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Madaraka Day ceremony was unnecessary

By Akisa Wandera | June 2nd 2021

ODM leader waves at his supporters at Kondele after the Madaraka Day celebrations.

Every June 2, Italy marks her National Day and Republic Day, commonly known as Festa della Republica. It is a day when the country commemorates the institutional referendum held in 1946 where Italians voted in favour of a republic and against a monarchy following the Second World War and the consequent fall of the fascist regime in Italy.

Over the last 75 years, the Festa della Republica has been characterised by the laying of a wreath by the sitting president at a tomb of an unknown soldier, a military parade in Rome comprising all soldiers in the Italian Armed Forces and the opening of the gardens of the Quirinal Palace to the public for several hours with musical performances from the military bands -- colourful events that millions of Italians look forward to each year.

But for the second year running, this year the celebrations have been downscaled tremendously due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last time the military parade was held was in 2019 as the government tries to contain numbers during such events.

Italy is among the countries that experienced the full impact of the novel virus when in 2020, it recorded the highest number of deaths since the Second World War in 1945.

Ironically, just a day before the Festa della Republica was marked in Italy, Kenyans commemorated the attainment of internal self-rule on Madaraka Day. This year’s event was marked in the lakeside city of Kisumu.

While the government had initially indicated that only 3,000 people would be allowed into the 30,000-capacity Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium, those present and those of us who followed the proceedings live could see that this was not the case. If anything, that stadium was full to the brim, complete with no social distancing measures whatsoever. It was simply a super spreader event.

The script was the same in strategic spots outside the stadium as mammoth crowds congregated to witness firsthand various leaders make their way to the stadium.

This is the same Kisumu that is currently on high alert over the Covid-19 Indian Variant; and the same country where there are fears that a fourth wave is looming, and which is likely to be deadlier than the third.

Last year’s Madaraka Day celebrations were held at State House, Nairobi with few dignitaries present.

It was quite uncharacteristic but very necessary in keeping the crowds away. The same happened on May 1 during the Labour Day celebrations that were also held at State House.

Given the current situation, nothing stopped the government from doing the same with the Madaraka Day fete. After all, there is a State Lodge in Kisumu.

The 2020 Mashujaa Day celebrations were held in Kisii County where the same crowd control nightmare was witnessed. Within a month, a spike in Covid-19 infections was reported as the country later experienced its third wave. With this background, it was incumbent upon the Madaraka Day organisers to ensure that this year’s event was celebrated without putting the lives of thousands of Kenyans at risk.

But with all the political undertones at this particular event, it was not lost on many why it had to go on despite the risk of taking the country several steps back in the war against Covid-19.

If we cannot learn from countries like Italy that experienced the ruthlessness of the virus first-hand, then we will continue to experience a never-ending cycle that will be detrimental to all of us in all aspects.

Let us put Kenya first in the upcoming national events. The lives of Kenyans must always be prioritised.


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