Best friends? President Uhuru breaks protocol, drives away with Raila

President Uhuru Kenyatta (center), African Union Envoy Raila Odinga and Muhoroni MP Onyango Koyoo at the burial of former chairman of Youth Enterprise Bruce Odhiambo at Koru in Kisumu on January 19, 2019. [Collins Oduor/Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga showed Kenyans the depth of their friendship when they breached protocol and delayed the President's flight by over four hours as they toured Kisumu.

In a surprise decision that caught his security and protocol officers by surprise, President Uhuru changed his mind about boarding his jet at the Kisumu International Airport at the eleventh hour on Saturday evening and instead accompanied Raila in a tour of Kisumu town.

Driving in only two cars and a scant security escort, the two leaders accompanied by Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owilli made a surprise visit at the Kisumu Port before crossing over to the nearby Yatch Club for a meal of fish and Ugali.

Sources at the Airport said the President had instructed his security commandant that he did not need any elaborate escort. No one noticed them as they drove off in two black Toyota Prados, from the Airport into Obote Road and finally into the Port shortly after 6 pm.

Police officers in two Landcruisers trailed the President's unmarked car from a distance.

The President and Raila had earlier attended the burial of former National Youth Fund Bruce Odhiambo in Koru. They flew from the funeral in two separate choppers into the Kisumu International Airport   where the Head of State was to change planes to Nairobi.

"The pilot started the engine and the President was due to board when the unexpected happened. We saw Raila pull him aside, whisper something to him and then plans quickly changed," said a State official who was at the scene.

He added: "It was unbelievable.  It happened so fast and every one was thrown into a spin. No one knew where the two leaders were going at dusk without security escort. We later heard they were at the Port."

The Standard learnt that the two leaders decided to drive through the town without raising any suspicion as crowds would block them and demand that they address them.

"I saw three Toyota Prados enter the Port some minutes to 7pm.  I thought they were local businessmen coming to check the port until I saw them alight.  I moved closer to confirm if it was the President and Raila I was seeing," said David Ojwang', a boda boda operator who had gone to the port to pick a customer.

He added: "I saw more people join the President at the port.  They included Tuju (Jubilee Secretary General), Deputy Governor Mathews Owilli and another person identified as Bob Madanji (County Chief of Protocol)."

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga tour Kisumu Port on January 19, 2019 after the burial of former Youth Fund CEO Bruce Odhiambo.

Uhuru inspected the port and was shocked by the massive invasion by the water hyacinth.

"The President was shocked that he could not see water as the weed had covered every bit of the lake.  He said an urgent and deliberate decision must be made to save the Lake and the port.”

Also at the port was Uganda's politician and businessman, Paul Mukula, who is the National Resistance Movement’s Deputy Chairman. Mukula arrived in Kisumu on Thursday.

Contacted for comment, Mr Madanje confirmed the President made a surprise visit to the port after he was briefed by Raila about the condition of the Lake.

"He looked very concerned and said the National government would do all it could to save the situation. He said the port should be back to its former good status within the next one year," said Madanje.

But Mr Madanje said the decision by the President and Raila to stop in Kisumu and eat fish had been made while they were still at the funeral in Koru.

As dusk fell on the lakeside city, the two leaders whose current friendship has shaken the country's landscape, later drove to The Kisumu Yatch Club, where they caught the staff flat footed.

"They arrived here shortly before 7pm and sat on a table.  They looked so ordinary. It is only after a few minutes later that a contingent of GSU officers arrived and told us not to panic as they were just on routine duty," said a waiter who sought anonymity.

The two leaders and their aides, ate fish served with Ugali, sipped their favourite drinks and laughed as they discussed politics.

 The leaders left the club at around 8.30 m and drove back to the Airport.