President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday made a strong call for national unity as he led the nation in marking this year’s Jamhuri Day, a commemoration 57 years since Kenya became a republic on 12th December 1964.
At the same time, the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, elevated the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Kenya Army in a military ceremony dubbed “Trooping of the Colour”, the historic and newly reconstructed Uhuru Gardens along Lang’ata Road in Nairobi County.
The gardens were reconstructed by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) for their historical significance as the ground on which the British colonizer’s flag, the Union Jack, was lowered giving way for Kenya’s independence in 1963.
Speaking at the colorful ceremony, attended by several national leaders among them Deputy President Dr William Ruto, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and ANC Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi as well as thousands of wananchi from all walks of life, the President said Kenya can only attain progress if all citizens work together for shared progress.
He said Kenya is an outcome of co-operation and not any single person or group of individuals can build it without others, stating that everyone’s role in nation building is important.
“We are building a house called Kenya and there is no place for one-manism in this project. It is the collective work of every able-bodied Kenyan. And yes, we will disagree sometimes, but in our disagreements, we must remain respectful.
“In fact, respectful disagreements are what lead to reconciliation. More so because when we disagree, it is a sign that we are making progress,” the Head of State said.
The Head of State relived Kenya’s liberation journey saying Kenya’s founding fathers won the freedom struggle through teamwork, respect and trust.
“They (forefathers) taught us that nation-building is like building a house. This endeavor is indeed a product of teamwork, not individualism. They (forefathers) built a firm foundation for a prosperous Kenya,” he said.
President Kenyatta said Kenya had made tremendous progress over the last close to six decades of her independence by surmounting several setbacks along the way.
“In 2007 we ran into another architectural defect in our nation-building project. We discovered that the politics of exclusion in which the ‘winner takes it all’ was not good for our country. We were bold enough to change the constitution and expand the executive in order to accommodate the excluded,” he said in reference to the 2010 constitutional change.
“…it was because we saw a crack on the wall of our nation. We had run two elections that costed the country in excess of Ksh 1 trillion. These loses made us see that we were staring at a nation divided right in the middle,” the Head of State said in reference to his closing of ranks with opposition of leader Raila Odinga in 2018.
“Because we had disagreed respectfully, we knew that this was a mark of progress. It was difficult, but the necessity, the reason, and the recognition that we as Kenyans needed each other, nation before self, as our forefathers had taught us to come together, reinforced our resolve,” the President added.
On BBI, President Kenyatta said the reforms sought by the process were key to the unity and progress of Kenya predicting that its proposals will be met at some stage of the country’s journey into the future.
“Although it encountered some legal obstacles, I can only say that BBI is just a dream deferred. One day, someday, it will happen, because the country cannot survive ethnic majoritarianism and exclusion just as it cannot survive unfair and skewed representation. This is a design defect that we must fix,” the President noted.
The Head of State also spoke about his directive on lowering the cost of electricity in the country by 30% saying the intervention will be rolled out in two phases.
He said electricity bills will drop by 15% this month while the rest of the directive will be met in the first quarter of next year.
“I am pleased to note that the pathway to reduce the cost of electricity by over 30 per cent is on course,” he said, adding that the reduction of the cost of electricity will be implemented in two tranches of 15 per cent each, with the first 15 per cent expected to be reflected in the December bills. The second 15 percent reduction will take effect in the first quarter of 2022,” the President said.
Deputy President Dr William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also spoke at the colourful national celebration that was marked by prayer, song, dance and elaborate military drills.
Dr Ruto congratulated President Kenyatta for spearheading the process of redeveloping Uhuru Gardens into an ultra-modern public utility saying Kenyans will forever cherish the Head of State’s progressive leadership.
“On behalf of many Kenyans who are seeing this magnificent grounds for the first time today, we want to congratulate you for your stewardship in transforming these grounds to a truly Uhuru Gardens,” Dr Ruto said.
On his part, former Prime Minister and ODM party leader Raila Odinga concurred with President Kenyatta on the significance of preserving Uhuru Gardens for the ground’s historical importance.
“There are those who say forget about the past we want to concentrate with the future. The past is very important because if we don’t we are likely to make the mistakes of the past,” Mr Odinga said.
During the event that was held in strict adherence to the Covid-19 containment protocols, the President presented state commendations to several Kenyans for outstanding service to the nation.
The Head of State awarded Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear (EBS) to Eng Kishan Singh Gehlot for donating an asphalt processing plant to the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) and Dr Willis Akhwale for spearheading Kenya’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
World acclaimed athletes Faith Kipyegon and Peris Chepchirchir were awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW) while Sgt Salim Buna and Cpl Ali Shitialo all of KDF got OGW and The Silver Star of Kenya (SS) commendations respectively.