NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 11 – Kenya is holding a memorial service for the country’s second president Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, whose funeral on Wednesday is billed to be the largest ever witnessed here, only second to what was seen on August 31, 1978 when independence president Jomo Kenyatta, was buried at a Mausoleum next to Parliament.
The huge memorial service full of military rituals is taking place at the Nyayo National Stadium which got a major facelift, just to ensure the former president gets a befitting send-off, itself named after Moi’s Nyayo (footsteps) slogan.
Moi’s body which was displayed in parliament for three days since Saturday will be driven to the stadium under military guard and on a gun carriage. The coffin bearing his remains will drapped in the national flag.
More than 20 foreign delegations, including 5 Heads of State are attending the funeral service where President Uhuru Kenyatta will make a key speech, to shower the former president with praise.
“The question that we all should ask ourselves is, how does one mourn an iconic leader,” President Kenyatta, a political student mentored by the retired president posed to Kenyans in his tribute on Saturday, just before he went to view Moi’s body that lay in state in Parliament.
“We commence the final journey of a great son of Kenya, a cherished brother, a loving father, a mentor to many, a father of our nation, a champion of Pan-Africanism,” Kenyatta, whose father Jomo handed over power to Moi, said.
One key organizer [of the funeral] who spoke to us in confidence said they still believe Moi’s funeral is likely to surpass Kenyatta’s based on the resources and planning put in place, and coming 42 years later when the government has witnessed an immense transformation and learned from many experiences in events organization and mobilisation. “We can’t discuss the amount at this time, but is eye-catching. We are talking about the funeral of a former president.” Moi will be buried on Wednesday at his Kabarnet home in Nakuru County, next to his wife Lena who died in 2004.
While the exact amount to be spent remains a tightly guarded secret, newspaper reports have thrown up the figure of Sh300 million, since the day Moi breathed his last at the Nairobi Hospital on February 4, at the age of 95. Capital FM has not independently confirmed this amount.
In the three days Moi’s body lay in state in parliament, President Kenyatta led Kenyans in viewing it in what united a grieving country that is mourning an icon who towered over East Africa’s largest economy for 24 years from 1978 to 2002, with an iron fist.
While some like US-based law Professor Makau Mutua and controversial lawyer Miguna Miguna, who was deported to Canada said Kenya should call Moi what he is, many locally said he should be left to rest in peace because he reconciled with the country when he publicly asked for forgiveness before left office.
“Till President Moi is interred, I will stand up for his honour, dignity and rightful place in history,” said Nairobi-based lawyer Donald Kipkorir who often comments on issues of public interest.
Prof Mutua does not agree with this, and instead says Moi’s epitaph should read, “Here lies the dictator who looted Kenya dry, completely impoverished it, and committed gross and grave human rights violations.”
Koigi Wa Wamwere, a former Member of Parliament who was detained in the Kenyatta regime and had a rough time in the Moi era, in the clamour for multipartyism, sees Moi as a dictator, in what has drawn the wrath of former Westlands MP Fred Gumo who reminded him of what the former president did for him.
“Moi should be left to rest in peace. People like Koigi who are still keeping grudges should also look at the positive side of what Moi did for them. Moi gave him 50 acres of land, a vehicle and schooled his son for free. How can he be castigating Moi in death?” Koigi denies this.
But whether you like or hate Moi in death, he will receive military ceremonial honours even in death, and his body drew thousands of people as it lay in state in Parliament for three days.
“I just want to confirm he is dead,” said Nelson Oracha, who traveled all the way from Kakamega, about 400 kilometers from the capital Nairobi where he had come to view the body of the retired president.
Thousands of Kenyans queued, braving the scorching son, to glimpse the body of the country’s longest-serving leader ahead of a state funeral on Wednesday in Kabarak.
Moi, whose 24-year rule saw Kenya become a one-party state where critical voices were crushed, died on February 4 aged 95.
As Kenyans walked past his body, they paused, bowed and some saluted in honour of the former president’s frame dressed in a dark suit atop a velvet green plinth.
Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi said more than 213,000 people viewed the body, including Mwai Kibaki who took succeeded Moi in 2002.
“Mzee was a freedom fighter,” said Raila Odinga, former Prime Minister and leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) “He and my late father, were among the team of first Africans to be elected in the Legislative Council of Kenya (LegCo) way back in 1957.” Raila was among leaders detained by Moi.
Former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka urged Kenyans who still hold a grudge against the retired President to forgive him.
“Nobody is an angel and Mzee was definitely not an angel. He had his share of flaws, but he stood his ground and urged us all to live in peace love and unity. So, for now let us celebrate him and the great things he did for this country,” the former Vice President said, accompanied by his son Kennedy, who is a Member of the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA)