Pomp and colour marked this year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mombasa as people from all walks of life thronged the newly refurbished Mama Ngina Drive Water Front Park.
Following the Sh.460 million facelift, the park that sits on a 26-acre beach plot facing the Likoni Crossing channel is expected to be an iconic tourist attraction site in Mombasa.
The seafront park boasts of two iconic gateways, a Swahili cultural centre, amphitheater, modern kiosks, restaurants and parking areas among other modern facilities.
Residents from the coastal city turned up in large numbers as spectacular military parades, songs from school children, traditional dances and speeches took centre stage during the Sunday celebrations.
Taita, Mijikenda and Pokomo traditional dancers entertained the guests during the Mashujaa Day fete at the venue in which big screens were mounted at strategic spots to allow the huge crowd to follow the proceeds smoothly.
Mombasa was playing host to a national day celebration for the first time ever as the Jubilee government adopted a policy of hosting national events in different counties moving away from past tradition of marking such days in the capital Nairobi.
The coastal city joined other counties that have hosted the national celebrations such as Nakuru, Machakos, Nyeri, Meru, Kakamega and Narok.
All the stands were filled to capacity by enthusiastic residents some dressed in the colours of the national flag as others waved hand held miniature flags as almost every space at the newly unveiled waterfront park had been occupied.
Gates to the venue were opened as early as 4am to allow the residents to attend the country’s 10th Mashujaa Day celebrations presided over by President, Uhuru Kenyatta in which 200 Kenyans were feted as heroes and heroines among them the world’s greatest marathoner, Eliud Kipchoge.
Security was tight at the scenic new look waterfront overlooking the Indian Ocean as all the attendants underwent through frisking as a combined team of police and military conducted strict body checks to avert any unfortunate incident.
The celebrations officially kicked off around 11:30 am upon the President’s arrival at Mama Ngina Waterfront grounds to wild cheers from the crowd.
For the first time the traditional military match involved naval vessels and marine maneuvers from the Kenya Navy through the Likoni Channel which electrified the crowd, besides the traditional infantry and air force displays.
The event was also attended by Deputy President William Ruto, Opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.
Also in attendance were governors Hassan, Joho (Mombasa), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Salim Mvurya (Kwale) and Tana River’s Dadho Godhana and a host of MPs among other leaders.
President Kenyatta said it was a great pleasure for him to lead the nation in celebrating the 10th Mashujaa Day from Kenya’s oldest town and her second city.
The head of state said the rotational policy of observing national celebration outside Nairobi allows Kenyans to appreciate the rich diversity of the country and in particular the positive contributions being made under the devolved structure of governance.
“In addition the new tradition also gives the hosting county the rare opportunity to showcase itself on the national stage,” he said.
Raila who is the African Union (AU) Special Representative for Infrastructure rooted for a full East African integration as a formidable trading block and political federation.
The AU envoy said the penultimate goal of the East African Common Market was the establishment of a political federation once consultations with residents of member states of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda have been exhausted.
By Hussein Abdullahi