IMPROMPTU VISIT

Uhuru in secret tour of Sh3 billion Kisumu port

He inspected progress of work but journalists were locked out of the highly guarded event

In Summary

•The port’s face-lift has renewed optimism for a boost in Nyanza’s economic fortunes 

•More than 10,000 jobs expected to be created directly and indirectly

President Kenyatta is received by ODM leader Raila Odinga at Kisumu International Airport on December 13, 2018
KARIBU: President Kenyatta is received by ODM leader Raila Odinga at Kisumu International Airport on December 13, 2018
Image: MAURICE ALAL

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday made a private visit to the Sh3 billion Kisumu port under rehabilitation.

He inspected the progress of work at the port but journalists were locked out of the highly guarded tour.

 

Sources say Uhuru later went to Kisumu State Lodge for a meeting. Details of the discussions were still unknown. Even Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owili was not aware of the meeting.

The port’s face-lift has renewed optimism for a boost in Nyanza’s economic fortunes upon completion.

The renovation will create more than 10,000 jobs directly and indirectly.

Residents and their leaders say the face-lift will put the port back on the map of Kenya’s shipping and maritime economy.

The port’s revival has been under the special supervision of President Kenyatta and the African Union special envoy for infrastructure development Raila Odinga.

The two have made several visits to the port as the government seeks to restore the once vibrant East Africa hub to its glory days.

The port rehabilitation was expected to have been completed in August. The delay forced the postponement of its commissioning that was scheduled for August 15.

 

Uhuru had been expected to open the port alongside his Ugandan and DRC counterparts Yoweri Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi. The event was postponed indefinitely.

Sources told the Star the port is 99 per cent ready with Uganda's port also complete.

Uhuru has become a common visitor to Nyanza after the handshake with his once bitter rival Raila Odinga.

On June 18, he attended the funeral of Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o 's mother alongside Raila. He then proceeded to the port.

He was was accompanied by Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owili, Cabinet secretaries James Macharia (Transport) and George Magoha (Education) among other government officials.

Workers at the port were given strict orders to ensure most of the work is completed before the launch.

Uhuru has also toured the Kenya Marine School and the dry dock where the giant MV Uhuru is docked.

He held meetings with officials and was briefed on the project. He went to State Lodge Kisumu and left later for the airport.

The Lake Victoria cargo ferry had been grounded for years. Kisumu residents are optimistic that once it starts operations, more jobs will be created.

In July, Raila toured the port to check the ongoing work. He then went to Kicomi and held a private meeting with officials.

He was accompanied by top security officers from the county, officials from Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority.

President Uhuru and Raila committed to ensuring the port regained its lost glory. Workers from the National Youth Service and prisons cleared bushes around the port.

Security has been tightened and thorough checks are done before one is allowed to access the port

Sources told the Star the Kenya Coast Guard had taken charge of security at the port ahead of the launch.

Officers manning the gates have been given strict orders not to allow anybody to take photos or videos within the port.

The renovation of the port is meant to allow bigger vessels to dock in Kisumu to enhance trade with neighbouring countries.

Interior CS Fred Matiang' i toured the facility two weeks ago and said it would create more employment and business opportunities. He is expected to make another tour in the company of Transport CS James Macharia anytime next week.

The President has ordered that everything be in place. We are working with different authorities like Kenya Railways, Kenya Ports Authority, National Youth Service and Kenya Navy among others to clean up this place. It will be revamped and people will get employed,” Matiang' i said.

On June 14, Uhuru and Raila visited the port to check the progress of construction works. The two leaders were also at the port in January.

We were here with the President and Raila Odinga who told us that this place was vibrant in the early years but neglect led to its poor state today. The ongoing construction will restore its glory,” Matiang' i said.