President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday made an impromptu inspection of the Nyayo National Stadium, the venue for Tuesday’s memorial service, as he takes personal charge of preparations for former President Daniel arap Moi’s final journey.
This came as it emerged that the body will be flown directly to the Kabarak University grounds on Wednesday morning for a requiem service before it is interred at his home, a stone’s throw away.
Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho also toured the former president’s home, where he inspected the gravesite as the government indicated it was leaving nothing to chance to give Kenya’s second president a befitting send-off.
About 10 Heads of State have confirmed they will attend the Nyayo Stadium inter-denominational memorial service, which will be led by the Africa Inland Church (AIC).
The stadium was closed for renovations in 2016. At the time, it appeared the government was struggling to build world class stadiums to host international competitions in line with the 2013 pre-election promises of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
Upgrading the existing sports arena was the cheaper option and the government closed the facility for renovations in time to stage the 2017 IAAF World Under-18 Championships and 2018 Africa Nations Championship (Chan).
But the works stalled after the continental football governing body took away Kenya’s rights to host Chan, while the athletics championships were moved to Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani.
The completion of the works has been a contentious issue, with Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed telling MPs money was not forthcoming from the Treasury.
However, with the death of Moi on Tuesday last week, the stadium, which he built in the early 1980s, has bubbled into life.
The State had announced that the memorial will be hosted at Kasarani. But sources have told the Nation the President disapproved of the venue while in the US and ordered Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua to ensure works at Nyayo Stadium were completed in four days.
The President, who was driving himself, arrived at the stadium at about 12.30pm unannounced and with minimal security.
He was received by Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe, who took him around the facility and showed him the progress.
Earlier, Mr Kinyua, who also chairs Moi’s funeral committee, said the government was satisfied with the pace of work and declared the venue was ready for the event.
“I am very pleased with what the team has done so far to make sure that everything goes on well,” he said in the company of other members of the committee.
Mr Kenyatta’s inspection of the stadium is proof of the seriousness with which he is taking the death of the former president — a man he fondly referred to as “my mentor”.
According to the source, the government has abandoned the idea of transporting the body by road in a move that seeks to avoid disruption on the country’s busiest trunk road.
Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai had on Friday announced that traffic on the Northern Corridor would be disrupted between Nairobi and Eldoret on Tuesday and Wednesday to ensure the smooth burial of the former President.
“Road users are urged to adhere to the Highway Code. We appeal to motorists, pedestrians and other road users to cooperate with the police as we give a befitting send-off to the former president,” Mr Mutyambai said.
The decision to fly the body does not mean that the order to close the road has been lifted.
However, motorists will breathe a sigh of relief as they would have endured a much bigger headache had the body been transported by road.
In Nakuru, Dr Kibicho led some of the former president’s relatives on a visit to the gravesite, where a team of KDF officers were digging the grave.
He was accompanied by Moi’s daughters-in-law — Susan, who is Rongai MP Raymond Moi’s wife, and Eunice, Mr John Mark Moi’s spouse.
Others were the children of Moi’s only brother, Paul Tuitoek, who died in August 1993.
Moi will be laid to rest next to his wife Lena. The military officers briefed Dr Kibicho on the progress and assured him that everything was running according to plan.
“As the committee, we are satisfied with the progress of preparations and the level of security preparedness,” Dr Kibicho said, revealing that they expect up to 30,000 mourners at the requiem mass at the Kabarak University grounds.
Two separate inter-denominational services took place in Kabarak on Sunday.
For the first time, there was no Sunday Mass at the iconic Kabarak Chapel which, for many years, was a symbol of Moi’s faith and where he regularly attended church service.
The service was moved to Moi’s home, where an inter-denominational prayer session was held.
Among those who attended were Moi’s in-laws, led by Lena’s brother Gerald Bomet. The service was presided over by Prof Jacob Kibor, who served as the provost of the Kabarak Chapel for many years.
There was another service at the university’s graduation square, where students from the university, Moi High School and Moi Primary School congregated in remembrance of the former president.
Sittings of the Senate and county assemblies across the country have also been affected by the mourning and preparations for the burial.
The Senate and assemblies were to resume sittings Tuesday, February 11, after a two-month recess.
But, in light of Moi’s death, the Senate has now called for a special sitting today to deliberate on whether it will resume its normal sittings as earlier planned.
Also on Sunday, the Nakuru and Nairobi county assemblies announced that the reopening for the third session had been pushed to February 18 to allow members to mourn.