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Unlike in 1964, Kenyans today have little hope for a brighter future

 Security officers contain a middle-aged man who tried to interrupt the President's speech during Madaraka Day at Masinde Muliro Kanduyi stadium of Bungoma on June 1, 2024. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Kenya became a republic in 1964 and stopped being a British ‘dominion’. One year after independence on December 12, 1963, Kadu dissolved itself, joined Kanu, and its leaders received ministerial appointments.

The country celebrated its first Madaraka Day as a republic on June 1, 1964 in front of Harambee House at a time of high expectation as well as anxiety due to many unknowns. There was also sense of confidence lodged in the person of Jomo Kenyatta or Mzee and his team of Kanu prima donnas. That confidence has since disappeared.

There were debates as to which direction postcolonial Kenya should take even as it professed to be non-aligned in the raging Cold War. Two of the prima donnas; Vice President Oginga Odinga and Constitutional Affairs/Planning Minister Tom Mboya, intensified their ideological rivalries which started in the late 1950s as part of the deep politics on who should inherit Kenyatta’s leadership mantle should a vacancy occur. That politics dominated Kenyatta’s presidency untill 1978.

The realisation that Kenya may be losing its independence with its eyes wide open is partly due to the Hustler Grandees' splashing wealth in the midst of growing poverty and underdevelopment and becoming vulnerable to external inducements by ‘friends’.

Dr Ruto seemingly listens to extra-continental advice and he looks bad. At US President Joe Biden’s prodding and recognition as an African leader, Ruto went out of his way to be agreeable and doggedly plunged into Haiti fiasco when other countries refrained. He also joined the Americans in the Ukraine adventure and agrees to involve Kenya in the Houthi geopolitical challenge.

In return, Biden has heaped praises on Ruto, offered to donate helicopters and armoured vehicles, repeated a US promise to build a Nairobi-Mombasa highway, and would like to make Kenya a NATO appendage in tropical Africa. The deal, however, did not look good as Haitians demonstrated in Washington DC hurling epithets at Ruto and Kenya for agreeing to Biden’s imperial request.

With Kenya’s global image plummeting, questions have arisen as to whether Ruto and Gachagua consult. They reportedly disdain history, have problems listening to local advice, and end up blundering confusedly. They seemingly scare ‘advisors’ who then fold hands and watch. In a State House pep-talk meeting, for instance, over 70 university and college bosses failed in critical thinking. They claimed all was well while lecturers remain unpaid and students not available. They reportedly agreed to scrap humanities/history from university offerings! Were they thinking?

With critical thinking missing where it matters most and ignoring concerns of Kenyans, the country sinks into deep debt and dependency and depletes the meaning of Madaraka. Losing its original reputation as revolutionary Mau Mau country, Kenya looks like nyapara, ready to do the bidding of the master state.

The country fails, unlike in 1964, to inspire and give hope for a bright future and surrenders to master states who control the IMF and the World Bank. Its pulverising taxation, increased disincentives to work and invest, decline in national productivity, loss of essential public goods and services, and rising material and mental underdevelopment, erode the spirit of Madaraka Day.

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