Mixed emotions as Kenya’s second President laid to rest in Kabarak
Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah
It was a mixture of sombre and celebration mood as Kenyans from all walks of life converged at Kabarak University in Nakuru yesterday to bid retired President Daniel arap Moi farewell.
Ordinary villagers, prominent personalities, military generals, diplomats and other dignitaries gathered at the university grounds to pay their last respects to the former president.
A man who straddled the country’s political landscape like a colossus for over 40 years, guiding the country through some of the most turbulent moments such as the 1982 failed coup and the push for political pluralism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was finally laid to rest at around 4.30pm.
Moi’s body was ferried to his Kabarak home grounds, the grave site, where the National anthem was sung and the fallen statesman accorded a 19-gun salute.
Mourners started trooping into Kabarak University as early as 3am, some on foot and on bicycles while others arrived in SUVs and choppers with one intention—to witness history unfolding — through a burial of its kind.
Mourners were offered bread and soda in plenty from 4am. Many were ferried from various parts of the country by buses provided by the government.
An estimated 30,000 people attended the ceremony which was conducted by the church and the military, which accorded him full honours and burial rites. Almost all the 349 MPs were in attendance while governors and senators were also well represented.
Having left Wilson Airport at around 7.30am, the plane carrying the remains of the former President arrived at his home one hour later.
The function culminated in Moi’s family presenting the baton of leadership to Gideon, who had been anointed by his father in 2002.
“By age I am the leader of the family but when it comes to politics it is him (Gideon) and that is what we have decided as a family,” said Raymond.
Speakers, including Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli, asked Gideon to take up the mantle and fulfill his father’s promise.
“Kutoka hapa tutatembea pamoja… ukilala tutakuamsha… (We will walk with you and if you slowdown, we will wake you up),” said Atwoli, who wore a cap with the Kanu symbol of a cock emblazoned on it, and said he is a Kanu life member.
The event was organised with military precision and after being taken to his home for the final time, the military carriage bearing Moi’s body arrived at the grounds at 9.55 am while President Kenyatta, who was received by Deputy President William Ruto and other dignitaries arrived some minutes later.
Former Head of Public Service Dr Sally Kosgei, who worked closely with Moi for more than 20 years, said the retired head of State had managed to bring all Kenyans, both in life and death, together considering the large number of mourners who graced his burial.
Leaders from across the political divide sat side by side as they showered the former President, who died at 95, with praise describing him as a patriot and a man who had the interests of the country at heart.
The funeral ceremony also saw Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga factions of Jubilee putting their differences aside as they sat together.
However, Tiaty MP William Kamket, a fierce critic of DP Ruto, said Gideon Moi was ready to step into his father’s shoes.
Lose father figure
“A big tree that provided a shade for many people has fallen but we’re comforted that its seed has grown big… Kanu is firm and strong,” Kamket, a staunch supporter of Senator Moi, said.
The Kanu caps — offered for free — painted the grounds red with former Bomet MP Nick Salat, who is also the party’s secretary general, asking the mourners to wave Kanu’s one-finger salute in remembrance of Mzee Moi.
Traders also made brisk business selling Moi’s pictures, lapels and calendars with his portrait.
Outlining the role Moi played in shaping his political career, President Uhuru said he had lost a father figure, adding that Moi’s death was “personal” to him.
He described instances in which Mzee Moi called to counsel him over various life issues and it reached a point he feared picking his calls to avoid rubbing him the wrong way.
“A man I considered my father, teacher and mentor… May almighty God give this giant of Africa peace until we meet again,” said Uhuru.
The ceremony also brought together powerful leaders of yesteryears and the new ones. Leaders such as Atwoli, Dr Kosgei and former National Assembly Speaker Francis ole Kaparo described how they first met Moi.
Dr Kosgei, who served in various plum positions in Moi’s administration including a stint as the country’s representative at Unep, said she first met Moi after finishing university her studies in 1973.
“The funny thing is that Moi remembered how I had dressed that day. He had a very sharp memory,” she said.
“I wore a T-Shirt from Kenya Breweries with the words ‘Have a Nice Day’ emblazoned on it,” she said sending the mourners into prolonged laughter. She said she could tell whether Moi was happy or angry by the way he called her.
“If he called me lakwani (meaning child in Kalenjin and commonly used by older people) I knew things were hot,” said Kosgei, adding that Moi was also a stickler for time. Philip Leakey described how the kind of politics played by his brother Richard Leakey put him in a quagmire.
“You remember my brother launched his party and here I was supporting Moi… It was a difficult situation but thank God Moi understood, saying people who take politics personally don’t go far,” he said,
Dr David Silverstein, Moi’s doctor since 1977, said he travelled around the world with the former President to ensure he was always healthy and up to the task.
Retired AIC Bishop Silas Yego, who presided over the function, said Moi saw death coming and was at peace with himself.
Moi, he said, even identified his final resting place 16 years ago during the burial of his wife Lena.