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Generals who served Moi honour fallen commander

 NYAMBEGA GISESABy NYAMBEGA GISESA
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JULIUS SIGEIBy JULIUS SIGEI
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An artillery fighting unit Tuesday ferried the body of former President Daniel arap Moi to Nyayo Stadium, where almost every general who ever served him stood in honour to salute the fallen former commander-in-chief of the defence forces.

Generals Joseph Kibwana, Jeremiah Kianga and Julius Karangi, all former Chiefs of Defence, previously known as Chief of Staff, led other retired senior military officers — in the rank of major-general — to pay their last respects to their longest-serving commander-in-chief.

In a function that was the largest single gathering of serving and former military generals in the history of the country, Gen Mahamoud Mohamed, who led the operation that crushed the 1982 coup attempt, was visibly absent.

But unlike Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s coffin, which was put on a two-ton gun carriage specially flown from London, Moi’s body was placed on a gun carriage drawn by the French-made ACMAT vehicle, this time deployed to carry the late President’s coffin.

The ACMAT vehicle is designed to incorporate high tactical mobility with high maximum road speed and optimal off-road and cross-country performance. It is used by KDF’s 77 Artillery, 75 Artillery and 66 Artillery battalions.

In a colourful spectacle, the artillery men were led by a battery of majors. The gun carriage flanked by pallbearers (in the rank of colonels), and escorts comprising service members, was sandwiched between military police, general officers and a guard of honour. The Service Band, Military Police outriders and the military police led the way. Lining the entire way were regular police offering salute.

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The entire stretch was a sea of red, white and patches of green, as the military matched to the venue, taking approximately half an hour to walk from Kenyatta Avenue to the Bunyala Road roundabout.

The gun-carriage was followed by two military Land Rovers, one driving on the right hand side and the other one on the left of the coffin.

The late President’s sons Raymond, Philip and Gideon, accompanied by three other family members, rode on the Land Rover driving on the left while the other carried Vice Chief of the Defence Forces Lt-Gen Robert Kibochi and service commanders Lt-Gen Walter Koipaton (Kenya Army), Maj-Gen Francis Ogolla (Kenya Air Force) and Maj-Gen Levi Mghalu (Kenya Navy).

Once the body arrived at the stadium, KDF chaplains Col Fr Benjamin Maswili, Col Iman Abdul Malik Rubeya and Col Rev Alfayo Lelei led the procession.

The task of carrying the coffin was placed on a team of eight colonels under the command of Brigadier Joakim Mwamburi, a battle-hardened war veteran who is the commander of KDF’s 6th Brigade and the head of the Amisom Sector II command in Somalia.

Inside the stadium, Mr Moi’s coffin was displayed atop the catafalque — a wooden platform covered in fabric — built by the military for the event.

This is only the second time the country is witnessing such military honours after that of founding President Kenyatta, who died in office in 1978.

Originally reserved for the monarchs in the English tradition — though later relaxed to include some members of the royalty — a State funeral was also accorded wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the wishes of Queen Elizabeth II.

Like Moi, who was revered for his peace credentials but reviled by critics as a dictator, Churchill was lionised by Britain and allied forces for his exploits in World War II but loathed in parts of world the as a perpetrator of war crimes.

An elaborate State funeral was also accorded Mzee Kenyatta. He was dressed in military regalia. Unlike his predecessor, however, Mzee Moi will get a 19-gun salute and will not be dressed in military uniform.

Retired Brigadier Ahmed Mohammed explained that the gun salute is the highest honour that a civilian can get.

A 21-gun salute is reserved for a sitting President who dies in office while 19 are for one who dies in retirement.

Agonised care

“The carriage has two miniature flags — one the Kenyan national flag and the other the Presidential Standard of the former President. There are also five stars, the highest number accorded a military officer,” Brigadier (rtd) Mohammed said.

The hearse carrying the body left Lee Funeral Home, which had been its home for the previous six days, and snaked its way into State House, where it was received by President Uhuru Kenyatta for last respects and military prayers,

At 9.20am the body left State House escorted by KDF troops from various formations. They matched for 3.1 kilometres to Nyayo Stadium through Valley Road, Haile Selassie Avenue, Kenyatta Processional Way and Uhuru Highway.

The country watched the agonised care of the guardsmen who stood by its side as the military band under the command of Lt-Col Martin Makadia, assisted by Maj Ochien’g K’Omondi, Capt Kelvin Nyaga and Capt Peter Kimeu sang.