Guests and passengers board SGR train from Mombasa to Nairobi before it was flag off by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday. (Photo: Boniface Okendo/Standard)
On Wednesday morning, Speaker Justin Muturi packed his bags, wore his best suit, and had a light breakfast. He was in a hurry. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were going to Mombasa ready to launch the Standard Gauge Railway. He didn’t want to miss.
He left his Nairobi house, jumped into his limousine, and with the siren blaring in the lead car, and lights on in the chase car, his three-car motorcade weaved through the morning traffic as he made his way to his office at Parliament Buildings. He was dropping by to sign some papers, hold a few short meetings and go to Mombasa. His diary had been cleared for the rest of the day.
Sources in multiple security agencies told the Sunday Standard that the moment they heard the Speaker was in his office, they sent officials to tell him he would not be allowed to leave the hallowed precincts of Parliament.
“They told him there was no way he was going to ride that train. They also told him the only time he will leave his office was when his motorcade will be headed to Syokimau. He stayed at Syokimau for several hours waiting to welcome the President and his deputy aboard the train from Mombasa,” said the source.
The Speaker was upset. But he was reminded that according to the Constitution, he was the third in the succession line after the Deputy President.
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With Uhuru and Ruto going to be in the same train on a new railway and on a treacherous route running through the wild, without enough police manpower to secure it, senior security chiefs wanted to have Muturi in their hands, and in one of the safest places in Nairobi: Parliament Buildings.
The worst nightmare in security circles was how to secure the President and his deputy riding in the same train hurtling down at 120km per hour. The risks were numerous but unspoken. That explains why security officers decided to lock Muturi down, just in case of anything.
When the President is moving by road, you see police officers lining up on the road. His car is usually surrounded by other cars. It is armored and has other security features that are hitherto classified. This time, he was getting into an unarmored train, with no extra security features.
With Muturi under lockdown, the authorities pondered how to treat the Deputy President. They know this is a political season, and the DP is arguably the ruling party’s biggest campaign mobiliser. If he missed on that train when it hit stopovers in Mariakani, Voi, Emali, Mtito Andei, the optics would be horrendous.
They deployed helicopters to ride aloft – some directly above the train, others some miles ahead, and others behind and on the sides of the train. One of these choppers carried the DP, and dropped him at every station, at around the same time the train arrived. They would address the public waiting at various stations, inspect the terminus, then President would get back into the train while his deputy would be airlifted to the next station.
It was only after the train arrived at Athi River that Uhuru and Ruto rode together in the same wagon for a fairly short distance. When the train arrived in Nairobi, the President, his wife Margaret and Ruto walked out in that order.
As the train approached the city, Muturi had been whisked away from the National Assembly hours before in an enhanced security bubble and driven to Syokimau.