Thousands of people on Wednesday turned up for the Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park in Nairobi as President Kenyatta addressed his first public event after his April 9 inauguration.
The fete was, however, briefly disrupted when former Standard Media Group photojournalist Boniface Mwangi shot up from the crowd and tried to shout down Central Organisations of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary-general Francis Atwoli for “supporting” the clamour by MPs for salary increment.
Mr Mwangi who rose to the public limelight over the gory photographs he shot during the post-election violence, was beaten up and manhandled by security personnel before being taken to the police cells in full view of guests including President Kenyatta.
Mr Mwangi shouted: “Traitor! Traitor!” as Mr Atwoli stood to speak. Although the crowd scattered as security personnel chased Mr Mwangi before bringing him down, Mr Atwoli continued with his speech saying “those making noise” were not Cotu members.
“I have my army, which will deal with them,” Mr Atwoli said, adding: “It is propaganda to say Cotu is agitating for an increase of MPs’ salaries.”
Workers left happy after President Kenyatta announced a 14 per cent minimum wage increment. Mr Kenyatta also articulated his government’s plans to transform the economy and create jobs.
The celebrations saw Mr Atwoli and his deputy, who is also Kabete MP George Muchai describe Mr Kenyatta as Kenya’s messiah and “a gift from God”.
Mr Atwoli denied supporting MPs’ salary increment, but insisted that it was wrong under international standards to reduce salaries, which workers were already earning.
On Wednesday, the Vitimbi Group and singers from National Hospital Insurance Fund and Cotu thrilled the crowd with their performances. There was also a march-past by workers.
MPs Dalmas Otieno, Shakeel Shabir, Mpuru Aburi, Tim Wanyonyi, Mombasa senator Hassan Omar and Nairobi governor Evans Kidero were among Cord leaders who joined the majority Jubilee leaders in the celebrations.
The recently named Cabinet secretaries nominees also attended.
The theme of the celebrations was “Economic Transformation for Employment Creation.”
There was laughter when Cotu executive board member Francis Wagara, who presided over a march-past by workers, said PK chewing gum was popular as it was always chewed by Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson during matches.
In a show reminiscent of the Moi era, Cotu chairman Rajab Mwondi described Mr Kenyatta as Worker Number One. He also said President Kenyatta was number one workers’ leader.
Referring to the book of Isaiah in the Bible, Mr Muchai, the TNA Member of Parliament for Kabete, and also Cotu’s deputy secretary-general, said President Kenyatta’s leadership came from God.
“It was prophesied in the Bible. You (President Kenyatta) are Kenya’s gift from God. You will end poverty in the country,” Mr Muchai said.
Mr Atwoli also said President Kenyatta was anointed by God and that just as he had predicted when former President Kibaki took office, Kenya’s fourth President “is going to be with us for another 10 years”.
Mr Atwoli said Mr Ruto was the best deputy President the country could have saying he is young, energetic, educated and visionary.
He also backed former Mvita MP Najib Balala and former Water Minister Charity Ngilu’s nomination as Cabinet secretaries and urged MPs to support them.
The Cotu boss said Mr Balala did well during his tenure as Tourism Minister while the health sector performed when Ms Ngilu was at the helm.
Mr Atwoli also praised Agriculture Secretary nominee Felix Kosgey saying he is “talented and educated.” He pushed for higher pay for workers saying “it is a lie to say Kenya’s wage bill is too high.”
The observance of Labour Day began more than 100 years ago.