Kenya celebrates 50 years of freedom with challenges ahead
Kenyans mark half a century of independence from Britain on Thursday, celebrating progress of the regional economic powerhouse but also struggling to shake off a legacy of corruption, inequality and ethnic violence.
Nairobi: Kenyans mark half a century of independence from Britain on Thursday, celebrating progress of the regional economic powerhouse but also struggling to shake off a legacy of corruption, inequality and ethnic violence.
Celebrations got underway at midnight yesterday, with the Kenyan flag raised in Uhuru Gardens - meaning "freedom" in Swahili - in a reenactment of the moment 50 years earlier when Britain`s rule since 1895 came to a close.
Climbers are also raising another flag on the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya.
In another echo of history, President Uhuru Kenyatta will address crowds and regional presidents later today as his father Jomo Kenyatta did in 1963, when he became the first Kenyan to lead the east African nation.
Back then, Kenyans sang and danced wildly in the streets at the end of the British colonial rule.
Today, anti-colonial rhetoric is being drummed up again, amid international pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of his international crimes against humanity trial early next year.
Kenyatta, who denies all charges of masterminding violence following contested elections in 2007 in which over 1,00 died, has campaigned hard to have his trial at International Criminal Court suspended, appealing for support from fellow African presidents and at the African Union.
The president is expected to echo recent speeches vowing to defend Kenya from her "enemies".
"Our forefathers rejected colonialism and imperial domination in their time," Kenyatta said in a speech in October for Hero`s day, commemorating those who died in the Mau Mau uprising, a largely ethnic Kikuyu insurgent movement in the 1950s brutally suppressed by colonial powers.
"We must honour their legacy, and stay true to our heritage, by rejecting all forms of domination and manipulation in our time."
Government advertisements in newspapers to celebrate the independence jubilee have included full page pictures of the Mau Mau, urging unity in the country.
A competition has also been launched to design a Mau Mau memorial for central Nairobi for those who suffered during the insurgency, with backing by the British government.
But for many Kenyans, the anniversary is a date to rather look forward to build their nation rather than dredge up the ghosts of the past.
"This will be a season of hagiography," wrote Patrick Gathara, a well known media commentator and cartoonist in a recent article.
"Kenya will put on its Sunday-best gear and apply some patriotic perfume to cover the stench of the last five decades."