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Controversy after Uhuru skips Iftaar in Kwale

COAST
By Patrick Beja | Jul 21st 2014 | 3 min read

A lavish Iftaar party in Kwale County skipped by President Uhuru Kenyatta last Thursday has sparked controversy and left a bitter taste in the mouths of those who were not invited and those who felt slighted by the President's absence.

Some sources claimed the President may have snubbed the event because of the controversy caused by its organisers, but Mswambeni MP Khatib Mwashetani, who attended the function, said the President cancelled all functions in Kwale including the Iftaar and fundraiser at Mwangunda Primary School due to an urgent assignment in Nairobi.

Mwashetani told The Standard the "function in Taveta began late but there was no indication the Kwale ones would be cancelled until later in the evening when they were informed that the President had returned to Nairobi for something urgent."

The cancellation of these well publicised functions left Cabinet Secretaries Jacob Kaimenyi, Najib Balala and Charity Ngilu and Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya reeling in embarrassment.

ATTENDANCE ALLOWANCE

Mwashetani confirmed that the nature of the urgency was not explained to guests and that the President's donation for the school was delivered by Ngilu.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Juma Ngao of the Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council, said the estimated 300 participants at the Iftaar held at the Leisure Lodge hotel in Diani, mainly from Mombasa County, were paid Sh2,000 each as attendance allowance.

The Muslim leaders who attended the Iftaar at Leisure Lodge hotel in Diani told The Standard they were paid Sh2,000 after the meal. The organisers were accused of sidelining local Imams and instead ferrying clerics and Muslims from Mombasa.

Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) South Coast chairman Sheikh Hamisi Banda said he was casually invited at the eleventh hour while visiting Mombasa County and he and his team decided to snub the function.

"For two weeks organisers in Kwale County collected names and numbers of national identity cards of people who would attend the Iftaar but we, the local Imams, were not invited. I think the President learnt of the confusion in advance and skipped the function," Banda said.

LOST MEANING

Banda said the Iftaar turned into a political event as mainly the rich and influential individuals were invited not the poor, orphans and widows as is the religious norm.

Banda advised President Kenyatta to adopt former President Mwai Kibaki's trend of distributing food to organisations like CIPK to be dished out to the less privileged members of society at the grassroots instead of lavish functions held in beach hotels where only the wealthy attend.

"Iftaar will lose its meaning if organisers choose to invite the rich and powerful members of society instead of the needy," he said.

Kwale county women representative Zainab Chidzuga however said the Iftaar was a success since most elected Kwale leaders attended and local Muslims were represented.

"The dinner was well attended with Kwale's elected leaders present and ready to receive the President. As leaders we hope the President will let us know when he will next visit Kwale," Chidzuga said.

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