State House was recently forced to cancel two high-profile meetings due to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), Kahawa Tungu has learnt.
Reports indicate that in the first meeting, President Uhuru Kenyatta had been scheduled to travel to Rome Italy from March 10 to 14, where he was expected to meet Pope Francis.
In the second meeting, the President was expected to hold a border security cooperation meeting at State House Mombasa where he was to host Somalia President Mohamed Farmaajo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Top on the agenda was the deteriorating relations between Nairobi and Mogadishu.
Preparations for Rome started as early as March 2 when an advance team left the country.
The second team was expected to leave the country on March 6 ahead of the President’s flight on March 10.
But the team did not leave the country after the trip was cancelled following the Italy lockdown directive to contain the fast-spreading virus.
A report by Nation indicates that prior to the cancellation, the Foreign Affairs Ministry was in the final stages of seeking clearance for the President’s trip from the Italian Embassy in Nairobi.
The trip would have been the first trip to the Vatican for the President.
Pope Francis had on February 27 retreated from public engagements in what Vatican termed “slight indisposition”. He had been tested for coronavirus after he was seeing coughing and sneeing a day after hugging pilgrims at a mass.
Italy is one of the countries that has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases outside the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak. As of March 14, Italy had 17,660 confirmed cases and 1,268 deaths.
The cancelled trip reports come at a time the government and the Kenya Airways suspended flights between Nairobi and Italy over the outbreak of COVID-19.
Last week on Thursday, the President suspended all non-essential international travel by government officials due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mombasa Diplomatic meeting
The meeting between President Kenyatta, his Somalia counterpart and Ethiopia Prime Minister was aimed at mending broken ties.
According to Nation, the meeting was cancelled on Friday.
The cancellation notifications sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the two countries indicated the tripartite meeting was being cancelled “due to unavoidable intervening circumstances”.
“It will not be possible for the Kenya-Somalia-Ethiopia Tripartite Summit to take place as earlier scheduled on March 16, 2020,” said the Foreign ministry.
However, Kahawa Tungu understands that COVID-19 that is fast spreading across the world was the main reason why the meeting was cancelled.
The meeting had been planned days after the President dispatched a high-powered security team led by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to Somalia to meet the Somalia president over the border standoff that led to “unwarranted” attacks in Mandera following the fierce clashes between Somalia troops and Jubaland forces in Bulla Hawa.
Kenya reported the first case of COVID-19 on Friday.
The patient is a woman who travelled from the U.S. to Nairobi through London.
The government has already tracked and isolated 22 people the woman had contact with after jetting into the country on March 5.