Kenyans today celebrate Mashujaa day – Heroes day – when they remember the heroes who fought for our independence, the heroes who sacrificed a their lives, wellbeing and livelihoods in the service of getting Kenya to the state it is in. Many of us are keenly aware that we still have a lot to get done to improve the lives of our people. But we also know that it could be worse – because it has been worse.
There was a time when private thought was legislated by Parliament – it was treason to think about the death of the president. There was a time when police stopped you at every street corner and brazenly robbed you, before allowing the civilian robbers to pick you clean. There was a time when you could not imagine getting government services without digging into your pocket. There was a time when all these would happen as a matter of course – no hiding, no shame. There was a time when we had a gang of thieves called the 40 thieves, who would back up their truck at your gate, introduce themselves and proceed to clean it out.
I don’t imagine this would happen with the same brazenness as before.
Corruption still happens in Kenya. Police killings still happen in Kenya. Car jackings and robberies are more rampant than we would like. But if we were honest, we know that things have gotten a better. To not acknowledge it would be to dishonour the lives that Mzee Oginga Odinga, Charles Rubia, Wangari Maathai, Njindo Matiba, James Orengo, Gitobu Imanyara, Raila Odinga and so many others lived in the eighties and nineties – including millions of citizens who were teargassed and shot regularly on the streets of Nairobi agitating for our freedom.
To not acknowledge that Kenya has progressed is to ignore the sacrifices that journalists, political scientists, clergy, activists, intellectuals and lawyers in Kenya made, being tortured under the building in which, we house our immigrations services – Nyayo House.
Things are far from being great, but they are better – and they are getting better. And today, we thank those Kenyans for their service and their care and their lives.
As I watched the Mashujaa Day celebrations today, I had some thoughts that I want to share in the way that they occured to me:-
- I think it is time the president got lady bodyguards as well. That is an obvious ceiling that needs to be broken.
- We need to revisit protocol as a country. If the president is a true servant of the people, it makes no sense for speakers at these events to talk to him instead of speaking to the people who are braving the scorching sun. Listening to speakers on stage go, “Mheshimiwa rais, you have done this and your government has committed itself to that…” is so 1986. The same speech could be, “We are grateful to the president for doing this and as you, fellow Kenyans know, our government has committed itself to…” – and it would be more appropriate.
- The age of lip syncing to recorded music is passed. We should get a live band and a real stage. In fact, lets get a revolving stage.
- As President Kenyatta announced 10k kilometre new tarmaced roads this term, and electricity in every primary school, It occured to me that we must plan ahead for maintenance. Add the thought that we must achieve better meaningful empoloyment for “youths” and women. I think we must give real thought to consessioning as a model.