President Uhuru Kenyatta has demanded an explanation from organisers of national celebrations after the Jamhuri Day fete in Nairobi on Tuesday was poorly attended.
As the President put the National Government Coordinating docket charged with such celebrations under pressure, Jubilee MPs accused Interior Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho of failing to have his team mobilise Kenyans to turn out at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
However, efforts to get Mr Kibicho to respond to the accusation were not fruitful as calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.
The ministry’s spokesman, Mr Mwenda Njoka, however, said the Nairobi regional coordinator would be the correct officer to answer any queries on the event.
And senior government officers and Jubilee politicians were shielding themselves from blame with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko quickly blaming the provincial administration when asked about the issue.
“Offices of the regional and county commissioners are usually responsible for organising State events in their areas of jurisdiction,” said Mr Njoka on the phone.
“During national day celebrations, the government depends on them to mobilise the people to attend.
“They would also organise troupes to perform and entertain guests during the celebrations.”
The 60,000-seater stadium was barely half-full during Tuesday’s function that was attended by former Ghanaian President John Mahama — a stark contrast to the November 28 inauguration of President Kenyatta, when it was packed to capacity.
The issue was said to have been raised at the ruling party’s parliamentary group meeting at State House, Nairobi, in the morning when the legislators met the President, who is the party leader.
MPs are understood to have complained that a senior civil servant tasked with organising the mobilisation of crowds had failed in his job and that it was not the first time this was happening.
Party stalwarts told Nation that the near-empty stadium was an embarrassment and called for those responsible to be “punished”.
And while they did not want to go on record with their frustrations, the leaders lamented that an event that should have oozed colour was marred by organisers being forced to have the few people present take seats in a strategic place in front of the main dais in a bid to gloss over the low attendance.
And while the stadium already had 60,000 people seated by 9.30am on November 28, on Tuesday, 11.15 am, when the President rode in, it was barely half-full.
Keen to absolve himself from blame, Mr Sonko, who is known for his ruthless and near-unparalleled crowd mobilisation skills, told the Nation: “Jamhuri Day is a national event and not a political one; hence, we cannot be involved since it is usually organised by the provincial administration — from the regional coordinators, county commissioners and chiefs.”
He said the city county was not involved in the planning of the event, unlike the October 20 Mashujaa Day celebrations and the swearing-in ceremony, both of which were well attended.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, without pointing fingers, implied that city politicians were not involved in organising the fete.
He said: “Inasmuch as Jamhuri Day and other public holidays are State functions, it is advisable to involve and liaise with the political leadership of the city in coordination and mobilisation so as to avoid such poor attendance.”
Waithaka MCA Antony Karanja, saying they should have been involved in the planning, suggested that people were reluctant to attend owing to a stampede and chaos that erupted during the swearing-in.