MY LAND IS KENYA: 51 YEARS OF CHALLENGES
borrowed the tune from Roger Whittaker who immortalized in music the beauty of Kenya and the
admirable can-do spirit of the Kenyan people.
The video starts with a clip showing the cheers and tears of joy during Kenya’s Independence Day
celebrations at Uhuru Gardens on December 12, 1963 after almost 70 years of often brutal colonial rule
by the British. This clip is quickly followed by another one showing the Kenyan flag flying high on the top
of the majestic snow-capped Mount Kenya so close to the equator. And a new nation was born.
Across Kenya, the video captures the breathe-taking landscapes and diversity of the country: From the
coast to the shores of Lake Victoria; from the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to the shores of Lake Turkana.
White sand beaches, the flamingos, wild animals roaming freely in National Parks, gold-winning long
distance runners, rugby sevens, small scale farmers, cattle herders, artisans, factory workers, students,
doctors, teachers and men and women of the Kenyan armed forces in glittering uniforms. There is a
Kenya Airways passenger jet taking off which sums up the symbolic message of a country also taking off
and on the move to become the Pride of Africa.
In many ways, that is what Kenya became after independence. While other countries in Africa
experimented with either the Chinese or the then-Soviet Union forms of communism, Kenya aligned
itself with the West and chose a free market economy. While other countries went through violent
military coups to change power, Kenya chose a 5-year electoral cycle, even through the turbulent 24
years of the Daniel Arap Moi presidency.
Many Africans persecuted in their own homelands found refuge in Kenya. That is why the capital city
Nairobi, in addition to being a United Nations center, is home to many immigrants from Eastern, Central
and even West Africa.
But here is the problem. At independence, Kenya had a population of only 8 million people compared to
over 40 million today. That means about 80 per cent of the country’s population is born after
independence. Today, every sector of the economy, from education to health, energy to transport,
housing to security, is under pressure to meet the demands of this growing population.
Today, Kenya is at the crossroads. A new constitution has given has given the country another
opportunity to redefine itself. The country’s new 47 devolved county governments should be in
competition for the prize of the best county in which people can study, work, invest and live,
irrespective of their ethnic or religious background.
Kenyans have a lot to learn from the United States of America. This union of 50 states has withstood the
test of difficult times for over 200 years to become the beacon of freedom and justice for the whole
world. It is time to take stock of how far the Kenya has come from, and how far we still have to go as a
nation to make the Kenyan dream a reality for every citizen.
Failure to do that will invite the type of chaos witnessed in Somalia or Libya where a restless new
generation is easily recruited and radicalized to tear those countries apart without regard to the self-
sacrifice and patriotism of Africa’s independence generation. In Garissa University and other recent
terrorist attacks, Kenyans have seen the brutal face of global terrorism. After 51 years of continuous
peaceful development we have reason to fear the tears and bloodshed we witnessed.
President John F. Kennedy said this in his inaugural address on January 20, 1961: “fellow Americans: ask
not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Following this challenge,
Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969.
There is a similar call to action in Kenya’s national anthem that cannot be ignored:
Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavor
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendor
Firm may we stand to defend
We owe it to mother Africa and to the children of our children, to build an all-inclusive country of
opportunities, where success in life is based on hard work and integrity instead of ethnic, clan or
religious patronage. A country at peace with itself and its neighbors like it has always been; a country so
diverse, that any efforts to define it along narrow narratives of political parties, class, culture or religion
will be resisted at all costs, including the ultimate cost. God bless Kenya.
Leonard Njoroge, Diaspora Messenger Contributor, Email: [email protected]