I should probably be writing a post on my new year resolutions, right? Well, I don’t make any. All I can think of right now is Kenya. I will write about me tomorrow, maybe.
We sang it in nursery school. We sang it in primary school. We even sang it through high school, along with the loyalty pledge. Eventually we left these institutions and stopped singing it. We forgot the words of our national anthem. The only times we come by it is, maybe, during the Olympics when the gold medallist is awarded or during public holidays. Maybe there are a few other times, and all these times, we listen to the beautiful instrumentals.
It has a rich history and even richer meaning. Above all, it is a prayer. I never thought of it as one before. As a kid, all I knew was that I was supposed to sing it by heart both in Swahili and English. It only dawned on me recently that it is one of the most sincere prayers I could ever offer for our country, especially during this time.
In early November, I attended my late grandmother’s memorial service at her former church in Githunguri. Midway into the service, we were asked to stand up for prayer. A woman walked to the front and belted out the national anthem. My brother looked at me askance, assuring me I was not alone in wondering why we were singing the national anthem. But I decided to sing along and as we sang through to the end, it hit me.
Ee Mungu nguvu yetu
Ilete baraka kwetu
Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi
Natukae kwa Undugu
Amani na uhuru
Raha tupate na ustawi.
I feel that the song’s English translation does a bit of an injustice to the anthem. But I will not blame that panel of musicians; they had to ensure the words fit into the tune, totally understandable. They did a great job. The direct translation should actually be, O God our strength not ‘O God of all creation’. Whatever the case, it starts with God. I will go ahead and write it in English the way I understand it.
O God our strength, shower us with thy blessings. May justice be our shield and protector. May we dwell in brotherhood, peace and freedom. May we achieve happiness and stability.
Whether Kenya’s population is 80% Christian or not, whether a Muslim somewhere is dissatisfied with the claim that Kenya is a secular state while Christian activities are predominantly focused on, whether the above is fact or fiction, the fact is that we all acknowledge the supreme being who holds the universe in His hands. He is our strength, our defender and our guide.
Habakkuk 3:19 says, “The LORD God [is] my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ [feet], and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” As we start the new year, let this be your prayer, your mantra. A prayer for yourself, a prayer for Kenya.
The second verse is a call for all of us to arise and work for the well-being of our country.
Amkeni ndugu zetu
Tufanye sote bidii
Nasi tujitoe kwa nguvu
Nchi yetu ya Kenya
Tuwe tayari kuilinda
Arise brothers and sisters, let us all do our best, work hard for our beloved country of Kenya. Let us always be ready to protect it.
Clearly, this is not a verse aimed at the Kenya Defence Forces. Yes, their sole purpose is to defend the country, but while they are fighting the Al-Shabaab in Somalia, are you busy hurling grenades at innocent civilians or cooking up some weird explosives just to take advantage of the situation and blame it on Al-Shabaab? Are you one of those people who believe that Kenya belongs to a particular tribe for one reason or the other? Are you busy convincing people to vote for a certain candidate because they will protect the interests of your tribe?
We are just brothers and sisters who happen to speak different mother tongues. I am not tribeless, that is a fact. I am a Kikuyu but above that I am Kenyan. It begins with embracing who you are, accepting that some things existed before the concept of nation came to our land. Then appreciating each other in our diversity.
The third verse wraps it up:
Natujenge taifa letu
Ee, ndio wajibu wetu
Kenya istahili heshima
Kila siku tuwe na shukrani
Let us build our nation, because it is our responsibility. Kenya deserves respect. Let us join hands as we work together and let us give thanks every day.
Kenya is not just the land that was marked out over the years that began with the scramble and partition of Africa. Kenya is you and me. If we were to live up to our national anthem, hate speech would be a thing of the past. Clashes and massacres would not take place. There would be equitable distribution of resources. Apparently, Kenya is no. 16 on the list of the world’s failed states. We have a lot of work to do.
Build Kenya then means build each other. In our speech (tweets included) and actions, let us not spread hate. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
I am not here to claim that the Kenyan national anthem is the best in the world, I leave that to those who think they are suited for the job. Honestly, no one has the right to trash anthems. The citizens of each country know what their national anthem means to them.
When all is said and done, actions speak louder than words. Faith without action is dead. What I will do after I publish this post, what you will do after reading it; that is what really matters. Go out there and vote for the right leaders.
To a peaceful transition period in 2013, to a united Kenya. God be with us. Ee Mungu nguvu yetu!