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I will sleep at the venue of Moi funeral service–Granny, 70 says

Esther Chemutai, 70 with her granddaughter Mercy Chepkoech, 17 will spend the night in the cold at Kabarak University, to attend Moi’s funeral service. /CFM.

KABARAK, Kenya, Feb 11 – As thousands plan to attend the funeral service of retired president Daniel arap Moi in Kabarak on Wednesday, a young girl and her grandmother are spending the night in the cold at Kabarak University, the venue of the mega service ahead of Moi’s send-off.

Mercy Chepkoech, 17, told Capital FM News that they travelled from Olenguruone to Kabarak covering 94 kilometers, just to attend the state funeral which she described as historic.

“I don’t want to miss a chance to say goodbye to Mzee,” she told Capital News, holding her 5-month-old baby who obviously knows nothing about Moi, whose 24-year rule saw Kenya become a one-party state where critical voices were ruthlessly crushed. He died on February 4 aged 95.

The three hope to join over 30,000 mourners expected at the funeral service, which will be attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta as well as local and international dignitaries.

We caught up with Chepkoech, sitting on a Maasai shawl they spread on the ground.

Esther Chemutai, 70 with her granddaughter Mercy Chepkoech, 17 traveled from Olenguruone covering 94 kilometers to attend Moi’s funeral service at Kabarak University. /CFM.

“Moi means everything to my life,” she said, and revealed that they spent Sh500 each for bus fare.

Her grandmother Esther Chemutai, just stared blankly at space, and could be heard asking “Where are we going to stay here.”

Chepkoech told Capital News that they are attending Moi’s funeral service “because the place we call home is a piece of land we were given by Moi when he was president.”

Both Chemutai and Chepkoech works at a tea farm owned by the former President.

“We will sleep here,” Chepkoech told her grandmother, pointing to the shawl spread on the ground.

And they’re certain they will not get a chance to meet Moi’s immediate family “to pass our condolences but the fact that we are here attending the [funeral] service is satisfying to us.”

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They are among dozens who travelled for kilometres, some from Moi’s maternal home in Baringo County among other parts of the country, to witness history.

-Kabarak glued on Television-

Thousands of Kenyans on Tuesday gathered to mourn Moi, the country’s longest-serving leader, as a week of mourning climaxed with a state funeral.

Military officers carried the coffin, which was draped with the national flag © AFP / SIMON MAINA

Mourners began gathering at a national athletics stadium before dawn to pay their respects.

Moi, who towered over Kenya between 1978 and 2002, lay in state for three days in parliament, with tens of thousands of people filing past.

On Tuesday morning, he was taken on a gun carriage draped in Kenya’s flag through the streets of Nairobi to the crowded Nyayo national stadium flanked by soldiers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who opened the memorial with the national anthem, called Moi “a champion of Pan-Africanism.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta praised Moi as a ‘champion of pan-Africanism’ © AFP / SIMON MAINA

– Forgiveness –

The cortege entered the stadium flanked by long lines of red-coated soldiers and a brass band playing marching tunes and Christian hymns, their boots glinting in the bright sun.

Women from Maralal in northern Kenya attended the funeral © AFP / SIMON MAINA

“The Last Salute”, Citizen TV wrote. “Fare thee well, 1924-2020” national broadcaster KBC headlined.

Former opponent Raila Odinga, who was jailed for several years under Moi, called the late leader a “greater fighter” but who had eventually accepted multiparty politics.

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“I was one of the victims… but he was also forgiving, like I am also forgiving, and we made our peace, and we shook hands, and then worked together,” Odinga said.

“We remember the good things that he did,” he added.

Those targeted by his regime included human rights and environmental activists, including the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the future Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

Moi was however praised for keeping Kenya a relative haven of peace during a chaotic period in East Africa which saw the genocide in Rwanda and civil wars in Burundi and Somalia.

His later return — under significant pressure — to multiparty elections in 1992, and peaceful handover of power to opposition leader Mwai Kibaki in 2002 also won him some praise.

– Loved and feared –

Vice President William Ruto, who comes from the same Kalenjin people as Moi, mourned a “father of the nation.”

Several foreign leaders from regional nations attended the ceremony, including Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and former Tanzanian presidents, Jakaya Kikwete and Benjamin Mkapa, spoke at the ceremony to offer their condolences to Kenya.

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Several East African leaders, including Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, attended the funeral © AFP / SIMON MAINA

“One of the gallant leaders of this great country,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said.

The body of the late president will be buried on Wednesday in his home area of Kabarak, 220 kilometres (135 miles) northwest of Nairobi.

The usually congested and noisy streets of Nairobi were quiet, with Tuesday declared a national holiday.

While those at the stadium had come to pay their respects to a ruler they revered, others in Kenya remembered a man that they had long feared.

Moi’s 24-year rule saw critical voices crushed, corruption become endemic and tribal divisions stoked and turn bloody.

Moi was however praised for keeping Kenya a relative haven of peace during a chaotic period in east Africa.


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