NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 1 – Erokamano, Mr. President.
Despite the persisting fear of an Indian variant of COVID-19 pandemic, Kisumu defied all the odds including a scorching sun, to host the 58th Madaraka Day celebrations at the newly constructed Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium.
After a colourful military show that included four paratroopers drawn from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) parachuting to the stadium while holding various flags including that of the country, President Uhuru Kenyatta and 3,000 participants watched videos of jubilant locals.
They spoke of their satisfaction with the President’s performance from access to water, electricity, a new stadium and revamping of the railway line.
“Erokamano,” a resident said in a pre-recorded video clip, a Luo word which means Thank You.
Then came a combination of choirs among them the celebrated Ohangla that belted tune after tune in praise of the country and the President.
At some point, those seated at the main podium along the President and his visiting Burundi counterpart Evariste Ndayishimiye stood and join in breaking a leg.
“We love you so much our President, you are doing a good job,” went one of the songs.
But amidst all this, echoes of the handshake between President Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in 2018 could be heard.
It is because of the political unity between the two former rivals that Kisumu, he said, has witnessed what he termed as impeccable development, the residents who spoke on recorded videos spoke of.
“We have no option but to build a National, democratic and inclusive Kenya,” Kisumu Governor Prof. Anyang Nyong’o said, in his welcoming speech.
And this has not missed the eye of Deputy President William Ruto, who lauded the President for his development record in the region.
While he was missing in the President’s two-day tour, DP Ruto said this was a testament “that it is possible to develop Kenya equally for all.”
“As we celebrate this 58th Madaraka Day, Mr. President I laud your two-day launch of various projects in this county. It is a testimony that there is a government that works and delivers. A government that delivers brings the country together.”
He added that, “the success that this administration has shown in infrastructure development brings into focus the next phase of our development. A phase that will create jobs so that we can deal with the twin challenge of poverty and unemployment.”
In his remarks, the Deputy President cautioned against “ethnic bigotry and personality cultism” saying this would defeat the spirit of the Independence Day.
He said leaders must work to promote the “rule of law and not the rule of men.”
“As we celebrate Madaraka Day, we are reminded that our forefathers worked hard so that we can have a democratic nation. A nation anchored not on personality but on constitutionalism.”
In an outright case of protocol, the President who also acknowledged the same, went ahead to invite his ‘brother’ the Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, to address the country.
The former Prime Minister narrated of how the struggle for the independence was and who was involved.
The ODM leader spoke of a meeting in 1961 that was held by his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Kisumu, that declared there would be no independence, without the release of Kenya’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
“We want to have a fresh beginning that will start by uniting Kenyans, since there can never be unity without that. That is the true meaning of our handshake,” the former Prime Minister said.
He also touched on his war with COVID-19 disease and how it has led to an economic meltdown, whose outcome is massive job losses and painful salary cuts.
“Corona visited me, trying to bring me down but I fought it successfully. Its effects are massive. Death and job losses. We need a stimulus program to spur economic recovery and help our people,” he said.
Interestingly, there was no social distance observed among those who attended, except in the main podium.