1 January 2013

Kenya: Kibaki Departs From Tradition, Stops New Year State Parties

As president Kibaki term nears it sunset days, he will be remembered for breaking the old traditional of State House new Year celebrations.

For third year running now, the country has been ushering in the New Year and celebrating Christmas without the traditional state house's sponsored fanfare parties.

This year was no different. It was ushered in quietly with no state party, save for fireworks and parties organised by private entertainment joints. Since 2010, President Kibaki has departed from political festivities marked by feasts, song and dance at Mombasa or Nakuru State House. During the Kenyatta and Moi regimes, the state parties were a must.

In 2008, Kibaki cancelled the New Year's eve festivities at State House Mombasa. However, they resumed in 2009 but that was the last of the celebrations.

The state festivities were stopped in what State House termed a move aimed at cutting saving the exchequer from unnecessary spending. Instead of the party, in the President chose to read a statement to Kenyans. And the money that would have gone into organising the party is now used for buying gifts and food to the internally displaced persons.

Unlike his predecessors he has further chosen to communicate to the public and sent them the best wishes for the year through a live broadcast, filmed at the confines of his chair at Statehouse Nairobi.

The Statehouse new year's eve festivities were started by the Kenya's founding president two years after independence, according to James Osogo, a former minister for Broadcasting in Kenyatta regime.

"You know Kenyatta loved gatherings. Therefore in 1964, he decided to start the end of year festivities where all of us, (ministers) and close friends could converge at Mombasa Statehouse, for the event. It was his own idea," Osogo said.

He said the event could start a day before the new year, with the president visiting projects within the coastal area, and later in the evening everyone could converge at the Statehouse for feasting on roasted goats' meat being entertained by traditional dancers, as the new year is ushered in.

"There was no specific message or formal presidential address, the whole idea was just for him (Kenyatta) to hang around his lieutenants (cabinet and other government officials) and get entertained," he described saying it was ill advised for Kibaki to depart from this tradition.

Though the civil society has applauded the move to scrap off the state parties which they have faulted for being insensitive and unnecessary expense, John Joseph "JJ" Kamotho who was an MP in Kenyatta and a minister in Moi regime terms the move unfortunate.

"This tradition was not only what defines us as a people but also gave Kenyans a chance to celebrate the gains of past year. It was a social ceremony and opportunity for Kenyans to interact with the head of state. It should not have been discontinued," Kamotho said.

Roads minister Franklin Bett who served as State House comptroller in Moi regime in his description of the event said, the gates to Statehouse Nakuru where president Moi used to host the celebrations were opened at 8 oclock for those invited for the party on the eve of the new year.

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