President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned five new hospitals in Nairobi County on Tuesday evening, in what is increasingly becoming his nocturnal tour of duty.
From Tassia-Kwa Ndege hospital and Our Lady of Nazareth-Mukuru Kwa Njenga hospital, the president commissioned the health facilities as part of the 24 promised under the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) flag-ship projects.
He also opened Gichagi-Kangemi hospital, among the five constructed by NMS in the informal settlements. They are expected to operate for 24 hours. Although the Government functions went past 10pm curfew, the president mingled freely with healthcare workers and patients at the facilities, culminating in a radio interview at Rueben FM in Mukuru kwa Rueben.
His tour is also viewed as a move to asses security situation in the slums, especially at night. The president has been slowly rewriting the rules, by going into the city under the cover of darkness to check on development projects.
What was previously assumed an exception – spotting the Head of State driving around town or inspecting projects at night, is becoming a norm. Once in a while, Uhuru will attempt to mingle with the crowd.
On Tuesday night, Uhuru stepped out again, dressed in a camouflage jacket and blue trousers, he hardly stood out in the crowd and to a passive looker, he could even have been indistinguishable from his Aide de Camp.
He made stops in Kangemi, Kawangware, Mukuru kwa Rueben, Tassia and Mukuru kwa Njenga to commission hospitals built by the NMS as part of a broad plan to decongest Kenyatta National Hospital, Mama Lucy, Pumwani and Mbagathi hospitals.
To explain the new custom, Uhuru said he chose to commission the new hospitals at night when the curfew was in place and most of the city, indoors to adhere to Covid-19 containment protocols.
“We went at night because we wanted to ensure that we were observing Covid-19 protocols. As you have seen for yourselves, it would have been impossible to go and do what we did today, during the day because of the number of people who would have been out there. It would have been difficult for us to do the job and at the same time observe Covid-19 protocols,” the president explained.
Uhuru also said by visiting the hospitals at night, he could assess how busy they were and how effective they would be in serving patients, who would ordinarily be taken to KNH or Mama Lucy. Besides opening the new health facilities, the president said the night tour was aimed at inspecting ongoing road construction projects within the informal settlements, saying so far a total of 400km had been completed and another 450km underway.
“The other thing we wanted to see was the roads. We have been able to travel in those informal settlements without challenges. These are roads we have been constructing over the past one year,” he said.
Yet this is not the first time Uhuru was in a hospital in the slum at night. NMS Director General Mohamed Badi recently regaled the public with an account of his and President Kenyatta’s visit to one of the dispensaries. Badi revealed how Uhuru sneaked into a hospital in Mukuru to see the goings-on. But how does a person as recognisable as the president sneak into a hospital?
The NMS boss said Uhuru disguised himself in a hooded jacket and ditched his official vehicles. The ruse worked.
“We sneaked into the hospital and no one knew it was him,” Badi said.
He added: “When we got there a nurse told a pregnant mother that she had complications and asked her to go to Kenyatta. The car that took her to the hospital came from the president.”
This incident happened when the country was in lock-down due to Covid-19 and served as the basis for President Kenyatta ordering constriction of 24 hospitals. Coronavirus restrictions like the dusk to dawn curfew have presented Uhuru with a chance to walk around the city, something that would be almost impossible under normal circumstances.
Under the cover of darkness President Kenyatta has been free to check on the progress of ongoing projects undertaken by NMS. Last year June, Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga inspected the construction of pedestrian walkways on Kenyatta avenue.