On 1st June each year, Kenya celebrates Madaraka Day, a day which commemorates the beginning of Kenya’s self-governance. “Madaraka” is a Kiswahili word meaning “responsibility” and 1st June signifies the day the British colonial rulers handed over the responsibility for governing Kenya to the Kenyan people.
Throughout most of the 1950s, the Mau Maus had been fighting in Kenya’s central highlands against British rule. Tens of thousands of Kenyans had died during the struggle with the British suffering relatively low losses. However, the rebellions led to increased political involvement being granted to Kenyans and eventually, on 1 June 1963, the British handed over the reins to the Kenyan African National Union (KANU) and its leader, Jomo Kenyatta, became Kenya’s first Prime Minister.
Although Kenya now had internal self-rule, it was not yet fully independent from the colonial power. So Madaraka Day is not the same as Kenya’s Independence Day – that is celebrated in December. Independence came six months after Madaraka on 12 December 1963. Another year later Kenya became a Republic and Kenyatta’s title was elevated to President of the Republic of Kenya.
Nowadays, Madaraka Day is one of Kenya’s big celebrations. The main event is the President’s address at Nyayo Stadium along with singers and dancers from all over the country performing traditional songs.
In 2013, Kenya celebrated its Jubilee – 50 years of independence. There were mixed reactions from the population about Kenya’s progress over the past 50 years and as a foreigner living in Kenya, it was very interesting to hear the comments. Some people said that with the high levels of corruption in the government, Kenya has not progressed at all since independence, while others were positive about Kenya’s development and simply enjoying the fact that they had been free from the colonial power for 50 years.
Madaraka Day Safaris
Madaraka Day is a public holiday in Kenya and usually marked by a long weekend that gives Kenyans a chance to travel. It is at the tail-end of the rainy season as well, giving Kenyans all the more reason to get out of town and enjoy a holiday. Rhino Charge, an incredible 4×4 rally in isolated bushland, is held on Madaraka Day weekend each year. Even for non-competitors it is a fun event: camping out, watching some amazing driving feats, and enjoying the party each night. In 2015, the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival was also held on the Madaraka Day weekend, but it is not yet confirmed whether it will remain on these dates next year.
Kenyans definitely know how to celebrate their public holidays so as you are planning your safari, have a look at the calendar and try planning it around one of these events. Or you can contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can give you some ideas of holidays and festivals you might enjoy in Kenya throughout the year.