The country marks 40 years since Mzee Jomo Kenyatta died and as has been the tradition, senior government officials led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, accompanied by close members of Mzee’s family will lay wreaths at his mausoleum.
The team is then expected to proceed for a memorial mass at the Holy Family Minor Basilica a stone’s throw away.
For Warrant Officer I (Rtd) Francis Njoroge Matheri, it will be yet another day when he remembers the role he played and the only time he spoke to a young Uhuru Kenyatta, now the President.
He was then a sergeant with Kenya Army and the young Uhuru was mourning his late father. It is a day that the now retired veteran of the Shifta war remembers vividly.
Despite his age, Mr Njoroge, 71, keeps time with amazing precision, a habit that was honed in his military days.
He had a 10am appointment with the Daily Nation on Monday, but he arrived at Nation Centre at 8am having travelled from his Gilgil home at dawn.
He talks with clarity of mind and remembers the events surrounding Mzee’s death with a crisp memory.
When word reached the general public that Mzee had died, the military moved with speed to take over, it was their fallen Commander-In-Chief after all.
The Kenya military was to carry the body in a procession that was to start from State House Nairobi to Parliament buildings.
In the procession there was Kenya Army band at the front, a military Land Rover carrying Mzee Kenyatta’s first born sons from his three wives and then the casket that was in a special gun carriage. Behind the casket was another Landrover with his three widows Wahu, Edna and Mama Ngina Kenyatta.
DRIVE PRESIDENT'S SONS
The special carriage was chaperoned by Army officers at the rank of a Major with the exception of Captain Kungu Muigai, now retired who was there by virtue of being a nephew to Mzee Kenyatta.
The then Sergeant Njoroge was assigned to drive the three first sons.
They were Peter Muigai Kenyatta whose mother was Wahu Kenyatta and at the time MP for Juja and assistant minister for Foreign Affairs, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta at the time teenager of 17 years and Peter Magana Kenyatta son to Edna Clarke, a British citizen who had been married to Mzee Kenyatta during his sojourn in Britain in between 1931 and 1946.
Mr Muigai, who would die a year later, sat next to the driver while Uhuru and Magana sat at the back seats.
The military had rehearsed for the occasion for over a week commanded by one Major Musomba. Sgt Njoroge was appointed by Provost Marshall Major E.N Mwangi to be the driver of the trio during the solemn occasion.
After rehearsal the D-Day was on August 31, a ceremony that was attended by several world leaders.
This is how Daily Nation reported the event on September 1 1978 about the previous day events: “Mzee was finally laid to rest at 12.42pm. The coffin made of African Oak, lined inside with silver, was lowered into the marble tomb of the special mausoleum. The 4,000 people in Parliament Square stood to attention. The huge crowds outside stood in silence. Then, as the casket was lowered, the band played the fanfare.”
SEATED BACK LEFT
WO 1 (Rtd) Njoroge recalls that as the procession left State House and joined Kirk Road (now Nyerere road) in slow march he was compelled to tell the young Uhuru what was in his heart.
He timed as Peter Muigai was distracted by the huge crowds that had thronged the road and turned to Uhuru who was seated at back left.
“Thoma na kio, muthenya ni ugakinya ugaikarira giti kiu kia thoguo” (put great effort in your studies, one day you will sit on the Commander in Chief seat just like your dad). He recalls a withdrawn Uhuru was suddenly alert, looked ahead then bowed his head, he did not utter a word.
Meanwhile the event went according to the military plan. Mzee WO1 (Rtd) Njoroge only wish is to meet President Kenyatta.
“I do not want anything from the Commander-In-Chief. I just want to meet him and confirm that my vision came true. It would settle my heart since I have never talked to him since then,” he says.
He served diligently and was promoted through the ranks up to Warrant Officer 1. When he finally retired in 2005 he retreated to his Gilgil home where he is now a farmer.