Man arrested after trying to approach President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta Lamu

President Uhuru Kenyatta officially opens the 114 kilometre Garsen-Witu-Lamu road on his way to Lamu County to preside over commissioning of the first berth of the new Lamu Port on May 20, 2021.

Photo credit: Courtesy | PSCU

A middle-aged man was arrested on Thursday afternoon after he tried to force his way to President Uhuru Kenyatta while he made his speech during the official opening of the Lamu Port.

The man, who was among those invited to the event, bypassed security agents but was blocked when he was just a few feet away from the president, who appeared startled by the breach and stepped back. 

Security agents swooped in and managed to whisk him away before he could utter a word to Mr Kenyatta. The president then made light of the moment and continued with his speech.

Security intervenes as man attempts to approach Uhuru in Lamu

The man is currently being held by security agents. However, local police declined to comment on whether he would be presented in court and on what charges. 

The incident happened at a time when security officers had cleared the port area to ensure that there was no congregation at the venue of the launch after local youths threatened to hold protests to push government to give them first priority on jobs.

Planned protests

At Mokowe Jetty, police remained on standby to ensure there were no groupings after fishermen had said they were planning a demo to push the government to address their grievances, including compensation of Sh1.76 billion for loss of livelihood.

The sum was awarded to displaced fishermen by the Malindi High Court in 2018 after it found rampant environmental violations caused by the project. The 4,734 fishermen had sought legal redress, arguing that they would no longer be able to carry on with their venture due to dredging activities at the new port.

The ruling remains frozen without implementation and an appeal by the State has not been heard by the Court of Appeal since 2018.

“Thousands of fishermen have had their livelihoods affected by four years of dredging and land reclamation. Port construction has profoundly damaged the ecosystem, in particular killing corals and diminishing marine nurseries in a richly biodiverse area,” Save Lamu Coalition, an environmental lobby, said in a statement. 

Several local leaders, including Lamu Governor Fahim Twaha and Lamu Women Representative Ruweida Obbo, expressed their support for the youths saying it was unfair that majority of those employed at the Lamu Port so far were outsiders.

Ms Obbo said locals had hoped that the project would help solve unemployment.

“The way job distribution at the port is currently constituted is very unfair and selfish. We must resolve unemployment at all costs. Lamu is the host of the port project and it’s only fair that we benefit more,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Mr Kenyatta witnessed discharging of the first cargo on MV Cap Carmel at Lamu Port, signaling the beginning of the Sh310 billion port's operations.

In an event which was only witnessed by government officials, the Head of State also presented a certificate to the master of the first vessel.