From Kisumu to EA, Uhuru’s port goal takes shape

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022 04:38 | By
President Uhuru Kenyatta opens a gate valve to officially commission the floatation of MV Uhuru II at the Kisumu Pier in Kisumu County, yesterday. PD/VIOLA KOSOME

President Uhuru Kenyatta used his last trip to Nyanza as Head of State to drum up support for Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s  State House ambitions. 

He termed Raila as his preferred heir and asked Kenyans to stop doubting that Raila would succeed him come the August 9 General Election.

Uhuru, who is  in a last-minute dash to launch his legacy projects, made a strong case for Raila, saying the country would be safe in his hands. “I know there are other aspirants, but I believe in Raila and I am sure he will win and carry on with my legacy projects,’’ he said in Raila’s Nyanza backyard of Kisumu.  

The President told Kenyans not to gamble with their votes and to pick leaders of integrity, who mean well for Kenyans’ unity in diversity. Although Raila was not present during the Kisumu tour, the President seized the opportunity to re-assure Kenyans that he was his best bet.

 Met Nyanza leaders

Uhuru was speaking while commissioning the newly-constructed Shipyard and unveiling MV Uhuru II at Kisumu Port. The President, who met Nyanza leaders in Kisumu on Monday night, rallied voters for a higher turnout in the Tuesday polls.

“We want you to be armed with votes and make sure you turn up in large numbers on August 9 to vote for Raila,’’ he said.

He said Raila’s running-mate, Martha Karua, was a proven leader, adding that the duo would transform Kenya if they win.

On Monday night, sources said, Uhuru told local leaders to stop guessing and do all they can to mobilise voters to enable Raila win by a landslide.

The President was flanked by Cabinet secretaries Eugene Wamalwa (Defence), Ukur Yatani(Finance) and Betty Maina (Trade). Others included Kisumu and Kakamega governors Anyang Nyong’o and Wycliffe Oparanya respectively, and the Chief of Defence Forces,  Gen Robert Kibochi.

Uhuru told Kenyans to focus on the future and shun negative perceptions about the country and its leaders. He said Kenyans had a treasury of knowledge and skills which could be harnessed to grow the country in leap and bounds.

“But it’s unfortunate that some people don’t see the good side of Kenya. They only see the negative. That’s not good,’’ he said.

Uhuru expressed displeasure with the negative news Kenyans and foreigners were regularly treated to about the country which discouraged investment. “We are so skeptical about our country and its would-be leaders that, instead of hoping for the best, we only spread fear,’’ he said.

The President wondered why a section of leaders were not comfortable with others and, at times, were treating them with disdain. “My interest is to see a country that cherishes unity in diversity and where citizens believes in one another, not the hate and spite we see,’’ he said.

In order for Kenya to attract more Foreign Direct Investments,(FDI’s), Uhuru emphasised on the need for leaders to sanitize their language.  He said that with sheer hard, consistency and determination, nothing is impossible to achieve.

“Dreams are possible. But not when you’re asleep. Impossibility is only a factor in the mind; we can make it possible,’’ he said, adding that some Kenyans were not ready to pursue the path of peace, love and unity as espoused by the National Anthem. Also, they were not ready to believe in ‘missions that are pre-empted as impossible,’’ he said, while echoing ‘Inawezakana’.

The President commissioned MV Uhuru II, the first locally assembled ship, at the Kenya Shipyards Limited, (KSL), and offices at the Kisumu Port —  118 years since the port was established.

The project is the combined work of Kenya Navy engineers and consultants from the Royal Netherlands. “Desilting of Mbita Courseway will improve marine transport and open up the Blue Economy,’’ he said.

KSL is a State company under the Ministry of Defence with a mandate to lead and catalyze shipbuilding in eastern Africa, including repairs and refurbishment. 

Currently, Kenyan vessels that require repair are taken to private firms such as SECO Marine and Offshore Engineering in Mombasa, or outside the country, which is expensive. The MV Uhuru II will complement the services of MV Uhuru, (rehabilitated in December 2019). 

The 100-metre MV Uhuru II vessel can carry up to 22 wagons and an estimated capacity of 2 million litres of crude oil per trip. It will traverse East African routes. 

The KSL is seen as a major game-changer in Kenya’s maritime industry, coming at a time when the government is keen on harnessing opportunities in the Blue Economy. 

“The yard, which was rehabilitated by Kenya Defence Forces, is part of the Lake Transport Revival Plan as Kenya aims to reposition its military to be a catalyst for industrialisation,’’ said the President.

 Creating jobs

Operations of KSL have already started benefitting locals as more than 500 residents were engaged in menial work assembling the MV Uhuru II. Gen Kibochi said that once KSL is fully operational, at least 3,000 jobs will be created.

The new MV Uhuru II vessel was built in consultation with Damen Shipyards, a Dutch firm that has been supplying Kenya’s navy with marine steel. The President lauded the Dutch consultants and KSL MD, Brigadier Paul Otieno, for the good work done in a record one year.

Rebirth of MV Uhuru II began with refurbishment of the 56-year-old MV Uhuru, a ship owned by Kenya Railways, which has seen more than 80 million litres of petroleum products moved to Ugandan ports.

The vessel had stalled for over 15 years. Its revival has made Kenya Railways order for a new vessel from the shipyard.

On Monday evening, the President commissioned a new railway station and Export Processing Zone in Kisumu. 

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