Airport drama as Uhuru men order pictures to be deleted

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo at the Tokyo International Conference in Japan last week. [PSCU]
Presidential guards ordered a section of official photographers to delete pictures capturing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s reception on his arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. 

President Kenyatta, who landed shortly before 9am last Thursday from Japan, was received by Deputy President William Ruto, Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe, military service commanders, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, among others.

As is tradition, photographers from both the President’s and DP’s pools clicked away as he exchanged pleasantries with top officials. After greeting Mr Sang, who was the last in line, he headed straight to the presidential limousine to leave for State House.

However, according to an official who was present, the vehicle stopped briefly and Uhuru’s aide-de-camp alighted and talked to President Escort Unit Commander Josphat Kirimi.

Mr Kirimi then issued instructions to his men who singled out a few photographers and ordered them to delete the photos they had taken of the President’s arrival.

“They were given a stern warning that should any pictures leak, they will be held personally liable,” a source said.

Governor shocked

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The other photographers present, however, delivered the photos they took as per protocol. It is not clear what got the President to ask his security men to order the deletion of the pictures. The source, however, intimated that Sang’s arrival may have caught some of the leaders present off-guard.

The President, the source added, is not keen to be seen with any leader(s) charged in court or under investigation.

Two months ago, Sang was charged with malicious damage of property, incitement to violence and abuse of public office after he led county officials and residents in destroying tea bushes on a private farm.

Sang had driven to Ruto’s residence on Thursday morning and accompanied the DP to JKIA to welcome the President. The incident is said to have surprised the governor, who reportedly told his friends he could not believe what he had witnessed.

The President is said to have instructed his handlers to closely control publicity surrounding his activities, including his departures and arrivals.

“He has told his handlers his movements are not supposed to be out there unless he authorises the same. Whatever happened there was expected because, to some of us, we had not expected the picture session,” another source said.

Last Tuesday, State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena sent a statement to newsrooms saying the President had left the country the previous night for Japan to attend the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama.

But on Thursday, State House, curiously, did not send a statement or pictures announcing Uhuru’s return from the three-day event.

Yesterday, Ms Dena declined to answer questions on the airport incident. “No comment,” was her response before she ended the call.

In late July, controversy had swirled around Uhuru’s arrival from Zambia after it was alleged that the President had bypassed his deputy’s welcome at JKIA. However, Ruto denied these reports.

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