Military put their best foot forward to honour Kibaki
Members of the Kenya Defence Forces have put their best foot forward to accord a grand send-off to their third Commander-in-Chief, Mwai Kibaki.
Since his death on Friday, the military have taken a central role in the funeral ceremonies, from securing the Lee Funeral Home where the former President’s body is being preserved, to the Parliament Buildings where he is lying in state.
It is only the third time in the country’s history that the Kenya Defence Forces is according full military and civilian honours to a national leader after Kibaki’s two predecessors, founding president Jomo Kenyatta in 1978 and Daniel arap Moi in February 2020.
Yesterday, the gun carriage carrying the body of the late president left the Lee Funeral Home at 6.20am, arriving at Parliament Buildings at 6.50am where it was placed on the foyer just outside the main entrance to the debating chamber, to lie in state as thousands of Kenyans filed past to pay their respects to the man who governed the country from 2002 to 2013.
Today will be the third day the body of the former Head of State will be lying in state, in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive that he be accorded a State funeral.
Immediately the announcement was made, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) took over the coordination, planning, security and the ceremonial arrangements of the funeral.
The State funeral begins with the body lying in state, where it is placed in a State building usually without a coffin to allow the public to view it and pay their last respects.
If the ceremony is conducted elsewhere, it is termed lying in repose.
As a State function, the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, was the first person to view the body on Monday morning.
The three-day event ends today, with Kibaki’s body taken to Parliament daily in a gun carriage from the Artillery Brigade with his white Presidential Standard and the Kenyan flag. The coffin is draped in the Kenyan flag.
At the Parliament’s gate is the military guard of honour to give full honours as the casket enters Parliament Buildings.
The guard of honour leaves and then returns in the evening when the body is being taken back to the morgue.
Next to where the body lies is a cabinet containing some items said to have been among his most prized possessions including a golf stick, a walking stick, a fountain pen, books he loved to read and a traditional Kikuyu rungu.
Another set of military officers are also stationed at the entrance of Parliament buildings to salute by conducting a present arms salute -- a position of salute in which the rifle is held in both hands vertically in front of the body, with the muzzle upward and the trigger side forward.
The pallbearers comprise senior military officers of the rank of a Colonel drawn from all KDF formations -- the Kenya Army, the Kenya Navy and the Kenya Air Force -- and led by Brigadier Jeff Nyaga who is a rank above them.
On Monday, after the President, accompanied by Kibaki’s family members and the Chief of Defence Forces, viewed the body, the next were KDF’s Service Commanders, heads of other State security organs, Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate, Majority and Minority Leaders of the National Assembly and Senate, the Chief Justice, her deputy and the Registrar of the Judiciary in that order.
Kibaki’s is the sixth State funeral since independence.
Others who have been accorded the honours are first President Kenyatta, former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, former First Lady Lucy Kibaki and second President Moi.
The first was for the founding President on August 31, 1978, followed by former VP Wamalwa on September 6, 2003, and Nobel Prize Laureate Wangari Mathai on October 7, 2011.
State funerals observe strict rules of protocol and also include pomp and ceremony as well as religious activities. For a president, it is done with military tradition since he is also the, or a former, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The tradition, bestowed as a final tribute, began in 1852 with the death of Kentucky Senator Henry Clay in the US capital, followed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
Kenyatta’s body lay in state for ten days and national mourning lasted a month. During that time, his body was guarded by 16 officers. He was buried at Parliament grounds.
On Friday, the military is expected to conduct a full military ceremony for Kibaki.
The formal ceremony, characterised by military etiquette, will begin at the Lee Funeral Home with the conveyance of the body under escort in a gun carriage to the venue of the service -- the Nyayo National Stadium.