Just like when he was alive, retired President Daniel arap Moi’s lifeless body still struck a poise of authority and domination as it lay in state Saturday at Parliament Buildings for public viewing.
Moi, who died on Tuesday after a long illness, was a consummate political actor whose tight grip on the state and its apparatus dominated every sphere of the country during his 24-year rule.
The military, who have taken charge of his burial plans in line with the Presidential Proclamations, pulled out all the stops to ensure that the image of a dominant Moi, was projected, even in his death.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and members of his Cabinet were the first to view the body when it was unveiled to the public for the first time since Moi passed on last Tuesday at Nairobi Hospital.
The body had been driven from the Lee Mortuary early in the morning in a military procession to Parliament Buildings, where it will lie in state until tomorrow. The national memorial service will be held on Tuesday at Nyayo National Stadium before the body is transported to his Kabarak home where it will be interred on Wednesday.
Inside Parliament Buildings, the military placed the bier in the foyer of the National Assembly, just a few metres away from the door leading into the chambers.
His imposing body was placed on the bier in a manner that displayed authority and domination. Head lifted on a pillow and legs taken apart, the former President looked calm and peaceful in his sleep.
His casket, draped in the national flag, had arrived at Parliament Buildings at about 7.30am on a military carriageway led by outriders.
The soldiers then sealed off the entrances to the main Parliament Buildings and started the process of preparing the body for public viewing. No one would be allowed in during the entire process until President Kenyatta arrived at about 10.15am.
MPs and other dignitaries had started arriving at Parliament Buildings as early as 8am but they were not allowed in as the military prepared the body for public viewing.
Breakfast was served to all and the VIPs ate serenaded by dirges that were belted variously by choirs from St Stephen’s Jogoo Road, State House Choir, the military band and the Nairobi United Choir.
The first thing that struck one upon seeing the body was the late Moi’s long frame as it lay on the wooden bier, which was covered by a thick, green sheet with golden-yellow fraying hems. His head was partially raised on a small, green pillow, which like the sheet, had golden yellow hems.
He was dressed in a navy-blue pinstriped suit, a white shirt and white and black floral tie and Italian-made maroon moccasins – just the kind of sharp and meticulous dressing that was associated with him during his time.
In fact, the late President was so meticulously dressed that a red flower was pinned on his left lapel that matched with the tie.
Six military officers drawn from all the Kenya Defence Forces formations, including his grandchildren, stood guard next to the body as the public went about viewing it.
Two folded national flags were placed diagonally against the bier. One flag stood on the left edge, just next to his foot, while the other flag was on the right edge, just next to his shoulder.
A soldier stood in each corner of the square in which the bier was placed, heads bowed and their swords inverted, with their backs against the body.
On the left of his imposing body, a black bible, a hymn book and his trade mark sceptre were neatly placed on one side of a chair similar to official chairs used by VIPs during public events.
On the other side of the chair against the wall lay his bust and some military boots, perhaps the kind he wore during his time as the commander-in-chief.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said Moi’s death was a personal loss to him and the people of Mbeere due to the assistance he extended to them when he was President.
“He was like a father to me and therefore I am duty-bound to be here today and stand with his family because of the many great things he did to me personally,” he told the Nation after viewing the body.
He added: “The people of Mbeere will forever be indebted to him because he gave us recognition. He gave us our own district and liberated us from domination because our community was forgotten.” He revealed that the decision by Moi to award the district in 1995 had attracted him to Kanu after initially supporting Democratic Party’s Mwai Kibaki in 1992 where he twice was elected as an MP between 1999 and 2002.
“He mentored me into politics and assisted me to win a parliamentary seat. He took me like his own and held me all the way into my political career.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka. “Much as I am here to mourn, I am celebrating him,” Lusaka said soon after paying his last respects.
“He mentored me into national administration starting off as a district officer. I interacted a lot with him when I served as a DC in Baringo District, where he hailed from. We celebrate him. He lived a good life and had his many virtues are a lingering legacy to a man of his stature.” Soy MP Caleb Kositany said he had attended the ceremony as that is the best way of honouring a great leader. “I am here to represent the people of Soy all of who could not make it here. But I am here because the late Moi was a relative. He was a family member.”
Others who viewed the body were Mama Ngina Kenyatta, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli, Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge and governors led by their chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, MPs and senators.