KISUMU, Kenya, Jun 1 – The Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium in Kisumu, this year’s venue for the Madaraka Day celebrations, is full to capacity despite an initial limit of 3,000 guests to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The sports complex with a projected capacity of 30,000 filled up with residents from Kisumu and the larger Nyanza region on Tuesday ahead of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s arrival.
Earlier on, a section of residents who had been turned away for lacking invitation cards staged a protest against the move by the police.
Locals, those with invited cards started lining up as early as 5am to gain entry.
Most residents were disappointed after they were denied entry due to lack of cards.
Fidel Omondi, a resident narrated how he woke up early enough to gain entry but was denied.
“We were happy that Madaraka Day Celebrations for the first time is coming to Kisumu, now we have been locked out,” he told reporters outside the stadium gate.
They questioned the rationale used in distributing the cards.
The health ministry heightened vigilance in the lakeside city after several cases of the Indian COVID-19 variant were confirmed.
It was not immediately clear how many people had made their way into the sports arena even as security officers maintained that physical distancing regulations would be adhered to.
President Kenyatta was scheduled to arrive at the venue at 10.55am taking a 10-minute drive from the Kisumu State Lodge.
Deputy President William Ruto was expected at the venue at 10.45am shortly after the guard of honour matches into position in readiness for President Kenyatta’s arrival.
Chief Justice Martha Koome, Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly, Ken Lusaka (Senate) and Cabinet Secretaries were expected to have arrived at the venue at by 10.40am.
Chief of Defence Forces Robert Kibochi was expected to arrive at 10.30 shortly after the service commanders.
Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye who arrived in the country on Monday will be the Chief Guest at the event.
Other leaders expected at the event include Raila Odinga, former Prime Minister and President Kenyatta’s newly found political ally, as well as former Vice Presidents Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi.
Security was beefed up in and outside the stadium with quite a number of police officers lining up along the streets of Kisumu to ensure an uninterrupted movement of the State motorcade from the State Lodge in Kisumu.