Instituted Churches (churches started in Africa independently by Africans rather than chiefly by missionaries from another continent), and Orthodox churches, 32 per cent.

Most of the Muslim population in Kenya lives in the northeast and coastal regions, with significant Muslim communities in several areas of Nairobi.

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