NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya celebrated 50 years of independence Thursday with its leaders praising the progress the country has made since its freedom from Britain, though some citizens feel the country would have done better had it not been for corruption.
President Uhuru Kenyatta marked the anniversary at a ceremony with song and dance and attended by 14 heads of state at the country's half-filled main stadium in the capital city. Guests were also treated to a 21-gun salute and an air force fly-past.
Kenyatta, whose father, Jomo, was Kenya's first president, said the country has made great strides to eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease which were identified as the country's greatest challenges at independence.
He said that 90 percent of Kenyans are now educated, most people can now access health care because of increased facilities and trained medical staff and cited thousands of successful local entrepreneurs engaging various businesses as a sign of the economic growth.
Kenya is now a regional financial hub and numerous multinational companies have set up regional and continental offices in Nairobi, he said.
"We also have an enviable infrastructure network that facilitates trade across the country as well as the region," Kenyatta said
Nelly Bosire, a medical doctor, said she is "ambivalent" about celebrating Kenya's 50th independence anniversary because the country should have achieved much more.
Some doctors are quitting the profession or looking for opportunities elsewhere because of frustrations with lack of basic facilities in hospitals and poor pay, Bosire said.
Bosire acknowledged the increase in the number of hospitals in the country since independence but said it fell short of what is needed because of the population has also grown.
"The gap between the rich and the poor has increased and that will lead to an increase in crime and other social problems," she said.
Anti-Corruption crusader Mwali Mati said Kenya has lost 30 years since independence to bad governance and corruption and that the 50th anniversary should be a time of self-criticism.
Kenya is ranked the 136 out 177 countries surveyed by the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.
Kenyatta said his administration is taking radical steps to help Kenya's economy grow faster which includes getting tough on corruption. "My government in collaboration with Kenyans will get tough with those who use their positions of power to acquire ill-gotten wealth," Kenyatta said at the anniversary celebration.
"We are committed to fostering an open, tolerant and hardworking Kenya with modern institutions and adhering to good governance," he said. "To do this, all leaders must be ready to be held accountable for their actions."