Celebration of the heroism of Kenyan and African freedom fighters dominated speeches during yesterday’s Jamhuri Day ceremony to mark 50 years of independence.
The colourful event held at Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani was marked with song and dance and drew 14 presidents and heads of government from across the continent.
Not even the heavy downpour that hit Nairobi in the morning could dampen the celebratory mood.
Besides President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto and their spouses, other guests at the ceremony were Mr Kenyatta’s mother, Mama Ngina, who was Kenya’s first First Lady, retired President Mwai Kibaki, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former vice-presidents Kalonzo Musyoka and Moody Awori.
Retired President Daniel arap Moi was absent although on Tuesday, he had been chief guest at the official opening of the Makadara Railway Station in Nairobi.
Various heads of state addressed the gathering with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni speaking in Kiswahili.
Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, responding to the friction between his country and Kenya, said there was no straight road and that challenges were to be expected on the road to East African federation.
He promised that his country would continue to be a friend of Kenya.
In his speech, President Kenyatta indicated that his government would look inwards towards the continent by engaging more with African countries.
Without specifically mentioning the ICC cases that he and Mr Ruto are facing at the Hague, he said that Africa had stood with Kenya and that his government would reciprocate the gesture.
He announced several measures to accelerate the momentum of continental integration.
First, all those holding African passports will obtain a visa on arrival allowing them to stay for a minimum of six months based on the principle of reciprocity.
Those considered to be a threat to security will, however, not enjoy the offer.
The country will also contribute a about 6,000 soldiers to be part of the rapid response mechanism as part of the African peace and security agreement reached during the last assembly of the AU Heads of state and government in Ethiopia.
Kenya would also speed up the implementation of the recently adopted continental free trade area and work with other countries to integrate air transport and an African open skies policy in line with the Yamoussoukro decision.
“We believe these measures are important to add impetus to Africa’s growth efforts and show our deep commitment to our continent,” he said.
On development partners, President Kenyatta reiterated that Africa had come of age and would seek constructive partnerships based on mutual respect and win-win scenarios.
“We will not accept partnerships that do not recognise we also have the intellectual capacity to engage on equal terms,” he said.
“Africa has a voice. With fifty years after independence, Africa demands that its voice must be heard.”
LACK OF WESTERN REPRESENTATION
Representatives from Western countries were conspicuously missing from the guest list and the few who attended were acknowledged by Deputy President William Ruto not by their names but by the countries they come from.
While it has been common practice for Western diplomats resident in Kenya to attend such occasions in large numbers, this time round it was their military attaches complete in their uniforms who were visible.
On local issues, President Kenyatta said the national government would work with counties where minerals have been discovered to ensure the benefits trickle down to the people.
He praised the counties that had taken initiatives to attract investors and mobilise local investment while encouraging every Kenyan to invest in their counties.
He challenged the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission to investigate and charge those involved in corruption while at the same calling on Kenyans not to give bribes.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called on Kenyans to take responsibility for their future saying no one or institution would guarantee the security of Kenyans.
Mr Museveni was widely cheered when he praised Kenyans for the manner in which they voted in the last elections saying they had refused to comply with the whims of others.
Malawian President Joyce Banda was nostalgic over her stay in Kenya in the 1970s saying the country had shaped her destiny in a big way.