Let us renew our social contract this Jamhuri Day

Kenya will turn 60 next week. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the country, we should take stock of the past and plot for the future.

Looking back, we should ask ourselves: what have we done to honour the sacrifices of those who fought and died so we might be free? Would they be proud of our history over the last 60 years? And looking ahead, we should ask: what can we do to honour the ancestors, while also preparing a better Kenya for future generations?

Celebrations of big milestones like 60 years of independence are an opportunity for renewing our civic vows and the implied social contract that keeps us together. How can we individually contribute to the Kenya Project?

Colonial yoke

All else equal, it is fair to say that Kenya is a better place than it was 60 years ago. The colonial yoke and its daily barbarism are gone. And while we have had, and continue to have, leaders who operate like colonial native commissioners, we broadly have self-determination and the capacity to cultivate better leadership. In other words, we are the masters of our own destiny.

Yet we still have a lot of work to do. Among the many things we must do, the most important should be to renew our social contract. What is it that we want to achieve collectively as a nation? What kind of political community do we want? What do we owe each other as a people?

As we answer these questions, we should step back and make sure that they are as grounded in our objective reality as possible. In order to provide the right answers to these questions, we should first understand who we are, our history, our weaknesses and strengths. The failure to ground ourselves in our history and culture has perhaps been our greatest undoing. Often, we do not seem to understand why we do the things we do. That must change.

After we lay the foundation, we should then rededicate ourselves to improving our material conditions. While we are fully capable of being dignified co-citizens even in poverty, better material conditions would shield us from a lot of temptations to indignities against ourselves and our fellow citizens. May the next 60 years be a lot better than the last 60 years.

Happy Jamhuri Day!

The writer is an assistant professor at Georgetown University

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