AFRICANGLOBE – The African Union Anthem that is also the national anthem for the Republic of Tanzania and South Africa told it all. Uhuru’s installation as the fourth President of the Republic of Kenya was no ordinary event. It was a pan African event.
To show solidarity with the EAC member states and probably as a sign of commitment to regional integration, the EAC Anthem was played twice, at the beginning and at the end.
In the midst of the crowd was a grand statesman of Africa, Mzee Kenneth Kaunda, probably the only surviving founding father of the OAU now AU. The now stooping former head of state was a great friend of Jomo Kenyatta and Julius Nyerere.
It was therefore fitting that 50 years later, he had to be at the crowning ceremony of the son of his departed friend. Having witnessed power transition in Kenya in 2002 at Uhuru Park, I can say without any fear of contradiction that this was the best power transfer we have seen in a long time.
The organisers left nothing to chance. Even the crowd was well controlled despite their excitement from time to time- which was understandable. Though the government invited the entire African continent – 54 heads of state, only 21 of them honored the gesture, among them 11 Heads of State, four countries sent their Vice Presidents while another five were represented by Prime Ministers or heads of government.
Of the Heads of State present, there was Goodluck Jonathan of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Jacob Zuma of South Africa, the leading super powers of the continent.
The East African Community Heads of State, leaders from the Great Lakes Region and Igad were there in full force confirming that Kenya is an important member of the region.
For this reason, it was fitting that Yoweri Museveni, the senior most Head of State in the EAC, was accorded the honor to speak on behalf of all heads of state in the continent.
However, there was one unusual guest that must have been a pleasant surprise. That was Jesse Jackson, a onetime first African American to run for President in the US in the 1980s and a renowned civil rights leader.
As the gathering waited for President Kibaki to arrive; it was interesting to see Uhuru and Ruto informally mingle with dignitaries and make them feel at home. Being first time head of state and deputy; they were not uptight at all.
The incoming First Lady was stunning in her modest way. She looked relaxed beside her husband. When it was the turn of President Museveni to speak, he had the presence of mind to pay tribute to Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka for helping to maintain peace during and after elections and more importantly to resort to the courts to resolve the election dispute.
He also had kind words for former Presidents Kibaki and Moi for their role to ensure Kenya remained peaceful even as civil wars raged in the region. Museveni did not spare the ICC either.
In his personal opinion, the results of the Kenyan elections were a referendum on the ICC. Kenyans defied the impending trials to elect their leaders. As is always characteristic, Museveni left the audience in stitches when he asked Uhuru to stop the Pokots from stealing his cows!
This was in jest as he referred to the young Pokot Parliamentarian who was detailed to be his chaperon. Ruto and Uhuru’s speeches were reconciliatory leaving no doubt in anybody’s mind that they were ready to move on and unite the country.
On matters of election promises, President Uhuru repeated that indeed within the first 100 days, all Kenyan women would not be charged maternity fees in government hospitals and that come January 2014, all children joining class one in primary schools will all each have a laptop.
It was fitting to note that as Museveni, Ruto and Uhuru stressed the importance of regional peace, the South Sudan; Somalia and DRC Presidents were seated listening keenly. One hoped that they would take the same message back to their home countries.
Even though Cardinal Njue prayed for the incoming President and the outgoing Head of State and wished them a prosperous future, His Eminence forgot to pray for the outgoing Prime Minister and Vice President.
May be it was a small oversight. However, when President Kibaki rose to give his last speech as Head of State, he paid glowing tribute to his Grand Coalition partners Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.
The media must have been hugely relieved to hear President Uhuru pledge freedom of opinion and speech as he promised to protect the rights of every Kenyan irrespective of whether one supported and voted for him or not.
President Uhuru pledged to defend the constitution and to ensure devolution is implemented to the letter as it is the cornerstone of Kenya’s new constitution. The next 100 days will be a pointer to the direction a Uhuru government will take.
By: Jerry Okungu
President Uhuru’s Inauguration Highlights