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Dak Buoth Kenya Opinion

Opinion: Madaraka Day celebration makes Jamhuri Day less important

By Dak Buoth  

Kenyan celebrating Jamhuri Day on December 12, 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya(Photo credit: courtesy image)
Kenyan celebrating Jamhuri Day on December 12, 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya(Photo credit: courtesy image)

1st June, 2021In the morning, I was preparing to visit Kisii University main library to revisit a chapter of a book that I didn’t exhaust yesterday, but I soon realized today is a national holiday, Madaraka whose main celebration is underway in the nearby Kisumu city. 

This is an important day worth marking because it was created for a purpose. It’s National day that compels us not only to meditate on how far this Nation has come, but largely to appreciate and acknowledge the heroes and heroines who paid the ultimate price. Those of us who think there is freedom in this country ought to remember that this freedom was not achieved overnight. Some patriotic Kenyan sons and daughters toiled and moiled for this generation to have this free and democratic space that they are enjoying today. More often than not, people however think about themselves which is a spirit that goes contrary to national values stipulated in the Kenyan constitution. People should create time to think and ask about what they should do for the country like what former US president John F. Kennedy once stated in his inaugural speech, ‘‘Ask not what your country do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’’ 

In article 9 of the constitution, National days like this Madaraka come before National values in article 10. I think those who drafted the constitution erred in structuring its content. I’m of the opinion that article 9 should come after article 10, because only those who interacted and are conversant with national values such as patriotism can mark and give essence to national days like Madaraka et cetera.  This is not to say the articles of the constitution were tabulated in a manner that shows their hierarchy. But of course, there is a reason why the preamble and sovereignty of the people always appear first in the text.  In an article entitled ‘‘It is time for Kenyans to stop celebrating Madaraka’’ by Sekou Toure Otondi, then Ph.D. candidate at University of Nairobi. He opined that ‘‘On Madaraka Day, Kenyans celebrate the moment in history when the country was granted internal self-rule by the British colonialists. On Jamhuri Day, they mark the day they gained complete independence.’’ 

With due respect to Otondi, I have a problem with the use of the word ‘grant.’ in his statement. As some of you know, Kenya and the two Sudans have similar colonial histories and destinies as well. And from what I learnt in the two Sudans, British colonialists and oppressors in general don’t grant freedoms on a silver platter.

It is common knowledge that the nationalists and liberators attained our independence from British colonialists after the latter surrendered. And that can’t be misconstrued to mean grant. The word grant is synonymous with the term donation. But there is empirical evidence showing our independence was not donated to us. They were indefatigably fought for by our selfless peasant forefathers. 

If I can remember well, Madaraka Day is akin to a moment in Africa’s newest country where Southern Sudan, now Republic of South Sudan which attained its self-rule following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. At that time, late Dr. John Garang became the President of Southern Sudan as well as the vice President of Sudan under the deposed and fugitive Islamist dictator, Omar Hassan El Bashir. At that particular moment, South Sudanese were not absolutely free, and hence cannot celebrate this moment. 

Relatively, in 1963, Kenyans were still under the monarchy of the Queen of England although President Jomo Kenyatta had ascended to the position of the prime minister. By then, Kenyan nationalists were still in trenches until the year 1964 when Kenya proudly achieved her full independence with Jomo as its first President.  In view of the foregoing, I think the day worth marking and celebrating yearly is the Jamhuri Day. 

The brilliant Kenyans, some of whom I know, who crafted and drafted the Kenya constitution, 2010 could have not maintained Madaraka Day in the constitution by virtue of the fact that in 1963 Kenya was still a British colony.  The day we should forever mark and celebrate is the Jamhuri Day, because that is the day Kenya fully became independent up to now.  As such, Madaraka Day should be removed from article 9 of constitution or else the two national days should be merged and be celebrated as one event. Doing so will save the country the resources that are always used in celebrating these two constitutional events. We are aware that, everywhere in the world, Independence days are celebrated once in a year.  By marking and celebrating Madaraka Day the same way Jamhuri day is celebrated makes the latter less important, for it appears as mere repetition or replica of Madaraka Day. My concern is not that Madaraka Day is not important, for I think it is not for me to say that, the argument which I’m bringing to the fore is that, Madaraka Day celebration have negative impact on the bigger Jamhuri Day owing to the fact that former takes place first and the activities are alike. And so, it makes the Jamhuri celebration look like a replay of Madaraka Day.  Any event or activity that seems to lessen or lower the significance of any constitutional provision should be revisited and reviewed. As it’s always the case, a repeat of an event is less appetizing. I’m sure the vast majority of Kenyans value Jamhuri more than Madaraka Day, because it was on Jamhuri day that the national flag was hoisted. 

Having stated that, I don’t foresee the future of this event. Madaraka Day is just in the current constitution for the time being. Sooner or later, it will be ousted completely by the proponents of the constitutional amendment Bill, 2020 popularly known as BBI who are likely going to make a comeback, after the BBI was nullified by the gallant appeal Judges about fortnight ago.  

The Writer is the Chairman of Liech community Association in Kenya; the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via eligodakb@yahoo.com.


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