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Kenyans mark 55 years of independence
amid new hopes and hard challenges
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- As Kenyans celebrate 55 years of self-rule on Friday, one of the things bothering citizens is that the country is still grappling with challenges it had at independence.

They include ethnic divisions, biting poverty, unemployment and rampant corruption in all spheres of the society.

Both leaders and citizens are cognizant of the fact that Kenya has made little strides in reducing or eliminating these problems that continue to pull it down.

This year’s Madaraka (independence) Day celebrations come at a time when corruption scandals have erupted in various state agencies raising public anger and cynicism against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration.

At least five institutions namely the National Youth Service, Youth Fund, Kenya Power, National Cereals and Kenya Pipeline are being investigated for corrupt dealing.

Citizens on Friday watched Kenyatta keenly to hear what he says about the fight against graft, unity of the people, job creation and poverty.

The president has since his re-election worked to unify the country and fight graft.

On March 9, he reached out to his arch-rival in last year’s poll, opposition leader Raila Odinga, in bid to unite the nation.

Kenyatta has backed the unity deal with Odinga, which has been facing strong opposition from leaders within the ruling party Jubilee.

His government this week conducted a swoop on at least 40 people linked to corruption.

Kenyatta assured citizens that his government would work to ensure the country achieves its goals.

"Let’s agree that our unity is far from where it should be.

"Unity does not mean we agree on all things.

"But it is a requirement for our country to be able to have the stability that will enable us to invest in it without fear," he said.

"We have decided to reconcile and unite so as to hasten our progress and realise the dream our fathers fought for 55 years ago, to eradicate poverty, illiteracy and disease," said Odinga Friday.

Citizens, however, say that is not enough, the reason why some are not keen on independence celebrations.

"What is there to celebrate about Madaraka Day?" Brian Okoth, a furniture maker on the East of Nairobi, posed Friday.

"I am a Kenyan, I love my country but our leaders have let us down that Madaraka Day makes no meaning to me," he added.

According to Okoth, if the country was doing better, he would have closed his shop and joined other people in celebrations.

"What will my family eat if I close my shop?

"I had to open so that I can make some income," he said.

Lilian Njeri, a food seller in Nairobi, said while she acknowledges the day, she is not enthusiastic about it.

"The leaders should uplift the lives of ordinary citizens first before they tell us of independence," she said.

On Thursday, Kenyatta and Odinga and their deputies in last year’s polls hugged and shook hands as a sign of unity after last year’s divisive polls.

"I saw them hug and embrace each other.

"I hope this time is for real; that they mean it and they will stop name calling and political wars," said Njeri.

But not all Kenyans are cynical about the day.

"Hundreds of people filled the stadium in Meru, some 200km from Nairobi, as early as 6.00 a.m. where the national celebrations are taking place.

"I am at the stadium.

"I am watching Odinga jovially shake hands with Kenyatta at Kinoru Stadium in my home and this has brought a tear of joy in my eyes.

"I believe the country is headed for greater times," said Jemi Nderu on Twitter.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer noted that Friday’s Madaraka Day celebrations come at a time when the country seems to be at a turning point.

"It is the first time we are seeing the government take decisive actions against corruption suspects in over a decade.

"Again leaders have vowed to remain united and steer the country forward.

"That is the turning point for us as a country," he said.



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