Kenya: Military Prepares Grand Send-Off for Moi

Officers of the Kenya Defence Forces accompany former President Daniel arap Moi's body to Parliament buildings on February 8, 2020 for three days of public viewing.
9 February 2020

The government is not leaving anything to chance as it pulls out all the stops to ensure former President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi is given a send-off befitting his status as the longest serving Head of State.

Indications are it will be a funeral like no other.

It may only be matched by the one of founding President Jomo Kenyatta when he died 42 years ago.

It will be the second time such a grandiose funeral is being witnessed in Kenya.

By Friday evening, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent out at least 30 invitations to current and former heads of state to attend the funeral.

The ambassadors and heads of commissions in the country have also been invited.

Captains of industry, politicians and the heads of government institutions too have received invitation letters to the funeral that ordinary Kenyans will be free to attend.

Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai told the Sunday Nation that security arrangements had been put in place to ensure all would go well during the funeral.

"We have deployed enough personnel in Nairobi, Nakuru, Kabarak and all the roads between the three towns. Kenyans should come and pay their last respects to the former President knowing that we are watching and they safe," Mr Mutyambai said.

Though the details of Tuesday and Wednesday farewell ceremonies are guarded by the team chosen to plan and execute the events surrounding the burial of the former President, it is the Kenya Defence Forces that will play the leading role.

As a former commander-in-chief of the armed forces, President Moi automatically became a commissioned officer of the army.

He also occupied the highest possible rank.

Consequently, the funeral will have all the military pageantry, pomp, tradition and rituals.

As a Kalenjin elder and senior member of the African Inland Church (AIC), traditions from the Tugen sub-tribe where Moi hailed from and the Christian faith will also play a role in his funeral.

The government has said there will be an interdenominational service at Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi on Tuesday.

Moi's body, which is being guarded around the clock by the military as it lies in state at Parliament buildings, will be escorted to the stadium and Kabarak by military men and women of the rank of major and above.

Pall bearers will also be from the same ranks.

It is the military that will dig Mr Moi's grave in Kabarak.

The body will be lowered to its final resting place by the military as a trumpet is played.

The tradition of playing the trumpet -- also called the Last Post -- traces its origin from the British army in the 17the Century.

It later spread across militaries in the Commonwealth.

It is an act of final farewell to to mean that a soldier's duty is over and he or she can now rest in peace.

As a former commander-in-chief, Moi's casket, which will be draped in the national flag to symbolise his leadership role, will be accompanied by his military uniform, sword, boots and cap.

He will also be accorded a 19-gun salute.

"What most people confuse with a gun salute is a guard of honour firing volleys from rifles. This ritual comes from traditional ceasefires where each side would clear its dead," Warrant Officer 1 John Muthoka says in an article in the KDF magazine Mashujaa Wetu.

"The firing of the volleys showed that the dead had been cleared and are well cared for," Warrant Officer 1 John Muthoka says in the KDF magazine, Majeshi Yetu.

The 21-gun-salute is a long-standing military tradition whose aim was to honour the dead by showing that their weapons were no longer hostile.

It is a naval tradition where fleets traditionally discharged seven rounds of cannons to signify friendliness.

The consistence of the gun salutes is determined by the rank of the fallen soldier.

While a general gets a 17-gun salute, a head of state or a former president like Mr Moi gets a 19-gun-salute," Mr Muthoka explains.

However, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was accorded a 21-gun-salute fired by the Third Battery of 66 Artillery of the Kenya Army.

"This time, the honour to give the fallen retired commander-in-chief of the armed forces will fall on the Kenya Navy," KDF spokesman Paul Njuguna told the Sunday Nation.

The navy also happens to be the primary unit of the current Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe.

The 19-gun salute will be followed by a fly-past by formations of the Kenya Air Force.

After the fly-past, the Moi family will be presented with the presidential standard and national flag, followed by the singing of the National Anthem.

The presidential standard or presidential flag is used as a symbol of the head of state.

It is for the exclusive use of the President and is only raised where the Head of State is.

Mr Moi's presidential standard was a green flag with the coat of arms in the middle and a red cockerel symbolising his party Kanu.

A minuscule guard of honour, known as a quarter guard, will be mounted in the honour of the retired President.

It will be inspected by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

A quarter guard is a small detachment of soldiers usually used as a ceremonial guard.

Senior army officers are expected to perform an official military visit to the Moi's family to condole with them.

They will also officially transfer the medals from the army belonging to the former President to his kin.

In total, there will be three ceremonies to honour Moi.

The first will be a public service at the Nyayo National Stadium.

From Nairobi, the body will be taken to Kabarak in a military helicopter.

The second ceremony will be at Kabarak University grounds on the same Tuesday.

It will be open to the public too. The third service will be a private one at the Kabarak residence of the former President and will only be attended by family members.

Military chaplains will be part of the religious leaders issuing sermons at the three services.

The AIC will, however, take the leading role as it is the church that shaped the life of the former President.

According to former AIC Presiding Bishop Silas Misoi Yego, Moi was baptised in AIC, married in AIC and donated a lot to the church.

Some of the religious leaders in the military expected to play a part in the send-off ceremonies are Col Fr Benjamin Maswili, Col Iman Abdul Malik Rubeya and Col Rev Alfayo Lelei.

The military religious leaders will then hand over the running of the funeral service to the church.

Several clergy will be invited to lead sections of the service, including the prelude, call to worship, approach, invocation, scripture reading, sermon, intercessions, words of committal, resting of the body and benediction.

During the burial of his wife Lena in 2004, Mr Moi expressed the wish to be buried next to her.

As an elder of the Tugen sub-tribe of the Kalenjin, Moi is expected to be buried with his head facing pointing the east, where the sun rises.

It is this mix of Christianity, traditional and military cultures fuelled by powerful State machinery and public finances that will give the former President's funeral an unrivalled status.

It is estimated that 200,000 Kenyans will take part in the funeral. "How is a man who achieved more than is expected in a lifetime be celebrated?" asked President Uhuru Kenyatta while eulogising the former Head of State.

"What would be a befitting send-off or national honour for a man who built Kenya, in large part by the works of his hands? How else can a grateful nation celebrate the life of a man whose calm and steady hand reassured a young nation and her allies, during the peaceful transition into the second administration?"

Eight venues are being used for the funeral.

They are Kabarnet Gardens in Nairobi, Parliament Buildings, Nyayo National Stadium, Kabarak University and the Moi home in Kabarak.

The public will have a chance to follow the proceedings on screens mounted at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru County and Kabarnet and Sacho in Baringo where the former President hailed from.

Religious leaders will also be posted in these three locations to give sermons before the main services begin in Nairobi and Kabarak on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nyayo Stadium, whose renovation stalled in 2016 due to delayed payments to the contractor, will by Tuesday be ready for the funeral service.

The government had initially selected Kasarani but had a last-minute change of heart.

The Sunday Nation has been informed that President Kenyatta on Thursday called Sports Principal Secretary Joe Okudo and told him that he wanted the Nyayo stadium venue ready by Monday.

Officers from the National Youth Service and a number of contractors are working day and night to meet the President's deadline.

Apart from renovating the stadium, a lot of money is expected to be spent on providing accommodation, transport, allowances and food for the invited guests.

By last evening, word had been sent out for hiring extra SUVs.

A high-ranking Kanu official familiar with the funeral preparations but not allowed to speak for the family said arrangements had been made to slaughter goats and cows.

"We want to make Moi's funeral a celebration of life rather than a time for grieving," the Kanu official said.

"We have bought 1,000 goats in Baringo and 200 bulls since we expect in excess of 200,000 guests in the entire mourning period."

Details of how much will be spent on the funeral may not be known until the National Treasury presents estimates for a supplementary budget for the current financial year or adjusted estimates of national expenditure to Parliament.

The government, however, has a Sh5 billion contingency fund set aside every year for such unexpected events.

The funeral of former President Nelson Mandela in December 2013 cost South African taxpayers 200 million rands (Sh1.3 billion).

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