Uhuru Kenyatta celebrated his last official Madaraka Day, mainly as a military function as opposed to a civilian national event. Just like the first Madaraka Day ceremony in June 1963 when his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, took office as Prime Minister, Uhuru’s last Madaraka Day in June 2022 was transitional.
He said farewell to the country in style in a commemorative place of his choosing because he had built it to symbolise Kenya’s anti-colonial struggle. The period in-between the two Madaraka Day celebrations, involving the father and the son, captures the essence of Kenya’s post-colonial experience.
The reason Jomo became Prime Minister was because his party, Kanu, had won the election over Kadu and APP in the May 1963 General Election. In that election, the bone of contention was the British imposed 1962 Lancaster House Majimbo Constitution. While Kanu had vowed to dismantle the Majimbo structure, Kadu had insisted on implementing it to the letter.
The campaign was intense and since Kanu won, it believed the election outcome was a referendum on the Majimbo constitution. On that first Madaraka Day, however, Jomo signaled changes in attitude and advised people to abandon tactics they had used in anti-colonial fights. At that time, Kenya was transitioning from colonialism to independence.
Apart from Kenyatta, attention was also on Tom Mboya and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga as competing likely successors to Jomo Kenyatta. In 2022, Kenya is in a different transition period, under Uhuru. The ceremony, more military than civilian, was held at the newly renovated Uhuru Gardens which the military had turned into a museum of history as well as a stadium for national events.
Being a show of military might and a farewell salute to the Commander-in-Chief, traditional ‘protocol’ lost space because there is no such a thing as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Kenya Armed Forces. This would explain the reason for Deputy President William Samoei Ruto not having an opportunity to address the country; he is not deputy Commander-in-Chief.
The public noticed breach of traditional ‘protocol’ in Uhuru snubbing the deputy president. He shook Ruto’s hand without enthusiasm but he was jovial when greeting Raila Odinga. Uhuru leans towards the Raila side in the intense Raila-Ruto competition for the presidency.
There was attention on Kalonzo Musyoka who was warming his way back to Azimio and on Martha Karua. The two had competed to become Raila’s running mates in Azimio but when Martha got it, Kalonzo felt betrayed and temporarily withdrew from Azimio. Karua, as deputy presidential candidate, has emerged as the latest political sensation in the campaign for the presidency.
Uhuru’s Madaraka Day speech listing his achievements was drowned in the rapid flows of the political messaging river waters. Ruto, despite sitting there, was visibly invisible, unrecognised, and unheard. Uhuru’s ‘Handshake’ partner, he said, had helped him achieve many things in his second term that he could not in the first term. He warned voters not to elect ‘looters’ and then asked them to make Martha the first woman deputy president.
One of the reasons for Karua’s attraction is that, despite having mixed fortunes in the political field, she is an exciting fighter and has strong opinions. Thus while her vote count value may not be very high, her image value is high partly because she refuses to be politically irrelevant in the country.
Uhuru’s last Madaraka Day was transitional in the same way that Jomo’s first Madaraka Day was transitional. In overseeing the transition from colonialism, Jomo set precedents and standards. Uhuru seemed to compete with his father’s record, as well as those of other presidents, by listing his achievements. Among his visible achievements; roads and highways, is the military built Uhuru Garden memorial and stadium.