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Nyeri County prepares to host thousands

By Job Weru | April 26th 2015
A man walk past Mathari Cemetery on 25 April 2015, where Sister Irene Stefani was buried on 31 October 1930, her remains were later exhumed in 1995 and relocated to to Central Chapel of Mathari Catholic Church where they had been preserved since then.She was born on 22 August 1891. [PHOTO/ KIBATA KIHU/STANDARD]

With just 27 days to the beatification of Sister Irene ‘Nyaatha’ Stefani, questions have been raised about the Nyeri County Government preparedness to receive hundreds of thousands of guests expected at the ceremony.

The Catholic Church says it is expecting an estimated 300,000 people to attend the event. But the county government estimates that about 35,000 people will attend the fete, which will convert Vulnerable Nyaatha to a Blessed. Beatification is the third of the four steps in the process of making one a saint.

Although Sister Nyaatha’s beatification was announced last year by Pope Francis 1, the Nyeri County Government only started preparations for the ceremony two weeks ago when Governor Nderitu Gachagua launched the construction of a 40-kilometre stretch of road in Gikondi area, where Sister Nyaatha served for 15 years before her death.

But locals are doubtful about whether that the road will be finished in time for the event.

On Friday, the county government, in a frantic effort to embrace the spirit of the beatification, held two meetings with hotel owners and small scale business operators.

With a huge influx of pilgrims expected in Nyeri, hotel owners are pessimistic about the county government’s preparedness to host the event.

They blame the county government of dragging its feet and failing to involve them in its preparations.

Charles Karuga, an official with Mt Kenya Tourism Circuit, said hotel owners were forced to hold a strategy meeting last Wednesday to lay out plans ahead of the beatification.

“We are afraid that not enough has been done to ensure the pilgrims enjoy their stay in Nyeri,” he said.

But a hotel owner claimed that the government is only interested in the millions it will collect in revenues and is less concerned about preparing for the event.

Revenue collection

“It is a shame that they called us to a breakfast meeting to tell us how we will pay rates if we want to host the pilgrims,” said a hotel owner who identified herself only as Wangui.

But as the county government rolls out its plans, some Kenyans have are already organising events to promote the big day. Francis Michuki has organised a golf tournament at Windsor Golf and Country Club in Nairobi on May 1. The proceeds collected will be channeled towards the event. Fr Peter Githinji, the coordinator of the beatification ceremony, said other fundraising activities have already begun throughout the country. “We need funds and we appreciate Mr Michuki’s gesture. We have distributed the fliers to various regions so that well wishers can contribute,” said Githinji.

Aware of the huge multitude expected in Nyeri, the Catholic Church has changed the venue of the last day of the beatification from Our Lady of Consolata Catholic Cathedral to Saint Mary’s Boy’s Secondary School.

“We expect so many people to attend the event and the cathedral cannot offer ample grounds for the pilgrims. We have therefore decided to change the venue to St Mary’s Boys Secondary School,” said Fr Githinji.

Mr Simon Wachira, the Chief of Staff at Nyeri County Government, said they are formulating plans to control the flow of traffic during the ceremony.

“Vehicles coming to Nyeri from Nairobi will not enter Nyeri town. The furthest they will ply is Skuta area, about four kilometres from Nyeri town,” said Wachira. Vehicles heading to the town from Nanyuki will be barred at Kiganjo area, while those from Nyahururu will stop at Mweiga town.

Mr Larry Kieng, the Central region police commander, said they have sought help to beef security from the neighbouring Laikipia, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga and Murang’a counties.

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