Uhuru makes US trip after much speculation
President Uhuru Kenyatta left for the US on Thursday evening, a day later than initially planned, amid confusion on whether he would travel at all.
He is scheduled to attend the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, among other state duties, including meeting the Pope and US President Barack Obama.
Mr Kenyatta had been expected to leave on Wednesday night but did not, fuelling widespread speculation that he had called off the trip to resolve the stalemate of the ongoing teachers’ strike.
State House confirmed Mr Kenyatta’s departure, hours after the Kenyan embassy in Washington DC announced that the President had cancelled one of his engagements “due to unavoidable circumstances”.
“President Kenyatta will attend a summit where the UN is expected to adopt the new post-2015 development agenda, enshrined in what are known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” a statement from State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said.
On Wednesday, the Opposition had called a rally at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, to express solidarity with the striking teachers, raise money for their welfare and demand that the government pays them the 50-60 per cent salary increment ordered by the Court of Appeal.
Separately, Senator Boni Khalwale had on the same day asked the President to account for his foreign trips, following claims that 40 MPs were to accompany him to the US.
While addressing the Uhuru Park crowd, Senator Johnson Muthama had also accused the President of travelling at leisure to the US despite the crisis in the education sector, which has led to the closure of all public schools.
Speculation that Mr Kenyatta had cancelled the trip emerged on Wednesday when the Kenyan embassy in Washington DC posted a statement on its website cancelling an event where the President was to address Kenyans living in the US.
“We sincerely regret to inform you that the diaspora reception scheduled for 26th September 2015 is hereby cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances. Any inconvenience is greatly regretted,” the statement said.
It was not until 5.50pm on Thursday evening that State House sent out the statement confirming that the President had left the country.
However, the statement made no reference to the scheduled meeting with Pope Francis and Kenyans living in the US.
It was the second time that Mr Kenyatta’s trip to America was marred by confusion.
In April, his plane turned back mid-air in unclear circumstances shortly after he had left the country for a trip to the US, where he was to address a business conference. The plane flew back while in the Ethiopian airspace.
A source at the Foreign Affairs told the Daily Nation that Foreign Affairs Secretary Amina Mohammed would lead the Kenyan delegation to the UN General Assembly, despite reports that the President was scheduled to meet Mr Obama and Pope Francis on the sidelines of the meeting.
Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Cabinet Secretary Mohammed alongside Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and Devolution CS Anne Waiguru, as well as First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, were already in the US to attend the UN General Assembly.