Elections 2017

Uhuru secret visit to ‘handshake project’

A military chopper carrying President Uhuru Kenyatta flies from Kisumu port yesterday. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday made a surprise visit to the Kisumu port for the fourth time in a year, catching local leaders and security officials by surprise.

The President’s two Kenya Air Force choppers landed at the port, for the first time, throwing the county’s leadership into a spin. He has always landed at the Kisumu International Airport.

The port is a key handshake project that observers and Government officials say will cement the new-found political relationship between the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

It was not immediately clear why Raila did not accompany the President.

Yesterday, The Standard learnt that the visit was so secretive that no local leader knew about it. Kisumu Governor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o and his deputy Mathews Owilli, who often welcome Uhuru to the lakeside city, remained in their offices as the Head of State made a tour of the port that is currently under expansion.

Signs that a VIP was headed to the port flickered at about 2.30pm when a military chopper roared above the skies. Anxious crowds started forming on Oginga Odinga Street when a second, bigger chopper, appeared.

Residents responded fast and sprinted towards the port, where the two choppers had landed, but found the police had already blocked the road leading to the facility.

At one point, an officer manning the main gate cocked his gun and aimed at the sky to scare away the crowd that was becoming uncontrollable and threatening to storm in to “greet the President”.

Dr Owilli and the governor’s director of protocol Bob Madanji confirmed that they were not aware of the visit and opted not to attend for fear of breaching protocol.

At the gate to the port, crowds grew impatient, as some thought Raila was with the President.

“We cannot be denied access to our President. Allow us to greet him,” shouted some youth in the crowd. A jovial Uhuru was received by port officials and inspection committee led by Kisumu East Deputy County Commissioner Josephine Ouko.

“First, he went straight to board MV Uhuru vessel that has been on a test run. He then toured the port facility and finally retreated to Kisumu Yacht Club,” said a security official who was at the port.

The revival of the MV Uhuru is one of Uhuru’s pet projects at the port. While at the port, he also visited Kenya Revenue Authority offices near the gate.

He then walked out of the gate where journalists were stationed with cameras, waved at them and turned to Regional Police Commissioner Vincent Makokha and asked him, “Where is your car”

Surprised, Dr Makhokha pointed at his Toyota double cabin pick-up, which was on standby. The President then jumped into the front seat and his aide-de-camp followed suit in the back and the vehicle raced towards Yatch Club with other escort cars in tow.

“God sometimes pulls up surprises. I didn’t expect he could board my car,” Makhokha briefly explained. He had to hike a lift in another car in the convoy.

At Yatch Club, Thomas Ouma, a watchman, was left in shock. “I thought it was a lookalike of the President. He waved at me,” said Ouma.

The port has been undergoing renovation and was set for reopening in August.

However, the plan was cancelled a day to the event after what insiders said was due to incomplete renovation works at the facility.