The proclamation by President Uhuru Kenyatta that Daniel Torotich Arap Moi will be buried in full civilian and military honours has set in motion elaborate and complex funeral procedures that will only be witnessed for the second time in Kenya’s history.
On Tuesday Mr Kenyatta ordered that “as an expression of public sorrow the flag of the Republic of Kenya shall be flown at half-mast at State House, State lodges, all public buildings and public grounds, all military bases, posts and stations, on all naval vessels until sunset on the day of the burial.”
As a former president, Mr Moi is set to receive a State funeral. And Tuesday’s proclamation by PMr Kenyatta was just the first of a set of honours that Kenya will bestow on the fallen statesman.
As elaborate as they are rare, State funerals observe strict rules of protocol held to honour heads of State or other people of national significance. It is only a sitting president who can proclaim that someone will get a State funeral and it involves a period of national mourning.
“In testimony of the respect in which the memory of the late Daniel Toroitich arap Moi is held, the nation will observe a period of national mourning from today until the day of his funeral,” proclaimed Mr Kenyatta on Tuesday.
President Moi’s will be the sixth State funeral but only the second that will have full military honours. The only other person to receive such honours, which are the highest in the country, was Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta in 1978.
Former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa, Nobel Laurete Wangari Maathai, former Nyeri governor Wahome Gakuru and former First Lady Mama Lucy Kibaki all received state funerals minus the military element.
Like it happened in 1978, the Kenya Defence Forces under the command of the Chief of Defence Samson Mwathethe Tuesday took over operations at the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi immediately it was announced that Mzee Moi had died.
A meeting of high ranking state officials and from the military was convened under the chairmanship of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi where it was announced that the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua will chair the funeral committee.
As this happened 10 officers from the Military Police took position in two straight lines leaving a path between them on the steps of Lee Funeral Home. Two others stood on the doorway at attention as military doctors took part in looking after the retired president’s body while leaders and family members came to pay their respects.
The standing on guard is a sign of respect for Commander in Chief’s service to the military. Mzee Moi served as the head of state for 24 years. If the 1978 script is followed, the military officers will continue standing at that position until the body is moved to another location to lie in state so that Kenyans can come to pay their last respects.
President Kenyatta’s body lay in state for 10 days and national mourning lasted for one month. During this time it was guarded by 16 officers at any given time courtesy of an elaborate plan that began 10 years before his death with the help of the British government.