Police mobilised as UN warns of travel chaos during Obama tour

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House. (Photo:Reuters)
Authorities are working out final preparations ahead of Friday’s arrival of US President Barack Obama for a two-day visit of his father’s homeland.

Details emerged of Obama’s itinerary for his Kenya tour this week, with State House talks with his host President Uhuru Kenyatta and an address from Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi among the engagements.

The arrival of President Obama, who is expected in the country late Friday to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) that runs from July 25-26 in Nairobi, will occasion some disruptions because of closure of roads and massive security checks.

Sunday, top traffic police officers met to plan handling of traffic in the course of his visit.

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Sources said up to 10,000 security officers will be deployed in addition to the visiting president’s security led by the US Secret Service. It emerged that police officers have been mobilised from Coast, Central, Eastern and Rift Valley regions to help beef up security in Nairobi.

In Nairobi, police are facing an accommodation crisis owing to a surge in bookings by officers who have been brought in from other areas.

“We have been booked to various police stations but generally, there is a crisis in accommodation. We hope we will be paid our allowances,” said one of the officers.

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Leadership centre

Obama is scheduled to make an address on Sunday at Safaricom Indoor Arena, Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani, but details about the timings were unavailable. There are also reports that he could visit Kenyatta University to open a leadership centre.

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On Saturday, President Kenyatta and President Obama will co-host the GES, a gathering of top entrepreneurs and high-level Government officials, at the UN compound in Gigiri, and thereafter hold bilateral talks and address a joint news conference at State House, Nairobi.

Obama is also expected to meet Opposition leaders led by Raila Odinga and representatives of civil society groups. Also on Saturday, he is scheduled to visit the site of the 1998 US embassy bombing at the junction of Haile Sellassie and Moi avenues. President Kenyatta will host him to a dinner on Saturday night.

The presence of the leader of the world’s superpower in the country comes with major inconveniences that are highlighted in a security advisory by the United Nations office in Nairobi to its employees.

It informs staff who are not involved in the GES to stay away on Saturday and Sunday as access to the UN headquarters in Gigiri will be restricted to only those related to the organisation of the conference.

“Staff members are advised to limit their movements in Nairobi from Friday 24 July until Sunday 26 July 2015,” reads part of the advisory seen by The Standard.

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 Air travel

The communication states UNDSS anticipates significant traffic disruption, particularly on main routes between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Wilson Airport, through the central business district of Nairobi and towards UN Office (Limuru Road / UN Avenue / Gigiri).

It also alludes to disruptions to air travel by stating JKIA and Wilson Airport operations may be suspended for a limited time, approximately an hour. “Although UNDSS does not have additional information related to possible air movement restrictions, we recommend if at all possible that you avoid travelling on those dates,” it adds.

State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu also explained that traffic flow would be interrupted in Nairobi during the visit.

“We know the US Head of State will come with a huge motorcade which will inconvenience road users in the city, but we also want to ensure that other operations continue,” said Esipisu. The most affected roads include Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway, Museum Hill heading to UN headquarters, Langata Road, Harambee Avenue, JKIA and Kisumu Airport.

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said the elaborate security precautions means disruption for local businesses and residents. “Some roads will be closed and diversions may cause congestion in particular areas of the city. The smooth running of Nairobi is ultimately my responsibility and the county government is doing all it can to ensure that the entire weekend passes without a hitch and with minimal disruption to Nairobians,” Dr Kidero said.

The UN advisory details anticipated large number of delegates, VIPs, media and Kenya officials.

“Please note that access to UNON on Saturday and Sunday will be restricted to UN staff members whose presence is related to the organisation of the conference only and who have been accredited to the conference,” reads the advisory.

The advisory says traffic disruptions are anticipated on July 24, 25 and 26, 2015 along Limuru Road and UN Avenue.

Police also warned Sunday that Nairobi residents should be ready for disruption of their activities. Already, more personnel are being brought in from other regions to beef up security ahead of the summit.

At the airport, security is tight already. When Obama arrives, US snipers will be positioned at various places.

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Barack ObamaGlobal Entrepreneurship Summitsecurity checks