On Tuesday, Kenyans joined hands across their vast republic to celebrate Mashujaa Day. Hosted in the hilly and fertile Kisii county in southwestern Kenya, the occasion marked a decade of Mashujaa Day or Heroes Day under the current constitution.
The first Mashujaa Day was marked in 2010, upon the promulgation of the new constitution. Before 2010, the day was marked under the name of the founding father of the republic, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Kenyatta Day, commemorating Kenyatta 1 especially but his generation, too, was marked for the first time in 1958, just after the release of the Kapenguria Six.
Last Tuesday memorialised the heroic struggles that animate our history and story as a nation-state in Africa. Kenyatta 1 and others were early campaigners for the declaration of independence of Kenya. They paid dearly for this in various ways, together with others whose names we learn in school.
This generation, which was active from the 1930s to the 1960s, is one of the pioneer generations of our national heroes. Earlier to the Kenyatta generation, there had been other generations of Kenyan anticolonial champions, such as that of Harry Thuku and his precursors.
There is an urgent need to document this first phase of our national history between the Berlin Conference of 1884 and the First World War of 1914-1919. It should form an integral part of the new curriculum, undoubtedly.
In this earlier phase of our nationalist struggles, before Jomo or even Thuku, one remembers the generation of Koitalel arap Samoei of the Nandi, Mekatilili wa Menza of the Giriama and Mukite wa Nameme of the Bukusu. These were some of the heroic tribal leaders of Kenya’s first phase of armed anticolonial uprising from 1884-1914.
Speaking at the newly refurbished Gusii Stadium, President Uhuru Kenyatta led other national leaders in tracing the path of the republic since inception to date. He reiterated the gravity of Kenyan history, while extolling the urgent need to pursue a securer collective future for our posterity.
The President persuaded the nation that the path to a secure future rests in constitutional changes. This should target increased political inclusivity and economic equity. His arguments were based on the premise that constitutions are the bedrocks of nation-states or republics. These constitutions are neither cast in stone nor perfect.
Our history teaches us that Kenya’s struggle for independence and the quest for self-determination assumed a generational approach in the past. Similarly the process of nation-building and constitutionalism should follow suit. Each generation has a role to play in the betterment of the republic, and this can take the form of revision of the constitution from time to time.
We stand on the cusp of a historic moment. Ten years of implementation of the new constitution and the birth of the second republic, a chance is here for us to have an inclusive national interlocution on how best to move into the future. This march ought not to be a contest between paradigms of econo-political equations but rather a unitary march towards a better and securer future.
Kenyatta 2 reminded the nation of the crucial 5th Pan African Congress that was held in Manchester, UK, from October 15-21, 1945. The summit had featured the bulwarks of pan-African, movement, including WEB DuBois, Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkurumah, and more importantly, his own father, Kenyatta 1. He cited this as a pointer to the unitary aspirations of Blacks across the world.
The quest for a better Kenya is not a simple nationalist or national endeavour. It is part of the enduring pan-African desire to re-find and refine our lives of liberty buried under phases of colonialism here in Africa. The work that commenced with the voice of Mekatili, the wisdom of Koitalel and the war-cries of Mukite remains our legacy and the baton to pass to the youth.
No wonder the President cited the youth as the sustainable energy for the future of our country as a nation-state and our economic security. A saying exists among my maternal relatives from Mount Kenya that the youth are a fragment of God. In them is bestowed the creative impulse for both ideas and action.
As we reminisce on our long walk to freedom as a nation, let us hold on to those two batons. The first one is the baton of generation. Each generation has a role to play in the quest for a more perfect republic here in Kenya. Secondly, such a quest should be vested in the hands, hearts and minds of the youth. To do so is to bank our hard-earned freedom in a commonwealth of sustainable growth.