Kisumu basks in momentous Madaraka Day

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021 00:00 |
Kisumu County government spearheads the beautification of the town ahead of Madaraka Day celebrations. Photo/PD/Viola Kosome

All focus turns to Kisumu town today as the lakeside city basks in the glory of hosting this year’s Madaraka Day celebrations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is on a three-day tour of Kisumu County, will lead the nation in marking 58 years of self-rule with organisers saying the event will be guided by strict Covid-19 protocols.

Kisumu residents have been upbeat about the celebrations, coming at a time the President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga have been working together under the March 2018 Handshake.

Raila has spared no effort to underline the political significance of the visit which saw Uhuru launch what was dubbed as “Handshake Projects,” to the excitement of local residents.

Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who arrived in the country yesterday, will grace the celebrations as chief guest.

The event will be held at the newly-constructed Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium at the Mamboleo ASK grounds.

Upon arrival at the Kisumu International Airport yesterday morning, President Ndayishimiye and the first lady Angeline were driven straight to the Kisumu State Lodge where the two leaders held bilateral talks. 

President Uhuru later went to the Kisumu Inland Port where he officially commissioned the Mv Uhuru which has been refurbished after many years of neglect. 

The scheduled launch of the Nakuru – Kisumu meter gauge railway and the ground breaking ceremony for the Lake Victoria Basin Commission were however called off at the last minute.

Nyanza Regional Commissioner Magu Mutindika yesterday reiterated that only 3,000 invited guests will be allowed into the stadium in conformity with Covid-19 health protocols.

“We have made proper arrangements to ensure security is guaranteed during the celebrations. Adequate officers have been deployed to man the event,” he said. 

“Only a few invited people will have access to the celebrations venue to follow the proceedings live.

The rest of the nation will follow the proceedings via television,” he said, adding that the move was aimed at curbing spread of the deadly virus.

“The event reaffirms our nation’s self-prevention as an independent entity through economic resilience even as we remain vigilant against the disease and protect the population.” 

Kisumu governor Anyang’ Nyong’o who is hosting the celebrations said the event was part of his government’s efforts to spur economic growth in the county and position it as an attractive investment and tourism destination in the Western circuit.

Business leaders yesterday expressed optimism that Uhuru’s visit and the new projects will give the local economy a much needed lifeline. 

“We are hoping the business community will reap fruits in terms of improved trading when the port jump-starts its operations,” said Israel Agina, chairman of the Kisumu branch of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Hotels overbooked 

Agina noted that the rehabilitated Sh3 billion Kisumu Port will help promote local and regional trade and stimulate industrial development in the greater East African Community area.

According to Agina, they also expect that the revamped port which has been lying idle for decades will enhance trade between East African countries especially Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We expect general merchandise trade to thrive between the EAC countries with the revamp of the Kisumu Port. Cargo will sail to the city through the lake, a very fast route,” he added.

Prior to the much awaited event, there was an array of activities including beautification of main street roundabouts.

The National Celebrations Committee moved to clarify that multi-million shilling stadium remained the venue for the Madaraka event after plans to change the event to Kisumu State Lodge were shelved.

On Saturday, State House spokesperson Kanze Dena hinted that the function could be moved to the State Lodge amid fears of a spike in Covid-19 infections in the lake region.

But in a separate press briefing on Sunday, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said the celebrations shall be held at the new stadium as earlier planned.

Kibicho announced that preparations were complete to host the event at the 30,000- seater stadium.

“The stadium is ready to host the celebrations, what is left is minor cleaning up and clearing of debris,” he said.

The PS advised Kenyans to follow the proceedings from the comfort of their homes.Kisumu hotels were booked to capacity with government officials who accompanied the President and invited guests occupying most of the rooms.

High-end hotels such as Ciala Resort, Acacia Premier, Grand Royal Swiss, Joventure and Divine Homes recorded more than 90 per cent occupancy.

Lake Victoria Tourism Association (chairman Robinson Anyal said the hotel occupancy had been rising for the past two days and the trend is anticipated to continue into the new month as a result of Madaraka Day celebrations.

He said the national celebrations had presented the hotel industry with an opportunity to pick up from the ravages occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This event has come at the right time when the industry performance has been very low. The impact will be felt. We encourage guests to take time and visit some of our attraction sites including Impala Park and Kit Mikayi,” he said.

Oscar Ochola, Divine Homes manager, said the facility had been operating at 70 per cent for the past week, inspired by preparations to host the national celebrations.

“Business has generally been good this week, apart from guests trickling in for the much awaited Madaraka Day event, we have also had many conference bookings mainly from NGOs and county governments,” Ochola said.

His Joventure counterpart manager John Ayuko said business was expected to boom even after the celebrations.

“Over 90 per cent of our bookings done majorly on phone calls have been honoured. We expect the improved occupancy trend to continue days after the Madaraka Day event,” Ayuko said.

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