President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected in Kisumu today for a visit of political and economic significance.
It is first time the President will be gracing a national day celebration in Kisumu.
The President’s tour is living up to its expectations as a roller-coaster whose details are changing every hour.
Initially, the plan was to have the President and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga ride on a train from Nakuru to Kisumu to symbolise its official commissioning.
The plans have, however, changed. The President will land in the lakeside city in a military helicopter.
“Unfortunately, because of circumstances beyond us, the President will not use the train as earlier planned. That trip will take place later in the year,” State House spokesperson Kanze Dena said.
Due to a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in Kisumu and other towns in the region, the President’s three-day visit is expected to be handled under strict observation of health protocols.
Organisers of the projects launch and Madaraka Day celebrations are doing all they can to minimise crowding.
It will not be like in the past when the President mingled with residents and made stopovers at bus parks and markets.
By close of Saturday, organisers of the Tuesday event agreed to hold the main event at Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium as opposed to the State Lodge.
A final decision was made in the evening after consultations involving county government officials.
Some 3,000 people had been invited to the official event at the 35,000 capacity venue, and more were to watch from a giant screen mounted outside.
However, plans to screen the live event at designated grounds in Kisumu were scrapped in view of the Covid-19 situation.
State House Saturday pleaded with Kisumu residents to follow the Covid-19 safety protocols.
Ms Dena said the most important consideration during the President’s visit would be following the health guidelines.
“The President particularly appeals to the passionate residents of Kisumu city to give the best account of themselves by avoiding situations that may compromise national efforts against the Covid-19 pandemic even as they observe the 58th Madaraka Day celebrations,” the State House spokesperson said.
Kisumu will also play host to Burundi President Evariste Ndashimiye, who will be the chief guest. He will be accompanied by Burundi First Lady Angeline Ndashimiye.
The two presidents and Mr Odinga are to launch and inspect several projects undertaken by the government in the last three years.
The Burundi First Lady will join Mrs Margaret Kenyatta who will also be involved in several activities.
The First Ladies will visit and inspect other projects while the Presidents will preside over the official programme.
President Kenyatta is expected to attend service at a church today. He will then proceed to Siaya County to inspect the rehabilitation of the Kisumu-Butere railway line.
Mr Kenyatta will then commission the Sh2.2 billion Siaya-Bondo water and sanitation project, the Sh277 million Last Mile Electricity Connectivity and the Sh1.4 billion Kodiaga-Nyangweso Wagai-Onyinyore-Akala road.
Kisumu port launch
Presidents Kenyatta and Ndayishimiye will launch the revamped Sh3 billion Kisumu port, the shipyard being managed by Kenya Defence Forces, the refurbished MV Uhuru ship and the Sh476 Maritime School on Monday.
The new Uhuru Business complex that was constructed at Sh599 million to accommodate traders who were displaced during the rehabilitation and expansion of the port, will also be opened officially.
The other to be commissioned will be the Sh498 million Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium in Mamboleo.
These are among the projects that have been completed in Kisumu.
Sitting on a seven-acre piece of land, the Uhuru Business complex will accommodate 1,487 traders who were evicted from Kenya Railways land.
About 600 traders, whose names have been validated, will occupy the market immediately after the launch.
The remaining traders will be settled later when validation is over.
The port is expected to open up business in the East African Community (EAC), with imports and exports set to rise after the launch on Monday.
At least six ships are operating at the port.
Petroleum products top the list of cargo handled, with sugar and fertiliser following closely.
In the last three months, MV Uhuru has transported 50 million litres of fuel products in weekly round trips to Port Bell and Jinja in Uganda.
The shipyard, which is run by the Kenya Navy and Dutch ship-building company, Damen Civil Works, are working on a second vessel – MV Uhuru 2 – which is expected to be completed in eight months.
Also to be commissioned is the Mamboleo-Miwani-Chemelil-Muhoroni-Kipsitet road.
The contract for the Sh4.9 billion project was awarded to Sino-Hydro Construction Company.
Its construction and completion will come as a relief to motorists, especially trucks ferrying cane to Muhoroni, Chemelil and Miwani factories.
Passenger train terminus
The President will also inspect works at the new passenger train terminus, the inland container depot and the Sh4.2 billion Lake Basin Mall.
Mr Kenyatta also directed the completion of the 308-kilometre Olkana-Lessos-Kisumu high voltage power transmission line. The project cost Sh16 billion.
There is also the ADB funded Sirari corridor Ahero-Kisii road done at Sh9.5 billion and the Sh3 billion Isebania-Lolgorian road, which may be commissioned during the President’s visit
Mr Kenyatta may not, however, cover all the projects that were scheduled for launch across Nyanza, according to State House.
“Consultations are still on, but not the entire launch programme will be covered because of the corona protocols,” Ms Dena said at Kisumu State Lodge.