opinionBy Uhuru Kenyatta
Forty-nine years ago today, the people of Kenya, saw their collective dream of freedom triumph over an era of explicitly exploitative foreign imposition.
The union jack was lowered; our own Kenyan flag was raised in the presence of thousands of Kenyans. That flag hoisted upon the struggles of our forefathers and blown upon by a wind of national ambition would be a reminder of all the wars, big and small, that were waged for the sake of our first liberation.
On this date, 48 years ago: the 12th of December 1964, our nation became a Republic. Our sovereignty was widely recognized and acknowledged.
Our right to belong to the International System could no longer be questioned. We were equals with every other state. Equal not in power, but in principle.
Equal heirs of the right to self- determination and to the dignity of making our own choices without undue political pressure or influence. Yet despite our hard-earned status: bought by the tears and sacrifices of our mothers; and the blood; unfair imprisonment and brutal sufferings of our fathers: the global system remained, then and now, a cruel place for the dreams and high hopes of Africans and of Kenyans. A place where the tyranny of inequality continued to reign: unchecked.
A place where the voice of Africans and Kenyans found itself continually drowned out by the political assertions of those few nations and people's that had not relinquished their self-given right to have dominion over other nations and over their fellow man.
Yet within our borders lay the promise of better things. Our nation chose not to heed the skeptical glances of the world and the silent suggestions that our failure was imminent.
That same year, 1964, saw the people of Kenya resolve to stand together as one country: undivided by tribal or ideological affiliation. Those who came before us showed that their differences and ambitions were smaller than the needs of the nation.
They showed their willingness to put aside petty wrangling for the sake of a secure future where a multitude of other freedoms could be realized. Where freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from disease and freedom of opportunity; could be a reality.
They recognized that the real enemies of our state were not people, per se, but social issues and they saw that united they would be better equipped to war against local and international elements of inequity.
Over the last 48 years the road we have travelled has been tumultuous. Often those first fragile dreams our forefathers had have been compromised and blurred by the gravity of various errors. Undoubtedly, mistakes have been made and sometimes our nation has paid a steep price for the faults of a few.
The troubles of the world: the cold war and the whimsical support and chastisement of the International community and donors have also left their scars on our continent and upon this country.
I mention our continent because we were all embroiled in the struggle for freedom together and we subsequently found ourselves plagued by similar problems.
Yet in the midst of regrettable failure, there have been several, albeit scattered, successes which we should never fail to overlook. Within the last 48 years, Kenya has at various times set the pace for this continent.
In much the same way as we once joined nations like Ghana in setting the pace in the struggle for freedom, we have also at various times set the pace with regard to economic growth, with regard to democracy; with regard to Africa's war on terrorism, with regard to universal primary education (as well as other millennium development goals); with regard to athletic prowess; and especially with regard to peacefully voting for a new constitution that has brought about judicial reform amongst other benefits.
If the last 48 years have seen us plunge to great depths, they have also; seen us rise to promising heights. In those 48 years, we have sometimes done greater things than countries which have been established for centuries.
Our recent venture into Somalia that saw our military triumph over rogue terrorist elements is something other stronger nations failed to do.
Therefore today, I thank the outgoing administration for their commendable work and efforts. This will be the last Jamhuri day which H.E President Kibaki will be presiding over.
Our President has seen to it that much in our nation has changed--for the better. He took the reins of a severely mismanaged country and managed to steer us away from impending economic disaster. G
reater media freedom, infrastructural development, universal primary education and the new constitution have all come to pass under his tenure and for that, I am confident that history will look upon him kindly and that many who come after him, will hold his Presidency in high esteem.
Yet even as he steps down, there remains much work to be done and we, the people, must remain vigilant and steadfast in doing it. While there is rampant youth unemployment to reign in, infrastructural projects and economic growth to support, crime to curtail and vision 2030 to attain, we, the people of Kenya, have not finished the work our forefathers and liberation hero's began.
Next year's administration will be burdened with the need to leave a bigger and better legacy than those of its preceding regimes. With the upcoming general elections, perhaps the most urgent reminder that history can accord us is on the need for unity. There is no nation that has been built upon division.
While we do not belong to one tribe; or race; and do not hold the same views, we must be united in our love for our neighbor and our desire to see Kenya grow. We must be united in a resolve to consistently settle our disputes amicably: because such is the promise of democracy.
As we transition into the 50th year of independence, now more than ever Kenyans must decide upon what and who they want to see in the upcoming administration.
Throughout the last 48 years the Kenyan people have shown remarkable resilience. When our nation has been at stake, when our future has been at stake it is the people of Kenya who have shown up; spoken up; voted and effected change. That's why we have a new constitution. That's how The President came to be President.
Today, we need Kenyans to show up once again: this time on March 4th 2013. The next election will be historic- we will not only pick a President and a Member of parliament but we will pick Governors, Senators, county representatives and women representatives.
Next year, the government will come closer to the people. We all will have a greater chance than ever before to contribute to the dialogue on issues that directly affect us.
That is why this election is so important. It is the chance to see real change effected in our communities and to hold accountable the local authorities: our governors and county assembly who are in charge of ensuring local development.
Now more than ever the voices of Kenyans must be heard through voting. Now is not the time for apathy. There is too much at stake for that.
Therefore this Jamhuri day, as we reflect upon all that freedom means I urge everyone who is 18 or older and in possession of national identification to go out and register to vote in the next elections. If you have already registered as a voter, get your family and friends to go out and register as well.
Unless we register to vote, we will have no moral ground for keeping our leaders and our government accountable. Voting is not just our democratic right: it is our patriotic duty.
Brothers and sisters, when history calls us to account and asks what we did with and for our country we must be able to defend ourselves armed with the knowledge that we, first and foremost, voted for the candidates we believed were best suited to lead us.
As some people have pointed out, voting will only be the first step to dealing with national issues. Therefore we must also look beyond the elections. The next administration will not have an easy task before them.
The incoming government will have a myriad of different issues to address. There will be no time for a tug-of-war with the international community.
To them we state that we as Kenyans will work with Nations of the world who are believers in Democracy. We will hold fast to the ideals of sovereignty, sovereign equality and National Integrity; and to our hope for a better Kenya.
Yet we will work together with all like-minded and peace-loving nations towards a mutually beneficial agenda agreed upon within a partnership of equals.
The international community is obligated by its own moral framework to respect whatever decision Kenyans make next year because they know Kenyans are well able to choose for themselves.
Anything short of that realization is a re-incarnation of colonialism. We are therefore confident that all who understand the principle of self- determination will continue to extend a hand of friendship to the Kenyan people who have, similarly, never attempted to dictate the domestic affairs of other nations.
To my fellow Kenyans, I will end with a heartfelt plea. Let us move forward together- leaving behind the old things. Let us not allow the past to weigh us down for the future beckons our nation: calling us to fly and fly high.
Let us then fix our eyes on that future; fill our hearts with hope and our minds with resolution; and arm ourselves with the strength to continue in the process of building a Kenya we are proud to call home.
And my hope is that as we continue in the task of nation building we will remain true to the words of our anthem and respectful of the first fragile dreams of our forefathers. Happy Jamhuri Day! Your Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta.
The statement was released on Jamhuri Day