Four years ago today, Kenya promulgated a new constitution. This milestone enshrined in law such important ideals as respect for all persons and their rights, equality for everyone regardless of where they live and transparency. For me, it was sad to see that the day passed with no formal notice by the country. I think the president’s advisors failed him. If I was one, I would have strongly advised that the funeral of his uncle, Dr. Magana Njoroge Mungai (Rest in Peace, great sir) was held tomorrow August 28th. Instead today, I would have advised the president to AT LEAST stand outside State House and commemorate the day by talking to the nation for 5 minutes. My preference would have been that he would go to an institution like the University of Nairobi and hold a town hall with the students and making remarks that would have gone something like this before spending a couple of hours engaging them on issues. This in my view is what should happen every year forever.
My fellow Kenyans,
Four years ago this week, a new word was introduced to the Kenyan lexicon: promulgate. On 27th August 2010 Kenyans solemnly adopted, enacted and gave a new constitution to themselves and to future generations. In this constitution we enshrined, for the first time in our history, a commitment to living equitably, a respect for every human being and to be true to our nation’s founding spirit.
Such momentous events only come once in a lifetime. When Mzee Jomo Kenyatta received the constitutional instruments of governance from the British on December 12th 1963, he said, “now at last we are all free, masters in our own land, masters of our own destiny.” The truth is that while we were indeed free from our colonizers, we were still shackled by our own prejudices against each other and our lack of equity.
During our 50-year history, we took the freedom that our fathers and mothers fought for and we wantonly abused it, leaving in our wake the bodies of Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki, Alexander Kipsang’ Muge, Robert Ouko and hundreds of men and women, who were tortured in the hands of the state beneath the grounds of our capital’s central business district, at Nyayo house.
In that time, we looted our own coffers – not just the bigwigs who robbed the country of billions in scams like angloleasing and Goldenberg – but citizens who bribed headteachers so that their kids were admitted into a good school at the expense of other deserving kids. We bribed policemen and at one point even used them as personal militia with which we settled scores. We ignored the rules that we set for ourselves and let our country become a dirty, potholed, rubbish laden, corrupt place, where traffic lights were mere suggestions.
In the past decade, thank God, we started to wake from the national stupor that had enveloped us as a country. We covered up the potholes and cleared out the trash. As we gave our buildings new coats of paint, we renewed our vision for our nation’s prosperity and stability. As children went to school, we renewed our commitment to strengthening our nation’s foundation and to making sure that we do not ever slide back to those unfortunate days in our history.
We have much more that we must do. We must secure our borders and strengthen our respect and love for each other. We must work hard to actualize the dreams of our freedom fighters who fought and died – dreams for us to govern ourselves, to decide our own destiny and to be competitive, equal players in the global arena.
As we review our history, we must look to our young people and in them, place the responsibility of making sure that our nation climbs to new heights. We have to recognize that as a young country we must adopt the hope, optimism and fearlessness of youth and use it to rise above the many obstacles that hinder us from a great future – obstacles like tribalism and hatred, corruption and greed, and the disregard of the rule of law.
Last year, I went with my son and daughter to visit Kenneth Matiba at his home. Sitting with him, I was reminded – and I am reminded now – that the journey to enacting this new constitution was not without its casualties. We must pay homage to all those men and women – both living and dead, on both sides of the partisan divide who sacrificed their lives, health and livelihoods to secure the democratic space and freedom that we enjoy today.
Respecting that sacrifice means that we must be responsible in our exercise of our rights and freedoms. It means that we must recommit ourselves everyday to protecting our liberty and to improving our economic, social and political health. We must debate and engage with each other with great vibrancy and all the while maintain the spirit of this constitution – respect and love for all of us.
Let the flame that burns at the top of Uhuru Park forever remind us of the commitment that we make to ourselves to respect and submit to the constitution of Kenya in everything we do
Thank you and God bless Kenya.
This is not a moment for us to discuss the transcient politics of today but remind ourselves of the spirit of that document that we must all hold supreme. It was a lost opportunity.