Explosions mar Kenya’s Jamhuri Day celebrations

From Collins Wanzala in Nairobi

A Kenya military parade matches past dignitaries during Jamhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi. (Photo by Collins Wanzala)

An explosion at Wajir Stadium, North Eastern Province, left four people injured as Kenyans thronged to the stadium Sunday to celebrate Jamhuri Day. According to police officers on the ground, government vehicles were leaving the venue when a device exploded. The vehicles were in the stadium as part of a parade in the celebrations. Jamhuri Day is a national holiday in Kenya, celebrated on the 12th of December. Jamhuri is the Swahili word for ‘republic’. The holiday is officially the day Kenya was established as a republic on December 12, 1964. It is also celebrated in conjunction with the country’s Independence Day which happened a year earlier on the same date. Therefore, Jamhuri Day is a double event and is generally regarded as Kenya’s most important holiday, marked by numerous cultural festivities which celebrate the country’s cultural heritage.

Since Kenya sent troops to Somalia to fight Al -Shabaab militia in October, she has been hit by   attacks mainly aimed at the security personnel. Last week, an Administration Police Officer was killed and a military officer injured in three separate explosions suspected to have been carried out by Al-Shabaab in Mandera and Wajir Districts of the same North Eastern Province which borders Somalia. In the first incident, a Police officer lost his life   as he kept vigil at the Mandera border point while in the second attack which hit Wajir; a senior military officer was injured when an explosion ripped through a vehicle he was traveling in. The attack was blamed on Al-Shabaab by residents and by senior police officers. Before that, two police officers were killed in an explosion within the Ifo camp in the world biggest refugee camp of Dadaab in Garissa District which also falls in North Eastern Province.

Addressing the nation from Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said that the Kenyan Defence Forces would work closely with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Inter Governmental Authority on Drought (IGAD), the African Union (AU) and the united Nations (UN) in order to find a long-term solution and ensure the stability of Somalia. “We are marking this year’s Jamhuri Day, faced with security threats emanating from insurgents operating from Somalia. The insurgents have not only posed a major threat to our peace and security but have also negatively affected our economy,” he said.

Mr Kibaki added: “For 20 years the people of Somalia have been subjected to a senseless civil war. A generation of children has never seen the inside of a classroom, while another generation has been born and raised inside refugee camps.” He said Kenya stands ready to walk this journey with the people and Government of Somalia that will see the dawn of a bright day of hope for them. He urged the striking doctors who have been holding a national strike for the past one week to resume work and directed Public Service minister Mr Dalmas Otieno and all those involved to conclude the negotiations. “I am concerned that doctors have been on strike over the last one week. We need doctors in the hospitals to attend to the many Kenyans who are in need of medical attention on daily basis,” Kibaki said. The doctors are demanding for a 300 per cent salary increase, the upgrade of hospital facilities and improvement of working conditions.

On the economic challenges facing Kenya, Kibaki said the current rains should help boost food output and reserves in the medium term. He added that his government had taken steps  to ensure that people don`t suffer no more from the high prices of  purchasing goods and getting service after the Kenyan shilling  appreciated in value over the last few weeks against the dollar. “I am optimistic that a stronger shilling, increased food production and the expected reduction in fuel and electricity prices, will lower our overall inflation rate and reduce the cost of living,” he said.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga who spoke at the same venue asked for good pay for workers in Kenya as life has become very difficult. He also praised the Kenyan forces that are currently fighting the Al-Shabaab insurgents in Somalia. Kenya’s year-on-year inflation rate rose for the 13th month in a row in November to hit 19.72 percent, driven by higher food and energy costs. The chief guest was South Sudan Vice-President Dr Riek Machar who praised the Kenyan people for helping his country attain self-rule.

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