The family of the founding father of the nation Mzee Jomo Kenyatta yesterday ended his annual public memorial service after 41 years.
President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the family had agreed to abolish the annual event, which will now be observed privately. The move brings to an end a four-decade-old annual ritual since Kenyatta’s death in 1978.
“This will be the last celebration of Mzee in this manner,” he told congregants at Holy Family Basilica during his father’s 41st memorial service.
“We shall each celebrate him as we remember him, and in a manner in which we will be doing our things going forward,” he added. He thanked retired presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki for honouring the founding father on the memorial day.
Kenyans had become accustomed to Jomo’s memorials with Moi and Kibaki marking the day with church services over the years. Moi observed the day for 21 years of his 24 years’ rule, with Kibaki commemorating the day religiously for 10 years.
Uhuru picked up the tradition for seven years before abandoning it yesterday. He thanked the Holy Family Basilica leadership for allowing Mzee’s family to hold the events at the church, adding that their request to use the facility has always been honoured by the church.
“We are not here just to celebrate or remember the man. We are here to celebrate what he stood for and what he gave his life for,” said the President.
“I remember that morning 41 years ago when the news of his death was announced. Some of us thought it was the end of life because we couldn’t imagine life without him. But we have been able to move on because the time we spent with him and what we shared with him has been able to carry us forward.”
The President urged Kenyans to be their brother’s keeper even as they live up to the aspirations of the founding father.
“Don’t do something to hurt your brothers and sisters. There are words some people spew, forgetting that there are families behind those words,” he said.
The Head of State also warned leaders against politics and debate of dynasties in the country.
“You know they say this person or that person is a dynasty…Leadership is not about where you were born, it’s not about where you came from, it’s not about the colour of your skin, it’s not about your tribe,” he said, in reference to labelling of the Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga families as political dynasties.
“ It is just about a desire to serve, a desire to do good, a desire to make a difference in the lives of people. And anybody can do that,” he added.
Uhuru was accompanied by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, his mother Mama Ngina, his brother Muhuho Kenyatta, his children and relatives. Deputy President William Ruto and other leaders also attended the event.
Earlier he laid a wreath together wife his wife at Kenyatta’s mausoleum.
Ruto paid glowing tribute to Kenyatta as Kenya’s hero whose philosophy of “harambee, uhuru na kazi’ has continued to shape the nation.
“Today as we remember Mzee, it should inspire us to work together behind President Uhuru Kenyatta,” he said.
Catholic Bishop David Kamau, who presided over the service, paid a glowing tribute to the founding President as a leader who strived to unite the country.
“He played a key role in our independence and was a symbol of unity, development and good politics,” he said.
“Mzee gave up the comfort of his job in London and returned home to fight for Kenya’s independence.”
Earlier at the mausoleum, religious leaders held prayers with closefamily members.
Kenyatta was the Kenya’s first African head of government and played a significant role in the transformation of Kenya from a British colony into an independent republic.
He started off as an anti-colonial crusader and politician who governed the country as Prime Minister from 1963, when Kenya attained self-rule, to 1964, before ascending to the presidency in 1964.
He ruled until 1978 when he died after a short illness.
The then Vice President Moi took over and remained in the office until 2002 when he retired. Kibaki took over and served for two terms until 2013.