Tight security as Uhuru and two visiting presidents attend soldiers’ requiem mass

KDF soldiers and presidential guards seal airport for the better part of the day as dignitaries arrive to attend prayer meeting in memory of slain soldiers.

Thursday January 28 2016

By DENNIS LUBANGA
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By GERALD BWISA
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On average, Eldoret International Airport welcomes eight planes every 12 hours.

But Wednesday, eight planes landed at the airport inside just five hours, as Uasin Gishu County welcomed it’s biggest delegation of VIPs yet.

Security was water-tight as Kenya Defence Forces and State House teams took over operations at the airport from earlier this week to prepare for the dignitaries’ arrival.

The VIPs were in the county to attend Wednesday's inter-denominational prayers in honour of Kenyan soldiers killed in El-Adde, Somalia, on January 15.

Deputy President William Ruto was the first to arrive at the airport at 11am, in time to welcome Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who landed in a small jet ten minutes later.

Mr Ruto arrived in the company of Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Garissa MP and Parliament majority leader Aden Duale.

The DP and his entourage were received at the airport by Governors Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Cleophas Lagat (Nandi), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia).

President Uhuru Kenyatta landed at the airport from Nairobi at 12:30pm and was received by Mr Ruto.

STATE VISIT

The two leaders then patiently waited for the arrival of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who landed at 2:35pm.

An advance Nigerian delegation had landed in another jet at 1:35pm, the jet draped in the colours of the Nigerian national flag.

President Buhari then inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Kenya Army, before he was escorted to the VIP lounge where he signed the visitors’ book.

President Buhari, who is in the country for a three-day official visit, was accorded a full State reception that included a 21-gun salute conducted by a detachment of the Kenya Navy.

The deafening gun salute was preceded by the national anthems of Kenya and Nigeria, played by the Kenya  Defence Forces band.

The leaders stepped out of the VIP lounge at 4.50pm and headed boarded military helicopters that flew them to Moi Barracks. Mr Ruto joined President Buhari aboard one of the helicopters.

The Somalia President travelled to the barracks by road.

Security remained tight at the airport even as commercial airlines continued with their normal operations.

On Friday last week, President Kenyatta led other political leaders and government officials to a similar service held at the Armed Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi.

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