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A national day like no other as Kenya celebrates self-rule amid pandemic

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects the guard of honour mounted by the Kenya Defence Forces at the 57th anniversary of Madaraka Day at State House gardens, Nairobi on June 1, 2020. (PSCU, Standard)

The country was yesterday treated to virtual entertainment as Kenya marked its 57th Madaraka Day.

The day, which commemorates Kenya’s attainment of self-governance in 1963, has for the last 56 years been marked by throngs of spectators who were treated to colourful military parades, song and dance in stadiums.

This year’s fete was however different, due to the coronavirus pandemic that has seen a ban on social gatherings.

The unique June 1 celebrations started at 8 am and ended with a televised address by President Uhuru Kenyatta from State House in Nairobi.


President Kenyatta arrived for the celebrations at 12 pm shortly after Deputy President William Ruto, accompanied by his wife Racheal, had made his entry.

As is the tradition, President Kenyatta inspected a guard of honour mounted by Kenya Defense Forces (KDF).

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Yesterday’s celebrations also incorporated the traditional military jets fly-past before the master of ceremonies called Council of Governors (CoG) Wycliff Oparanya to start off with the speeches.

There was no dull moment for those at home as the extravaganza went virtual with recorded entertainment performances that went on for over an hour.

The celebrations were as digital as they come as the event’s production team fussed action from different setups.

While the highlights were from State House, Nairobi, where President Kenyatta led the celebrations in the company of a few invited guests, a team captured the spectacular KDF planes from a different spot.

It was also a big moment for Kenyan artistes as their recorded songs dominated the first session of the national celebrations.

From mash-ups to solo recordings of pieces that spoke of patriotism, unity and peace, it was a family show that brought together creatives from different generations.

Themed Pamoja Tusonge Mbele, the ceremony also saw special songs on the Covid-19 pandemic played, with clips mostly by ‘new generation’ musicians emphasising on the need for Kenyans to heed the precautionary measures.

As the clock struck 10.30 am, the MCs introduced Mungu Baba, a 2013 Rufftone number featuring the General Service Unit (GSU) choir.

A special collection of past clips of the shoulder-shaking Giriama dancers, the Isukuti drums and the rhythmic Mwomboko sway were played, reflecting the diverse Kenyan culture.

Renewed hope

With geographical and historical documentaries playing in fusion, the entertainment went a notch higher yesterday.

The Moipei Quartet’s rendition of Roger Whittaker’s My Land Is Kenya could have received a standing ovation if the celebrations were held in normal times. “The production was all-inclusive and I am happy that the voices of many artistes were featured in this production. As challenging as the times might be, I feel that the artistes gave a sense of renewed hope to Kenyans,” Rufftone told The Standard.

This year’s Madaraka Day celebrations had been slated for Kisii Stadium in Kisii County, but restrictions issued by the government on public gatherings following the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the day would be marked in a different manner.

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