At golden age of 60, I have seen Kenya's huge moments of hope

President Daniel Arap Moi hands over power to his successor Mwai Kibaki at Uhuru Park in 2002.  [File, Standard]

This week I reached the golden age of 60 which entities me to use this column to reflect on the major occurrences that have defined those six decades.

Between 1964 and 1974, I was too young to note any events of national significance. I however vividly recall in the 11th year, in March 1975, the murder of JM Kariuki.

Being an avid reader even then, I can still see the Standard Newspaper headline that reported that JM had gone to Zambia.

The photos of his mutilated body are still fresh in my memory. I believe I lost my innocence about the goodness of government in 1975. I have never recovered.

For the 1975 to 1984 decade, nothing competes with the death of Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1978. I was born at the dawn of independence. Consequently, Mzee Kenyatta had a larger-than-life persona, his name was only mentioned in whispers.

The Attorney General had decreed that it was treasonable even to imagine him dying. On the 22nd of August when the “light of Kenya went out” we had no idea what lay ahead. Would we go the route of Uganda, with coups and counter coups?

Was there anyone even close to Mzee in the capacity to lead the nation? How wrong we were! More than 40 years later, Kenya is still going strong.

Between 1985 and 1994 there were numerous memorable events. This was the decade of the coup, Mwakenya, Saba Saba and the second liberation. Of all these events, the first multiparty elections in 1992 are unforgettable.

Until then, none of us had participated in a presidential election. We had not seen a president legally challenged in campaign rallies. We lived with the possibility that we could witness a change in government.

History records that the greed for power led the opposition to squander that chance and allowed KANU to run the country until 2002 when President Moi graciously handed over power and retired.

This handover of power in 2002 marked the highlight of the next decade between 1993 and 2004.

In December 2002, we trooped to Uhuru Park and sat in the muddy terraces as power was transferred to President Kibaki in a wheelchair and neck braces. That event still gives me goosebumps. We were so full of hope. We were unbwogabble.

Kenya was recorded as the most hopeful country on earth. That year, matatu passengers would civilly arrest policemen seen taking bribes on the road.

This hope was soon lost as squabbling between the NARC coalition partners went into overdrive and a sickly President left his lieutenants exercising raw power without accountability.

We were soon back to our bad habits and by 2007, the once hopeful country was at war with itself. The next decade between 2005 and 2014 is memorable for two events. In 2008, Barack Hussein Obama became US President.

I love good stories and the story of the kid with a funny name, of Luo parentage, who won the hearts of an instinctively racist America will forever define that decade. I remember staying awake for two full nights to savour the coming true of the Martin Luther King dream, even if for just a moment.

The other event was in 2010 when Kenya promulgated the Constitution. This was an unbelievable achievement. It took the civil war in 2007 and a coalition government to pull this through.

Kenya’s hopes were revived for a moment, but as usual, hope quickly gave way to despair as violations of the new Constitution became its constant feature.

This last decade has been marked by many events but as a lawyer, nullification of the 2017 presidential election stands out. It proved to the world that Kenya was, firstly, a nation of laws.

Secondly, that the country could withstand such a mighty tumble in its political life.  The electoral loss of a “government candidate” in 2022 elections comes a close second.

It spoke to the worth of the voter and once again, at least among the hustlers, rekindled hope. How I pray that we do not repeat history and crash that hope again. All in all, it’s been an eventful 60! To another 60, even if I wish it for myself.

-The writer is an advocate of the High Court