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Reflecting on 50 Years of Kenyan Independence

  • Mike Richman

Thursday will mark 50 years since Kenya gained independence from Britain. As the nation celebrates half a century of self-rule, Kenyans are reflecting on how their country has changed.

Frederic Njenga was born in 1963, the year his country emerged from decades of colonial rule. He is an entrepreneur and runs a butcher's shop on the outskirts of Nairobi.

His parents, like many Kenyans with high hopes for a country that won hard-fought independence, wanted their son to get a good education. However, they could not afford to pay school fees.

"I completed primary school in 1980, then I went to high school. I studied for the first two terms, but then we couldn't afford the fees so I was forced to quit. Living in the village, in a rural area, you have to think about what else you will do. So I decided to start a business with money I had saved working in people's farms, and that's how I started,” recalled Njenga.

Like many people in rural communities, Njenga shares a home with his extended family. He lives with his parents and four children.

As the owner of a butcher shop, he often travels to the local livestock market to buy supplies. He does not own a car, so he uses a public transport minibus known as a "matatu."

Life can be hard and money is sometimes tight, but Njenga believes Kenya has made major progress over the years.

"If you think back to the early 1970s, there were no paved roads or tapped water. Electricity wasn't accessible to all people, and today most people have electricity in their homes. Many of the main roads are tarmac (paved) so the government has tried,” said Njenga.

There are large suppliers of meat in Kenya, but many people still rely on small-scale traders like Njenga who sell meat at a relatively lower cost.

When asked what he hopes the future holds for himself and Kenya, Njenga is non-committal.

"I can't tell you what the future of the country will be, but ask me about business. All we want is for us to be able to make a living,” he said.

Njenga hopes that as Kenya marks 50 years of independence from colonial rule, his country will continue to grow and develop -- and give his children and grandchildren a better chance for a comfortable life.