Jamhuri Day: Freedom and Unity

5618539229_532fe2f7e2_bDecember 9th is “Siku ya Jamhuri” (Jamhuri Day) in Tanzania, and December 12th in Kenya. Jamhuri is a Swahili word meaning Republic. The Jamhuri holiday happens in December in the aforementioned countries as a mark of the official day each country became established as a republic.

Tanzania received its independence December 9, 1961 while Kenya did so December 12th 1963, and Uganda on October 9th, 1962- but Uganda calls this day, Independence Day. Many associate Jamhuri Day with the hero Dedan Kimathi, the leader of the Mau Mau war who was executed during his efforts to lift Kenya toward independence but was executed before his mission came fruition. Kenya became a republic exactly one year after securing its freedom, 1964.

There are two Jamhuri holidays in Tanzania.

1. The first is for celebrating “Uhuru” (freedom) as mentioned.

2. The second is “Jamhuri ya muungano” – a day when Tanganyika and Zanzibar united, April 26th 1964, giving birth to the name Tanzania (Tanganyika plus Zanzibar = Tanzania).

The Swahili word Muungano comes from the Swahili root word “unga” which means “join” or “unite”. When two entities unite as is the case of the coastal Tanzania- Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania- Tanganyika, the result is “muungano” (unity as one entity). The unity between Tanganyika and Zanzibar was established by the first president of Tanganyika, Mwalimu Julias Kambarage Nyerere, and Sheikh Abeid Aman Karume, the president of the republic of Zanzibar, Karimjee Hall, Dar es Salaam. Therefore, Jamhuri ya muungano is celebrated April 26th yearly in Tanzania.

Jamhuri day is regarded as Kenya and Tanzania’s most important holiday, marked by many cultural celebrations which reflect the countries’ cultural heritage. People feast with their families; prominent foods on this day include: Pilau, somosas, chapatis, maandazi, collard greens, corn and meat stew. Absolutely, drinking beer and roasted meat mark the occasion after a long day of political speeches, parades, and dancing. Everyone wears traditional attires.

For some reason, the holiday marks the coming of Christmas holiday as people start decorating and shopping.

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(Photo of Kenya Railways by Babak Fakhamzadeh via Flickr)