Security has been tightened on Lamu Island as the 17th edition of the annual Lamu Cultural Festival kicked off Thursday.
Police officers from various units including the General Service Unit (GSU), Administration Police (AP) and regular police could be seen patrolling the streets of Lamu Old Town as locals and visitors continued flocking the Island to mark the four-day festival which is expected to end on Sunday.
The Lamu Cultural Festival is an annual event normally celebrated in Old Town, a historical city which was listed as a Unesco world heritage site in 2001.
The festival seeks to showcase the rich culture and heritage of Lamu's Swahili people.
Addressing journalists in his office on Thursday, Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said there is adequate security in the entire county and that there is no need to worry for those attending the festival.
He said police officers are guarding all public places where locals and tourists are congregating for the festival.
Police officers manning roadblocks into the county have also been increased to ensure the festival proceeds undisrupted, he added.
"We have enough security here on the Island and all over the county and all visitors and Lamu people attending the cultural festival should rest assured that their security is guaranteed. We have also added more officers on our roads, and at sea to ensure we don't have any reason to worry," said Mr Kitiyo.
Mr Kitiyo also assured residents of 24-hour security in hotels and bars where guests have already booked in for the festival.
He said they are ready to deal with anything or person who might try to disrupt the peace and calm being experienced in the county.
The county commissioner appealed to locals to cooperate with security agencies in ensuring peace prevails throughout the festival and be ready to report any suspicious persons or activities which they feel might jeopardize safety in the county.
"We have mobilised all resources in ensuring peace prevails during and even after the festival. The citizens also still have a duty to play in ensuring our personal security and that of the entire county is at [its best]. We must keep vigilant and let the police know immediately you spot someone or a suspicious activity so that we can have it checked out as we celebrate," said Mr Kitiyo.
On her side, Lamu Woman Representative Ruweida Obbo said this year's cultural festival is aimed at healing the scars that Kenyans have gone through due to the political situation that has been witnessed for the past three months.
She called on political leaders in the region to avoid politicising the festival and instead come together and preach peace and cohesion during the event.
Mrs Ruweida said Lamu is currently enjoying peace and thanked the national government for its dedicated efforts in fighting Al-Shabaab militants in Boni Forest.
"People should stop viewing Lamu as insecure. This is a very peaceful place. Insecurity has affected only certain areas far from Lamu Island and the other adjacent island. People should therefore differentiate that instead of generalising the matter. We call on tourists, both local and international, to visit this Lamu. We hope the cultural festival will also boost the tourism sector in our county," said Mrs Obbo.
This year's cultural festival has seen a huge influx of traders from outside the Island such as Mpeketoni, Faza, Witu, Kizingitini and other places flocking Old Town as they prepare to reap from the proceeds brought by the festival.
Over 30,000 visitors, both local and foreign, are expected in the county to witness an array of culture celebrations by Lamu people.
Lamu Old Town boasts of a rich reservoir of cultures that depict the lives of Africans, Arabs and Indians who occupied the region in past decades and also showcases the types of trades they engaged in.
Apart from culture, the event will also witness various competitions including swimming, the famous donkey race, traditional dances, dhow races, henna painting and cultural displays of the Swahili people well known for skills such as wood carving.