Kenya is small country tucked comfortably in East Africa, bordering Tanzania to the South, Uganda to the West, South Sudan to the North West, Ethiopia to the North, Somalia to the East and Indian Ocean to the South East. According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Kenya is home to close to 47 million people as of 2017, and covers an area of 582,650 km².
As of today, Kenya consists of 42 tribes, plus the Makonde who earned this privilege around three months ago when they were formally recognized as the 43rd tribe of Kenya and issued with national identity cards. Before, the Makonde were not legally recognized as part of Kenya even though they had lived in Kenya’s coastal region for close to 80 years. In this state, they could not voice any concerns or participate in important activities such as voting as one is required to use an identity card both to register as a voter as well as during voting.
On December 12 this year, Kenya will be celebrating its 54th year of independence. Just like other Madaraka days, Kenyans will be celebrating their freedom from the chains of slavery and colonization by the British. Vuvuzelas, ululations and songs of joy will fill the streets and various stadia across the country during this day. It is a day for everyone to undress their struggles and put them into their closets, get out and get lost in the beautiful madness of the day. Just for one day because after that they will forget it and resume the hunt for a better future in a country that has not yet achieved “independence” which they locally call uhuru.
During colonization, the struggle for freedom was real. Every freedom fighter was a genuine fighter fighting for their country that had been under a tough Imperial British rule that started in the early 1920s. People joined arms to bring an end to colonization, with Mau Mau Uprising being one of the most pronounced groups that spearheaded the fight for freedom.
Upon getting independence, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta took to office as the first president of the Republic of Kenya. During this time, something changed since the British had started moving out of Kenya back to the UK, except for the few that stayed. Everyone who had power grabbed big chunks of land for themselves. The ones who were perceived to have fought more for the freedom were “entitled” to be the first gainers of the new government under Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who hailed from the Kikuyu tribe, now Kenya’s biggest tribe. His government was dominated with Kikuyu elites, which was the start of tribalism.
There was a scramble and partition for Kenya during Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s reign. Kenyans started to understand that it was every man for himself, leading to a scenario where everyone grabbed anything unoccupied that was close to them, starting with the politicians.
During his second term, fearing opposition, Kenyatta adopted an “oathing” system as a measure to obtain loyalty from members of his government. The oathing took place at his place in Gatundu. Christians all over the country condemned the act. Journalists were also banned from reporting about the oathing.
Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s reign ended on August 22, 1978 when he passed on at Mombasa, a town along coastal Kenya.
Daniel Arap Moi, who was the vice president at the time, preceded Jomo Kenyatta as the second president of Kenya. Unlike like Jomo Kenyatta who governed the country from behind closed doors, Moi toured the country to meet the citizens.
Moi’s rule turned from being good to bad with time. As many Kenyans will tell, Moi was what locals call a total man (dictator). Just like his former boss who had proliferated tribalism, Moi employed more and more people from his Kalenjin tribe despite the fact whether they had the relevant skills or not. Many illiterate Kalenjins found their way to senior government positions. With little or no skill to run most of the offices, development was at its slowest.
In 1992, the Kenyan Air force assisted by university students tried to oust Moi’s government. The attempted coup d’état was quickly suppressed by the military and the police.
Moi used this as an opportunity to dismiss his opponents and consolidate his power. He identified Kenyatta’s men as traitors. As a result, he reduced the number of Kenyatta’s men in the cabinet.
Through key supporters that he had appointed, they were able to change the constitution to turn Kenya into one party state, thus giving him complete control over the country.
Tension marred the country. People were afraid and Moi sent his proxies as spies to every corner of the country to ensure no one walked on the opposite lane. Many enrolled in universities to keep watch. This is because university students were very active in politics and they had also participated in the move to end his reign.
Many citizens were abused, assaulted and others killed. People were just disappearing. Corruption during his era became a major catastrophe. The economy was stuck. Many people were detained such Raila Odinga while others such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o fled to exile.
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) was the only media house present at the time, which again was owned by the government. KBC was used as an agent to put Moi’s agenda on course while hiding his dirty linen. Everything going out to the public was censored, making KBC Moi’s media house which he used the way he wanted.
In 1992, Kenya became a multiparty state allowing more political parties to be formed. Many politicians moved from the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) to form other political parties.
In 2002, after a 27 year rule, Moi lost the elections to the 3rd president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki. Mwai Kibaki stayed in office for two terms, one of which was disputed. In 2007, during the run for his second term, Kenya plunged into post-election violence after he failed to concede defeat to the opposition leader Raila Odinga who had won. The country which had enjoyed a long term of peace and stability saw people get on each other’s neck.
Kenyans lost lives in thousands. Property worth millions got destroyed. People lost limbs, others lost eyes, others lost parents, kids, husbands and even wives. Tribalism became the driving force of the chaos. The country lost its shape.
Since then, people have been living in tatters. Corruption has been on the rise with the current Uhuru Kenyatta’s (son of Jomo Kenyata) government. Millions of money put aside to spur development agenda has been looted by office bearers who today walk briskly in the streets. No one has been apprehended.
Corruption remains Kenya’s worst nightmare followed by tribalism. Wherever you go to seek a service you have to pay “something small” in order to get the service. If you don’t have the money to offer something then you don’t get the service. Everyone gets into office just to dip their hands into public coffers. It has become the style. Everyone now knows that if you are taken to court you will win. You only need to bribe the judge.
The police allow road carnage to continue by taking bribes. People get killed every day by unroadworthy vehicles operating on Kenyan roads. It has reached a point whereby the president himself has to ask people “what do you want me to do?” when in fact he is the one who is supposed to deal with it because Kenyan electorate gave him the power.
Those in power can grab anything and go scotfree. This has seen the gap between the rich and the poor widen. It has become the country of haves and have nots.
Accessing basic services such as health, water and housing has become a major problem. More than 1000 people die every day due to lack of good health facilities and clean water. While visiting government health facilities, you will discover that 3 people share a bed.
Kenya is home to the biggest slums in the world; Kibera and Mathare slums.
Kenyan people are one of the highly taxed people in the world.
The unemployment rate in Kenya hit 39.1% in 2017. This tells how many people lack jobs. In the face of all these adversities, despite the struggle for independence, still many Kenyans have not attained independence. Many are leading miserable lives. They cannot afford basic items such as food, shelter or even an education.
Fighting for independence from the British was one thing, fighting from the new colonialism is another. Many Kenyans have not achieved freedom to lead better lives. Their lives are becoming worse, and the toll of corruption, poor leadership and tribalism has consumed them into scarier lives.
Independence to a normal folk in Kenya resembles childhood dreams that are years away. 54 years later, the struggle for independence continues. Struggle to emancipate themselves from post-colonialism. It is a long road to freedom because it is not yet uhuru.