I pledge my loyalty…

Growing up, the national pledge is something we routinely recited  either on Fridays or Mondays (depends which school you went to) during school assemblies. Without putting much thought into it we would excitingly and loudly declare the love we had for our country under the watchful eye of our principle/headmaster. But honestly back then I doubt we had any clue as to what we were speedily reciting, as a matter of fact many of us mumbled through most of it until the infamous ‘HARAMBEE” part. See then they were just words…words that every student in the 844 system had to cram. I wonder how many of us can actually recite our national pledge today (without peeping)…

The Pledge of a nation is a binding promise or agreement we make between ourselves and our Nation. It is meant to act as an overall direction of which the country chooses to take and how it plans to get there.

Kenya-FlagI pledge;

My loyalty to the president and the Republic of Kenya

My devotion to the words of our national anthem,

My life and strength in the service of our republic

In the living spirit embodied in our national motto,

Harambee,

And perpetuated in the Nyayo Philosopy of Peace Love and Unity.

Now, there are phrases in the loyalty pledge that deserve a brief historical background. Kenya gained her independence from the Britons on 12th December, 1963. It became a democratic country, headed by a president, complete with a parliament and a senate. Elections – or what passed for them – were held every five years; there was no term limitation on how long a guy could rule, especially the president. In 1978, Jomo Kenyatta, the first president, passed on, after ruling for 15 years. His then deputy, Daniel Arap Moi, took the reins of power, with a pledge to follow the “footsteps” of the “founding father”. Therefore, Nyayo (footsteps) became the motto, the name of the president, the catch-phrase…it became everything, including part of the loyalty pledge. ( source; Stephen Magu )

Right after the 1982 attempted coup on the then president Moi’s government, things had to change….From then on, there was a systematic attempt to crack down on any alternative political thoughts. Parliament introduced, debated and passed an infamous Section 2 (a) into the constitution, which made the country a de facto one-party state. True, elections continued to be held for the next 11 years, but there was only one party in power, so it was almost akin to choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Among the changes that were introduced in the school system during that period, was a free school milk program (once every week, for all the good that could do), an 8-year primary, 4 year secondary and 4 year university education system, a departure from the British system, and…yes, the loyalty pledge. If I have ever seen indoctrination of minors, that was the purest form. The loyalty pledge was recited in every school in Kenya, under the watchful eyes of stern-faced, stick-holding, menacing-looking head-teachers, deputy head-teachers and teachers on duty. It became routine; something we did not really think about, or whose ramifications really did not manifest themselves to us.

Moi’s era gone, two governments later,  and the loyalty pledge continues, to the best of my knowledge – to be recited. Patriotism to one’s country is to be aspired for. It is paramount for the cohesion and unity of a country.  Whereas pledges of loyalty and allegiance should probably not be mandatory, I do believe that it is the highest form of indoctrination to have some pledges, such as the Kenyan one. When you have a party whose motto is “Nyayo” and have every kid reciting that pledge, now that is influencing the political process and the future direction the country’s thinking will take. It is my supplication that the pledge of allegiance ought to have free reign; but the Loyalty Pledge…now that is something else. I don’t believe kids should be pledging loyalty to particular parties, philosophies; perhaps more appropriately, to national unity, cohesion, the flag and concepts/symbols that are neutral, but that which all citizens of a country can identify with. ( source; Stephen Magu )

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