By Steve Biko Abuya
Published August 3, 2014
I pledge my loyalty to the President and Nation of Kenya
My readiness and duty to defend the flag of our Republic
My life, strength and service in the task of nation building
In the living spirit embodied in our National motto ‘Harambee’
and perpetuated in the Nyayo philosophy of Peace, Love and Unity.
For failing to live up to ‘national values’, Kenya appears to be faced by more challenges than ever in its 51 years of political independence: its President and Deputy President are facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, insecurity is rampant and the stench of corruption and tribalism soar up to heaven. And as this happens, those holding ‘public office’ in the land appear to live by the “I’d rather die than resign” rule.
This sad scenario raises the concern as to the impact of the Kenya National Anthem, the Kenya National Loyalty Pledge and the Kenya Constitution 2010 in the lives of the people called ‘Kenyans’. Living up to the ideals of the National Anthem, the National Loyalty Pledge and the Constitution the citizens would not elect or appoint anyone with questionable character to preside over their affairs.
And these ‘national values’ are to be inculcated in the citizens from an early age and not when they get into public office. Pupils may be made to recite the Kenya National Loyalty Pledge and to sing the National Anthem at school assemblies. But the practice is much more meaningful if it is stressed to them that what they are doing is a binding contract between them and their country and nation; that they are to live by that contract. A country that wants to become a nation can’t help but inculcate patriotism and nationalism in its citizens through shared ‘national values’.
And the inculcation of ‘national values’ should not be confined to children; adults should ‘walk the talk’ as role models for the youngsters to follow suit. This happened to some extent during the reign of Kenya’s second President, Daniel arap Moi (1978-2002) when the ‘Nyayo Philosophy’ values of ‘Peace, Love and Unity’ were elaborated through the National Anthem, the Loyalty Pledge and Nyayo Patriotic Songs.
Daniel arap Moi hands over Mwai Kibaki on December 30, 2002 and Kenya’s ‘national ethic’ switches from ‘Peace, Love and Unity’ to ‘It’s Our Time to Eat’. Appointment to public office and allocation of resources goes ‘regional’ or ‘tribal’. The country balkanizes into ‘tribal’ enclaves and the worldview becomes narrow and provincial as people with access to national resources sing and dance to ‘It’s Our Time to Eat’ anthem. The country is gripped by fear, suspicion and mistrust that almost lead to a civil war in December 2007.
Mwai Kibaki hands over to Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 as the country’s National Anthem has been replaced by “It’s Our Time to Eat” mantra. The country is split between ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ camps. The sort of patriotism, nationalism and togetherness that turns countries into nations remains elusive. And no one does anything to recapture it.
But did you know that by returning to the ideals of Nyayo Patriotic Songs, Nyayo Philosophy, National Anthem and Loyalty Pledge Kenya would get out of the woods as if by a magic wand? Greed and selfishness would die out. ‘It’s Our Time to Eat’ philosophy would cease to exist. Mistrust and suspicion would be a thing of the past. Corruption that benefits one against the public good would not be entertained. It would be difficult for anyone entrusted with immigration and security matters to abuse office by, say, receiving bribes from a law breaker. Those who break the law would not subvert the course of justice in any way. Kenya is currently ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world because of the reigning ‘It’s Our Time to Eat’ mindset.
With the rise in insecurity level in Kenya in 2014, the government’s Nyumba Kumi (ten households) initiative that requires us to know at least ten of our neighbours to help in reducing insecurity could have worked; but only if the “It’s Our Time to Eat” philosophy is replaced by new national values guided by the National Anthem, Loyalty Pledge and Constitution.
Thus the key to solving many of the problems besetting Kenya today depend on patriotism and nationalism. This will also help reform the security, judicial, legislative and executive arms of government and, indeed, the whole country. Not unless Kenyans decide against being tribal in their endeavours, not unless they put the love for the nation first and foremost, the hope of having a better Kenya may just remain a mirage no matter the number of ‘Vision 2030’ strategies the government may put forward.