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Drama marked past transitions

Tuesday April 9 2013

PHOTO | FILE Former President Daniel Moi hands over to his successor Mwai Kibaki in 2002.

PHOTO | FILE Former President Daniel Moi hands over to his successor Mwai Kibaki in 2002. AFP

By EMMAN OMARI [email protected]

Euphoric, ecstatic, emotional and nostalgic. That is what Kenyans have felt in the four times that power has changed hands.

In the past, every time such a ceremony took place, it was after days or months of intrigue that sometimes were extended to the actual swearing-in day.

It was ecstatic on December 12, 1963 when Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the first President, not knowing that his wife had given birth to Uhuru, who is now the fourth President, received the instruments of power from Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II on her behalf as head of colonial Britain.

Prince Philip, before a large crowd on Harambee Avenue, presented Mzee with the instruments and the pen the Queen used for signing the documents. The pen is preserved in a bullet proof glass in Parliament Buildings.

The crowd burst into song and chants of “uhuru,” unaware that they were chanting the name of a boy who would one day become the Republic’s fourth President.

They waved the new Kenyan flag and chanted “harambee”, the founding president’s motto.

It was the same ecstasy at Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani, on Tuesday. A sea of humanity waved and danced as Uhuru received the baton of leadership from Mr Mwai Kibaki, his godfather. The crowd in the stadium went wild after the swearing-in of Uhuru as the country’s fourth president.

On Tuesday, Kibaki, 82, drew both passions and cheers as he arrived and waved to the crowd — ending an era for a man who has served the country for 50 years.

This was in contrast to his swearing-in on December 31, 2002.

That year, the crowd cheered wildly, but after the handing over, some youths threw mud at retired President Daniel arap Moi’s motorcade as he left the venue to State House where a helicopter was waiting to fly him to his Kabarak home in Nakuru.

While thousands of people in Uhuru Park wildly celebrated, tears flowed from those close to Mr Moi as he boarded the helicopter.

Events for Mr Moi, Kenya’s second President, were diametrically different when Mzee Kenyatta died on August 22, 1978.

Stealth and swiftness

The circumstances then dictated stealth and swiftness swearing in of the new President in State House.

The prime movers were then Head of Public Service Geoffrey Kariithi, former Attorney-General Charles Mugane Njonjo and the late Eliud Mahihu, at the time provincial commissioner in Coast where Mzee died. First, Mr Mahihu contacted Mr Kariithi to find out where Mr Moi, Kenyatta’s VP for 12 years, was.

He was located at his Kabarak home and a stealth operation put in place to escort him to Nairobi.

Mr James Mungai, then the Commander of Police Anti-Stock Theft unit based in Nakuru and who was among the group in Mr Kenyatta’s regime who did not want Moi to succeed him, laid a roadblock on the Nakuru-Nairobi road to stop Moi from returning to Nairobi.

Unlucky for Mungai, Moi was by then near Nairobi. Mr Mungai fled to Switzerland but was brought back by Interpol.

The initial swearing-in by Chief Justice James Wicks took place in State House.

A bigger more elaborate ceremony took place in October that year at the expiry of 90 days as acting President in Uhuru Park. “It is Moi!” proclaimed Daily Nation headline echoing the emotions of the Uhuru Park crowd.