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President Uhuru Kenyatta in rare praise for journalists

KENYA
By Wilfred Ayaga | June 2nd 2015
First lady Margaret Kenyatta rrives at the Nyayo stadium decked in a fashionable red flowing dress. Photo:Courtesy

Kenyans braved early morning chills to attend yesterday's Madaraka Day celebrations, in an event where President Uhuru Kenyatta had a rare praise for journalists.

Journalists used to hearing the president chastising them for writing negative stories about the Jubilee government were surprised to hear him acknowledge their role in development.

"I feel extremely encouraged to see our media devoting a lot of time to matters of farming, agriculture and rural wealth. Let us each do our part in this revolution," said the President.

But that was all, as the president proceeded to enumerate his government's achievements, and the challenges ahead.

Yesterday's celebrations were attended by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mr Museveni deviated from his usual rhetoric against the International Criminal Court (ICC), instead choosing to focus his attention on the Al-Shaabab crisis. Rarely has the Ugandan leader addressed Kenyans during national celebrations and failed to berate western powers for imperialism and the ICC as "an imperial court".

There was a light moment of when President Kenyatta walked onto the dais, greeted all the guests seated on the front row, while skipping First Lady Margaret Kenyatta. The President was perhaps undecided on the logic of greeting his wife, whom he had been riding in the same vehicle minutes before.

He eventually made up his mind to greet the First Lady, drawing roars of laughter from the crowd at the stadium.

The master of ceremonies and Deputy President William Ruto both got Ramaphosa's first name wrong. They referred to him as 'Cecille' instead of Cyril. And when he rose to give his speech, Ramaphosa did not correct them.

Other than these light slip-ups, the organisers appeared largely to have stuck to the usual script, with the crowd being treated to the army march, music and speeches that emphasised the government's development record.

The foul weather robbed the crowd some of the usual entertainment menu. There were no fly-pass by army jets, and entertainment had to be cut short to allow for the speeches. Only two choirs sang after the President's arrival.

Security at the venue was tight, with all guests, including journalists being thoroughly screened before being allowed into the venue.

Meanwhile, the widow of freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi for the first time failed to attend Madaraka Day celebrations due to poor health.

According to family members who spoke to The Standard, Mrs Mukami Kimathi is suffering from Parkinson's disease which worsens during cold weather.

Everlyn Kimathi, her granddaughter who was part of the yesterday's 52nd national Madaraka Day celebrations at Nyayo Stadium, said their grandmother was not able to travel with them to Nyayo Stadium because of the cold weather.

Kimathi who was a key Mau Mau fighter during the colonial area was captured and executed in 1975 by the British colonial government. Since 2010, she has been calling on the government to help identify the remains of her husband so that she could accord him a decent burial.

She said: "Sosh (Mukami) is not feeling well. She is suffering from Parkinson's disease and it is so severe during the cold weather. We tried fitting her with warm clothes but it was not of any help."

Additional reporting by Kibiwot Koross

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