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Kenyans will be singing an anthem worth 40 million shillings

By Richard Muraya | July 31st 2016

On 3rd December 2010, at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania, the 12th Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of States Summit presented a key resolution in its communique, whose effect would come to dominate Kenyan news six years later. Resolution 29 of the Summit noted the approval of the East African Community anthem, officially known as Wimbo wa Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki.  

The 4 year journey to this milestone began in 2006 which cost the EAC Community the equivalent of 40 million Kenyan shillings. The search for a regional anthem saw a number of revisions and 3 deferments from the Summit to have it reflect the aspirations of the community. Notably, compatriot Richard Khadambi won the 2005 regional competition to compose the anthem.

In a move that caught many Kenyans unawares, the sixth Cabinet meeting of 2016 issued a directive on Thursday that the EAC anthem would be sung along the Kenyan national anthem in all schools while the EAC flag would be flown alongside the Kenyan flag in all government offices and public institutions. So why were Kenyans surprised by this important milestone towards full EAC integration?

National Pride

The Kenyan national anthem is one of the three national symbols recognized by the constitution. It has remain unchanged since independence as the accompaniment to the national flag, the public seal and the coat of arms. Since the Union Jack was lowered at the stroke of midnight on 12th December 1963, no foreign flag or national anthem has flown on Kenyan soil save for diplomatic missions in the country and the occasional official visits from sitting Heads of State.

US President Barrack Obama’s election in 2009 and his visit last year are the only notable instances when a foreign flag has featured prominently on Kenyan soil. Only during this year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations will the impact of the Cabinet directive on the two EAC symbols be felt by ordinary Kenyans. Understandably, the adoption of the EAC symbols into national psyche might take a while.

Tanzania’s emerging regional influence

Tanzania’s recent moves that upstaged Kenya’s plans as the preferred route for the Ugandan oil pipeline and railway have dented the Kenyan perception of region dominance. Unbeknownst to most Kenyans, Tanzania blazed the trail in adopting the anthem and the flag alongside its national symbols on May 19th 2016, 2 months before the Kenyan Cabinet issued a similar directive.

 It seems that this is an act by the Kenyan government to catchup to a rapidly changing geopolitical shift that seems to favour Tanzania. The influence of Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli as the EAC Summit chairperson, and the commendable trail of institutional reforms in his home state are possible causes for the hastened adoption of the EAC flag and anthem. Whether this is another indicator of Tanzania’s growing influence in the region is yet to be seen.

Legality of the Cabinet Directive

Since the promulgation of the constitution in August 2010, a wave of constitutionalism has been a key factor influencing Kenyan public opinion. The inclusion of the EAC anthem and flag may have been misconstrued as an unconstitutional imposition by the government since the Constitution clearly outlines the national symbols as the national flag, national anthem, the coat of arms and the public seal.

 In truth, the Constitution of Kenya subscribes to the principle of monism in international law as opposed to the dualist principle in previous dispensations. This means that all international and regional instruments ratified by the state form part of national laws without further legislation. The adoption of the flag and the anthem, therefore, should have taken place in 2012 when the Community Emblems (Amendment) Act was passed by the East African Legislative Assembly.  The delay in its adoption by Kenya could be attributed to the prevailing political tension in the lead up to the 2013 election and the subsequent ICC debacle which isolated Tanzania in the Coalition of the willing caucus.


While Kenyans were used to the community flag as the country has hosted the 16th Heads of State Ordinary Summit in February 2015 among other commission and bureau meetings, the EAC anthem has not received much attention and publicity. Infact, the anthem has been in existence for six years compared to the flag’s thirteen year existence.

On 31st January 2004, the 2nd East African Legislative Assembly adopted the Community Emblems Act which established the Community Flag, Emblem and Seal. The Community Anthem would be adopted in December 2010 and in 2012, the Community Emblems (Amendment) Act granted the anthem status as a community emblem. The relatively younger age of the EAC anthem compared to the EAC flag may account for the confusion. Also of concern might be minor challenges in protocol regarding the Kenyan flag and anthem take superiority over the EAC ones.

The Cabinet directive draws questions on the will to implement it.

Is the EAC Anthem going to have a lasting impact on the community’s aspiration to full integration as a political federation?

Or will the 40 million shilling anthem be the prelude to the dismemberment of national symbols

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