TRIBUTES POUR IN

Public pays last respects before Moi's burial

VIPs, the devoted, the curious all came together for the spectacular farewell.

In Summary

• Thousands of people turned up for Moi's six-hour burial ceremony.

• Bosom friends and sworn enemies, bitter rivals and loyal allies, strangers and close acquaintances all came together to give the former President Daniel Moi the mother of all send-offs.

 

Peter Bogonko 94, from Kisii county during the funeral of former President Daniel Moi at his Kabarak home on February 13.
SALUTE: Peter Bogonko 94, from Kisii county during the funeral of former President Daniel Moi at his Kabarak home on February 13.
Image: BEN NDONGA

Gloomy, expressionless and even smiling faces  — happy that he must have made it to Heaven.

Bosom friends and sworn enemies, bitter rivals and loyal allies, strangers and close acquaintances all came together to give the former President Daniel Moi the mother of all send-offs at the family's Kabarak home in Nakuru on Wednesday.

The Kabarak University Grounds were full, 30,000 chairs meticulously arranged in the hut-shaped tents pitched at the centre of the field were all occupied.

The scorching sun forced sweat to trickle down the faces of the few people not in the shade, mostly junior military officers, but they cared or dared not wipe it off. Or might there have been a tear or two?

Four flags erected outside the tents barely moved in the heat. Three of them: the Kenyan, the East African Community and the KDF Flag were at half-mast. Only the Presidential Flag was hoisted high, though it remained folded until President Uhuru Kenyatta made his way into the grounds.

The university was dotted with security officers donned in red, white, blue, brown uniforms, according to their designation. They held their guns close to their chest and their eyes roved hawk-eyed following people moving around.

Security had been tightened about 30km from the main grounds, with traffic officers directing the flow of vehicles, all in a rush to get to the venue.

A civilian queue beginning from Gate B stretching about five kilometres inside the grounds did not intimidate any members of the public, who joined in.

Inside 24 tents for the public, men and women of all ages held a bottle of soda, a bottle of water and a loaf of bread — gratis from the government.

Some seated at the front wore red caps bearing the words Nkae Kwa Amani (Live in Peace).

A good number skimmed through copies of the eulogy, only stopping to admire the pictures of the young president and his family.

To Mary Wanjiku, Leah Wamboi, and Stephen Thigireri, Mzee Moi was not just a president, he was a good neighbour.

They said they woke up at 3am because they did not want to miss one last chance to appreciate the man who took care of their needs unconsciously.

"We still pick managu at his farm at no cost. Whenever he harvests, maize or wheat, he would call us to pick the rest. I once got seven bags of maize," Wanjiku said.

Like those three, Gilbert Kosgei arrived at Kabarak at 3.30 am but was not allowed in until around 6am.

The 21-year-old barely knew the late president and the knowledge of his rule is shallow.

"I want to see the military shooting in the air 19 times, I want to watch them blow their trumpets and march with the coffin," he said.

He was a little disappointed when informed that the burial site itself would not be open to the public, but he was happy he came.

"I think he was a good president who cared for the lowest in society. I can't say for certain but I've heard good and bad. That only makes him human," he said.

An older man seated next to him cited Moi's achievements in education and development.

By 8.30am, many dignitaries had arrived drawing awed stares from the crowd who occasionally stood up to confirm who they were. The audience cheered at some prominent leaders and argued over the identity of others.

The crowd followed keenly as one leader after another paid tribute, their faces changing to sombre when a sad memory was recounted and bursting into laughter when funny tales of the president were told. He died aged 95.

They shook their first finger, the Kanu symbol, as they shared memories of the longest-ruling party and joined in a traditional dirge led by Raila Odinga.

After a six-hour burial service where close family and friends paid tribute to the former president, the military led a procession of selected dignitaries and family members, a few members of the convoy, to the burial site, Moi's home itself — the grave at the right front according to Kalenjin custom.

While some exited the grounds to return to their homes, some members of the public remained behind to watch the burial on a big screen at the dais.

The rest were left to scramble for freshly slaughtered beef, rice, cabbage and potatoes served at the far end of the field.

Kenya's second president was finally laid to rest in a white-tiled grave dug by the military, with full military honours, including a 19-gun salute.