Kenyan leaders today sent conflicting goodwill messages commemorating Huduma Day instead of Utamaduni Day.
The October 10 holiday, on Tuesday marked the transition from Moi Day, whose observance was discontinued over a decade ago.
Utamaduni, Swahili for culture, replaced Huduma (Service) Day which was initially adopted to regularize the October 10 holiday introduced in the 80s in honour of President Daniel arap Moi but dropped under a new constitutional dispensation.
President William Ruto was set to preside over the inaugural of Utamaduni Day celebrations at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi although for some reason the First Lady was reported to have led Kenyans in marking the occasion.
Moi Day was dropped from the list of Kenyan national holidays in August 2010 after the adoption of the new Constitution.
In December 2019, the Cabinet led by former President Uhuru Kenyatta, approved changing its name to Huduma Day, which then became Utamaduni Day in 2020 to honor the nation’s diverse cultural heritage.
Moi Day was renamed following a 2017 High Court decision that deemed the holiday’s cancellation unlawful.
In 2017, a lawyer named Gregory Nyauchi filed an appeal challenging the removal of Moi Day as a public holiday.
Nyauchi had contended elimination of the holiday had a knock-on effect that prevented employees from receiving their benefits as outlined in the Employment Act.
“We live in a country where only a tiny minority are granted the 21 leave days that the Employment Act provides for. Most people get up and go to work every day except weekends. In a country with a negative attitude towards workers’ rights such as the one displayed by most of our employers, a public holiday is a necessity,” Nyauchi said at the time.
In addition, he claimed that, like Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta and his successor Moi deserved a day named in their honour.
“One of these laws is the Public Holidays Act that Parliament amended during Moi’s time to give him his day. An Act that recognises Moi Day not as a national day but as a public holiday, an important distinction that means the Public Holidays Act does not, in fact, contravene the Constitution,” court papers read.
The holiday was reinstated as a result of the ruling by Justice George Odunga on November 8, 2017 that said it should be held on October 10 each year.
Odunga declared that it was illegal and against the law to cancel the Moi Day holiday in his ruling as it also breached the Public Holidays Act.
“I hereby grant a declaration that the omission to have the 10th day of October observed as a public holiday is an illegality and in contravention of Section 2(1) as read with part 1 of the schedule to the Public Holidays Act,” stated Odunga.
“Unless and until parliament amends Schedule 1 of the said Act or the minister substitutes the same for another date, the 10th of October in each year shall continue being a public holiday,” the Judge said.
On October 8, 2018, Fred Matiang’i, then Interior Cabinet Secretary, proclaimed the reinstatement of Moi Day as a public holiday.
“In line with Section 2 (1) and 4 and Part One of the Schedule of Public Holidays Act (Cap 110), and pursuant to the declaration of the High Court of 6th November 2017, it is hereby notified that Monday, 10th October 2022, will be a public holiday (Utamaduni Day),” Matiang’i said.