Kenyans unite in love and respect for ex-president

Monday, February 10th, 2020 00:00 | By
A man decorates Nyayo Stadium podium yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s funeral service for former President Daniel Moi. BELOW: President Uhuru Kenyatta at the stadium, yesterday Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

Anthony Mwangi and Hillary Mageka

President Uhuru Kenyatta has taken a personal interest in the final preparations of the State funeral for his political mentor, former President Daniel arap Moi.

On Sunday, Uhuru drove himself to inspect the venue that will host the memorial service on Tuesday, February 11.

Uhuru drove a Mercedes G Wagon to the venue followed closely by his security detail in four vehicles. He spent about 20 minutes inspecting the venue before driving off at low speed.

The President’s inspection visit, which seemed unexpected, happened as thousands of Kenyans flocked to Parliament Buildings to view the body of the departed President which has been lying-in-state since Saturday.

Former President Mwai Kibaki led generations of Kenyans in paying their last respects to a man who had a common touch with citizens during his long political career.

From his tribute speech from State House on Saturday, President Uhuru was apparent that to him, Moi was more than a former President.

Sacrifice and service

Moi was not only Uhuru’s political mentor but also a father figure and role model.

It would be remembered that Moi handpicked Uhuru to succeed him in 2002, but the move faced opposition by politicians led by Kibaki who defeated Uhuru in the presidential election. 

“We commence the final journey of a great son of Kenya, a cherished brother, loving father, father of nation, champion of Pan Africanism and Second President of Kenya, he taught for life and was a mentor to many, including myself, his works and legacy will remain immortal,” he said.

Upon his return from a visit to the US on Friday, Uhuru embarked on a series of meetings with his Cabinet and the funeral organising committee.

After his Saturday address, accompanied by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, he led the Cabinet, military chiefs, Moi’s family, MPs and diplomats in paying their last respects to the departed President Moi.

In his solemn address at the State House, Uhuru said: “The question we all should ask ourselves is: How does one mourn an iconic leader?

A leader who spent almost his life serving our nation, whose story of heroism, sacrifice and service started in the pre-independence era.

How is a man who achieved so much more than expected in a lifetime-be celebrated?”

He described Moi as an iconic leader who helped build Kenya out of the shackles of colonial rule and into the freedom and self-determination of a modern independent state.

The former President’s imposing frame struck an image of power and authority as it lay in Parliament.

The former President was an imposing leader who dominated Kenya’s political landscape for more than two decades.  

Uhuru is set to host more than 10 Heads of State at Nyayo Stadium, which is coincidentally named after the former President for a memorial service.

He will then travel to Moi’s Kabarak home for the final send-off on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua indicated that the number of foreign leaders set to attend Moi funeral could rise.

For the past two days, Kenyans have been glued to their TV screens across the country to witness the historic state funeral of a former Head of State last witnessed in 1978 following the death of founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

Heavy responsibility

After Kenyatta’s death, Moi would remain close to his family.

It is Moi who propelled Uhuru to national politics at a young age when he asked him to vie for the Gatundu South parliamentary seat.

And even after he lost, Moi pushed for his nomination to Parliament after prevailing on Kanu politician Mark Too, to resign and pave way for him.

 “Mzee Moi set the stage for a national rebirth through the introduction of multi-partyism,” Uhuru said on Saturday.

“He was a visionary leader. When his party lost in 2002 election, he left office with a gracious last word of advice to those who took the heavy responsibility.

The sun has set on a truly extraordinary man, a masterful yet thoughtful leader, and a suave yet firm diplomat.

One who served the nation with dignity and honour,” President Kenyatta said, before heading to Parliament. 

Moi, he said, was a Pan-Africanist who believed deeply “that we had answers for the troubled continent”.

“Our nation is not alone in mourning the passing of the former President, the whole of Africa is mourning, we continue to receive messages of sympathy and admiration for the life and service of Moi from around the world,” he said.

On Sunday, people from all walks of life thronged Parliament Buildings to view the body of a man who dominated every aspect of the Kenyan society during his 24 years in power.

From retired politicians who interacted with him during the Kanu rule to retired civil servants and the youth who have heard or read stories about Moi, all seemed determined to have a glimpse of the body of a man whose word was law.

Majority of middle-aged Kenyans narrated with nostalgia the primary school milk programme that is one of the defining aspects of Moi’s presidency.

 In the meantime, police have warned of disruption of traffic on several roads up until the funeral day on Wednesday.

 Inspector General Hilary Mutyambai said that Aeroderome Road would be closed from 6am tomorrow when Moi’s body is expected to be taken to the stadium for prayers. 

Uhuru Highway will also be closed at Likoni, Bunyala, Valley Road and University Way roundabout.

Mutyambai said traffic will also be disrupted on the Nairobi-Malaba highway between Nairobi and Eldoret.

The Nairobi-Eldoret highway will be closed to heavy commercial trucks and trailers from Tuesday at 12 pm to 7 pm on Wednesday. 

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