The military, majestic to a fault, has been an outstanding player in the late president Mwai Kibaki’s funeral, the third time in Kenya’s history they are seeing off their former commander-in-chief.
For nearly a week, the body of the fallen president has been moving around. It was first carted from Lee Funeral home to parliament buildings, then to State House, and finally to Nyayo Stadium, returning to Lee Funeral home every evening. At parliament, it lay in state for three days in which Kenyans thronged to pay their last respects.
Through all these, the military stood tall, sending off Kenya’s third president with aplomb.
From Lee Funeral home, where the body was preserved, the first journey was to parliament on Monday, April 25. The casket was towed in a gun carriage, with Kenya’s flag and the presidential standard (a flag the president chooses for himself and that is raised in events in which he is present) draping his casket. The gun carriage was inscribed with five stars at the front, which brigadier retired Mohammed Ahmed says are reserved for the commander-in-chief, or in rare cases, a Field Marshall.
“All military operations are documented; how to undertake them. We have set standards across the board. We have standard operating procedures that guide us. Those who were there document the procedures and so the new team picks up from there,” says Ahmed.
At parliament buildings a vigil team was, for the three days the late president’s body lay in state, always on duty, four men placed at the four corners of the room, replaced during the day.
In their full combat gear, they were truly in authority.
On Friday, when the State funeral service was conducted at Nyayo Stadium, the military went for the body at Lee Funeral Home and took it to State House.
On the final day, however, it was the military hearse that picked the body from the funeral home, destined for Othaya, Nyeri, where Kibaki had been a member of parliament for decades. And this time, following the hearse was a bus carrying family members of the president. Ahead of the convoy, a military truck sped, setting the pace for journalists, who were recording live footage.
He also said that it is always a great honour for whoever is picked to drive the hearse, or be in the guard of honour, or even be part of the pallbearers.
“We do it the best way we can. We say: please pay attention to the minute details as those allow you to address the bigger monster; how you behave, your discipline, how you relate with others. Such small things make a big difference,” he said.
After arriving in Othaya, shortly before getting to the grounds where the final ceremony was conducted, the casket was again removed from the hearse and placed on the gun carriage.
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The final ceremony was mostly a preserve of the clergy, and family.
The military’s majestic showing, including a spirited band that exchanged turns with the church choirs, was the standout episode.
Ahmed says while in 2020 they had to go back 42 years to be in tune, this time they just had to look back two years and improve on what was not appealing then.