My father President Jomo Kenyatta once said: “Unity cannot be taken for granted.”
We will be celebrating this year’s Madaraka Day in the shadow of national elections. As is usual and perhaps expected and most certainly welcome, elections are a time for robust discourse, and a pitting of opposing worldviews and ideologies.
Unfortunately, in the past, election campaigns and their aftermath have brought out some of the worst times in the Republic of Kenya’s relatively short existence and have set Kenyan against Kenyan of differing tribes, faiths and backgrounds.
Madaraka Day is an important day to take stock and recognize that as Kenyans what unites us is far greater than that which divides us.
It took Kenyans of all backgrounds to free us from colonialism, gain self-rule and finally independence for our people. We must pay tribute to and commemorate their sacrifices as a nation.
Their vision and determination should continue to not only inspire us but also to motivate our people to work together to continue grasping the opportunities bestowed upon us by Kenya’s founding mothers and fathers.
The greatest tribute to those who fell in battle or survived to birth our nation is to remain united and not be torn apart through ethnic boundaries, tribal perimeters or religious differences.
Madaraka Day should be a time to look back to the past as a way of charting a brighter, more peaceful and prosperous future.
Our heroes of the past are those who put their lives on the line in the moral and timeless struggle for freedom from oppression, injustice and persecution.
However, more than five decades since independence, our heroes should be those members of the Kenyan armed forces who remain ever vigilant against those who still seek us harm, in our homes, villages, towns and cities.
Today’s heroes are also the teachers who educate our children, the doctors and nurses who care for our ill and infirm and the small honest business leaders and farmers which help drive our economy forward.
The heroes of Kenya’s tomorrow are those parents who work extremely hard every day to ensure that their children receive an education in order to guarantee that they have the promise of a brighter and more prosperous future.
However, the struggle for the future that we seek is not assured and there remain forces who wish to return us to the more unsavoury chapters of our nation’s past.
Our independence is incomplete if our disagreements are settled not in court or in the voting booths, but on our streets with the use of threat of violence and intimidation.
Our struggle for freedom remains even if we are an independent nation. We still wrestle with baseless hatred, militant tribalism and rampant division.
In just over two months Kenyans will elect a leader for the next five years. This leader must be someone who moves us further away from these diseases and not strengthen their presence in Kenyan society.
Elections should be a great celebration of hard won democracy and liberty, a time when the nation speaks and elects a leader who will serve the people and their interests. However, we should all remember that the people remain the sovereign and the leader is a mere tool of their will.
Sometimes this basic societal covenant is forgotten or dutifully ignored in a quest and thirst for power and control. As politicians, our language and orotundity should reflect this basic commitment and while our political differences should be sharpened in order to provide a clear choice to the Kenyan people, it should be done in a way reflective of our deep and cherished values. These values handed down to us as a treasure of wisdom by our ancestors.
The challenge for us as political leaders is to look not just to the immediate future but the medium and long term. We need to be able to say to our sons and daughters, Kenya’s children, this is what we bequeathed to you and we left our mark on this country for the better.
That is my focus every day, the planning for our children’s future. Especially to connect, unite and unify Kenya in an unprecedented way.
On this Madaraka Day, let us remember we should not be defined by our political, tribal or ideological allegiances, but by our nationality.
Before our tribal, religious or ethnic allegiances or identities, we are Kenyans and our nation’s progress and development depends solely on us.
As our national anthem states: “Let all with one accord. In common bond united. Build this our nation together.”
Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya
31st May, 2017