NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 2 – It is clear from the moment you drive into the Moi International Sports Complex that an important event is in the offing.
Women cut away at the overgrown grass encroaching onto the road; men hammer away at what is to be the VIP podium in the stadium and members of the armed forces relax outside the sports facility.
Rakii Asman, the stadium management board’s press officer, is also a fixture on the sports ground as he keeps an eye on repair works being done on the stadium’s outer perimeter.
“This is a 1,000 acre facility and so it is not an easy task keeping away vandals but come Tuesday, we want the public to be clear on where the entrance points are,” Asman explains.
Tuesday April 9, 2013 is the historic day – the day when Uhuru Kenyatta will be sworn in as Kenya’s fourth president, and the very first hand-over of power under the current Constitution.
The Constitution stipulates how the swearing-in ceremony is to be conducted and looking around the Moi International Sports Complex, it is clear that nothing is being left to chance.
Article 141 demands that the ceremony be carried out in public, in the presence of the Chief Justice and in his absence, his deputy.
The date of the swearing in ceremony is no accident either with the Article 141 (2) (b) reading, “The President-elect shall be sworn in on the first Tuesday following the seventh day on which the court renders a decision declaring the election to be valid, if any petition has been filed under Article 140,” as was the case.
Vandals, senior police boss Philip Ndolo warns, or any sort of criminal for that matter should steer clear of the sports facility especially on Tuesday.
Speaking to Capital FM News as he carried out a security check at the stadium, Ndolo said, “from what I can tell, we’ll need to make additions to the number of officers we had originally planned for but we’ll continue to carry out security checks and make adjustments where necessary as the swearing-in ceremony comes closer.”
The members of the armed forces do not lie dormant for long and soon jump to their feet as they practice their guard of honour.
It is a difficult thing to turn away from and Felix Otieno pauses his painting to admire the troupe of officers led by a brass band.
“I feel honoured to be part of such a historic occasion,” Otieno tells this reporter, “I’ve done construction work for many other national events but this is truly a first.”
The Kenya Rifles, the Air Force and Navy do not stop at the guard of honour but proceed to enact the entire ceremony, entertainment exempt.
They take on the roles of the outgoing President Mwai Kibaki, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and even Court Registrar Gladys Shollei.
“Shollei to welcome the Chief Justice,” Warrant Officer Mwandawiro Gibson instructs.
The prayers have been said and now the officers are down to the gist of the matter – the actual swearing in.
“The president-elect will take two oaths of office, the solemn affirmation of allegiance and the solemn affirmation of due execution of office,” Mwandawiro explains.
President Kibaki will at this point hand over the instruments of power: a sword symbolising the handover of his role as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and the Constitution to symbolise his hand over of the citizenry.
Fanfare – a short tune played by the military – will follow the hand over as will a 21 gun salute, which is marked by drumming on this occasion, preceding the playing of the National Anthem as President Kibaki’s standard, a white flag, is brought down and returned to him, and Kenyatta’s raised.
The officers however stand stock still until the deputy president-elect takes his two oaths of office.
“I William Ruto do solemnly affirm that I will always truly and diligently serve the people and the Republic of Kenya in the office of the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya,” the officer playing Ruto pledges.
“We’ll be here again tomorrow (Wednesday) in our full regalia to run through it again,” Mwandawiro says as it becomes clear how important it is for them to get it right.
The event is however most important to the man assuming the office of President. Kenyatta’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, was the first to hold the office being sworn in close to 50 years ago at Jamhuri Park.
In the interest of safety and seating capacity however, as explained by the Head of the Civil Service Francis Kimemia, the Moi International Sports Complex takes its turn on the pages of presidential swearing-in history.
“In this country we don’t have any other facility that accommodates 60,000 people and because this event is expected to attract huge crowds then this becomes the most ideal,” Asman concurs with Kimemia, “In addition to that, if you look at the way this facility was constructed, security is easier to manage here compared to any other venue.”
The Moi International Sports Complex, Kenya’s largest stadium, was built for the All Africa Games in 1987 and was commissioned by Jomo Kenyatta’s successor Daniel arap Moi.
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