At midnight on December 12th 1963, the Union Jack was lowered and the Kenyan flag raised high to mark the birth of one of the more successful countries on the African continent. I say successful because as most of Africa went up in flames due to civil wars, coups and counter coups, Kenya enjoyed relative peace and national cohesion under the strong handed but, in retrospect, effective leadership of its first two presidents; Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi. Although the two men were quasi-dictators, they presided over periods of development and in many ways helped Kenyans of all ethnicities realize their nationhood.
After the establishment of liberal democratic rule in 2002, Kenya has enjoyed a resurgence of economic growth and expansion of freedoms. The country has a vibrant free press and a strong opposition (which incidentally is leading in opinion polls ahead of general elections in less than three weeks).
Very many problems still plague the country, though. Corruption is still a blot on the country’s record and the recent damaging report on police brutality and extra-judicial killings of suspected Mungiki (thuggish sect) members paint a bad picture of the current government. The country’s high poverty levels, joblessness and lack of adequate housing also continue to pose challenges to the central government.
The many problems aside, Kenyans still have a reason to celebrate their independence: Their country has remained an island of peace and stability in contrast to its war torn neighbors like Somalia and Sudan. Kenya has also experienced a significantly higher degree of democratic consolidation, economic development and transparent governance than its neighbors in the region and beyond.
Happy Independence Day Kenyans!!