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With the touch of a button, President Moi yesterday set the Nation rolling off its new Sh750 million printing facility, marking the beginning of a precedent-shattering operation for the 37-year-old newspaper group.
The historic moment was witnessed by His Highness the Aga Khan who, in his personal capacity, is the principal shareholder of the Nation Group, and a large gathering of guests who included Vice-President George Saitoti, Cabinet Ministers, Government officials, the diplomatic corps and business executives.
Moments later, a special edition of the Nation hot off the press was delivered to guests during a luncheon hosted by the Group at the printing plant. Sporting a full colour picture taken that morning of the President and the Aga Khan during the tape-cutting to officially open the plant, the special edition was facilitated by new technology using a digital camera. The process from the time the picture was taken to the production of the first copy of the paper took under one hour."The Nation story is a proud story . . . Its inspiring past is one of its great resources as it grasps its exciting future", the Aga Khan said in his speech. The colourful ceremony, on the plant's 10-acre plot along the Nairobi Mombasa Road on the edge of the city limits, marked the beginning of a new era for the Nation. The press, made by Koenig Bauer, Albert AG of Germany, is the most advanced newspaper printing facility in Africa, incorporating state-of-the-art facilities. "The occasion marks the epitome of German efficiency", remarked the German Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Michael Gerdts, at the ceremony. "It also marks the significance of investment in Kenya and the cordial relations between German and Kenya".
The occasion invoked nostalgic memories of the humble beginnings of Nation in 1960 when it had to rely on hot metal printing processes. Reflecting on this, the Aga Khan said: "For the Nation Group, the path from the past is now nearly 40 years old. It began at the time when colonial rule was ending in East Africa. And it began with our conviction that political independence here would never be complete unless it was accompanied by journalistic independence". These memories were reinforced by the attendance by some of newspapers' former executives _ Mr Chris Malavu, a director of administration in the early 70s, Mr A.A.A. Ekirapa, the immediate former Executive Chairman of Nation Printers and Publishers, Mr George Mbugguss, a former Group Managing Editor, and ex-directors Dr Eddah Gachukia, Joe Wanjui and James Kangwana.
The ceremony took place under favourable weather, a cloud-covered sky, a cool breeze with occasional sunshine. President Moi and his entourage arrived at the site, 19 kilometres from the city centre, at 11.43 am. He was received by the Aga Khan, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mr Johnstone Makau, and the Chairman of the Nation Group, Dr B.M. Gecaga. After the national anthem and a brief introduction to Board members of the Nation Group, the Head of State unveiled the commemorative plaque and cut the tape. He was then taken on a tour of the plant before finally pressing the the button to print the special issue. Prayers were led by by Archbishop Urbanus Kioko of the Machakos Catholic archdiocese and Mr Azim Virjee, the Mukhi of the Parklands Jamal Khana. The KIMC Athi River Primary school and the Star Sheikh Secondary school entertained guests with songs, poems and recitations. The function was attended by more than 500 of the cream of commerce and industry, politics and media. They were ushered into the grounds by a team from the Nation's Advertising Department, clad in shiny red dresses.
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