Today is Jamhuri Day in Kenya and we are celebrating 53 years as an independent republic.

Jamhuri Day marks an important milestone for my country and its people in terms of social, economic and political progress. In President Uhuru Kenyatta’s address earlier this year at the Pastoralists’ Leadership Summit in Samburu County, he noted that at indepedence, the citizens’ rallying cry was “Harambee” (all pull together). This message was an implicit recognition that Kenya as a whole will never truly grow unless all citizens build her together; that no region, no constituency, no individual could be left behind either in doing the work or enjoying the fruits of national development. At 53, the spirit of Harambee has finally been realized through the recently devolved system of governance. Devolution, first implemented in 2013 through a new constitutional order, transferred power from the national government to the 47 county governments – a process the World Bank defines as among “the most rapid and most ambitious in the world.”

As I was growing up, government was so centralized that one had to travel to Nairobi, the capital city, to access even the most basic of services. I remember traveling with my mother to Nairobi from the village to get my first pair of glasses fitted on because such ‘complex’ optical services were not available at the local hospital. While discussing the progress that Kenya has made over the years, my IRI colleague Joyce Wangari shared how proud she was that with devolution, the local health centres in her village in Nyeri County are now fully equipped with doctors, medicine and other amenities – things that were missing when she was growing up. Another colleague, Charles Odera, also told us of how as a young boy growing up in Siaya County, tarmacked roads in his village were a very rare feature – now they are everywhere.

Kenya at 53 is very different from the Kenya my colleagues and I grew up in. At 53, government and governance are now much more transparent and basic services are no longer the privilege of the few living in the capital city. At 53, citizens no longer have to travel to Nairobi to access education, health, employment opportunities, information, and social security services, among other things. At 53, Kenya has become a leading force within Africa in terms of infrastructure development, education and technological advancement. At 53, Kenya is now the fifth largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa and now enjoys a middle income status!

Capturing the spirit of the occastion, my colleague Vincent Mosweta sums up his pride this 53rd Jamhuri Day with the following words: “Jamhuri Day to me serves as a reminder and a celebration of Kenya’s growth in democracy.  The involvement of the Kenyan people in various government affairs and decisions over the years is something to celebrate and embrace as a citizen as we mark 53 years of self-governance.”

Happy Jamhuri Day from the IRI Kenya Team to all Kenyans (and Kenyans at heart)!

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