While there is plenty to be merry about, many Kenyans are using the occasion to reflect on the journey ahead and the work to be done as the country grows into a regional economic powerhouse.
The celebrations officially kicked off on Wednesday midnight with the Kenyan flag being raised in the Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi. This was done as part of a re-enactment of the historic moment in 1895 when Kenya became politically free of British colonialism.
Also as part of celebrations to mark the event, the Kenyan flag is set to be raised at the peak of Mount Kenya. Several climbers are reported to have already set out for the snowy peak. The Kenyan government has also unveiled a special 50 Kenyan Shilling coin to mark the celebrations, which will last until Friday, 13th December.
President Uhuru Kenyatta made history earlier when he address the nation on the same grounds as his father Jomo Kenyatta in 1963. President Kenyatta also planted a tree next to one planted by his father during the independence celebrations 50 years ago.
“On this night 50 years ago Kenyans gathered at these grounds, that night was at once the dusk of oppression and the golden dawn of liberty,” he remarked.
Several delegates from across Africa and the world have sent congratulatory messages and joined Kenya in her celebrations.
Britain, Kenya’s former colonists, said on Wednesday that it would support the building of a memorial for all those who were brutally killed in the Mau-Mau uprising.
Britain’s Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds officially opened a competition for Kenyans to design the building of the memorial in association with the Mau Mau War Veterans Association and several other parties.
“Kenyans were subject to torture and other ill treatment at the hands of [the] colonial administration, and we expressed sincere regret that these abuses took place”, Minister Mark Simmonds said.
Kenya’s independence story begins with the Mau-Mau rebellion orchestrated by Kikuyu ethnic groups. The freedom fighters, who preferred to refer to themselves as Kenya Land and Freedom Army, fought a historic war between 1952-1960 against the British colonial administration–aided by British troops and soldiers from other African nation. The death of the group’s leader, Dedan Kimathi in 1956 marked the end of the rebellion.
The Mau-Mau rebellion led to the death of about 10,000 Kenyans. Although this rebellion contributed much to the country’s campaign for independence, it also created divisions within the ethnic groups of the young nation.
Recently, it was revealed that several of the surviving Mau-Mau warriors still continue their fight for land over 50 years after their bloody war against the British. According to reports, despite several promises from the government, several of the surviving fighters say they have not received the land promised to them by Kenya’s first president.