Kenya’s second president Daniel arap Moi was buried last Wednesday, ending a week of national mourning during which he appeared to command as much loyalty as he did in his 24-year reign.
Many TV and radio stations re-organised their programming to provide live coverage of the events around Moi’s death, interspersed with nostalgic replays of patriotic songs.
More than 200,000 people queued to view Mr Moi’s body on the first two of the three days it lay in state at Parliament in Nairobi.
An estimated 30,000 turned out for the state funeral ceremony on Tuesday, declared a public holiday, at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi — the sports facility built during his tenure and named after his popular Kiswahili rallying call of fuata nyayo (follow in the footsteps).
Dignitaries at the state funeral ceremony included presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, and former Tanzanian presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete, all of whom paid glowing tribute to Moi’s role in regional integration efforts under the East African Community.
In Kenya, Moi’s death significantly lowered political temperatures that had in recent months risen due to differences over proposed constitutional reforms and the scheming for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession in 2022.
Two parallel public rallies scheduled in the same week, in Meru and Nakuru, by factions within the ruling Jubilee Party to discuss the reforms agenda under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), were called off.
At a similar rally the previous week in Kitui, a section of the crowd tried to remove Gatundu South Member of Parliament Moses Kuria from the dais. The altercation had fuelled fears of a possible escalation in Meru and Nakuru.
Mr Kuria, the MP for the constituency formerly represented by President Kenyatta, is allied to the Jubilee faction of rebels who have in the past opposed BBI.
An even more consequential cancellation was that of a meeting called by the Jubilee Party secretariat for its parliamentarians, amid speculation that it was to be used to kick out rebels from key House committees.
If the meeting had proceeded with the anti-rebels agenda, it would have marked a significant extension of the purge by President Kenyatta, also the party leader, that last month saw him fire Mwangi Kiunjuri from the Cabinet and support the impeachment of former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu.
Like President Kenyatta, both Mr Kiunjuri and Mr Waititu hail from the central Kenya region, which, along with the Rift Valley, has been the epicentre of the anti-BBI talk and succession politics.
The BBI reform agenda, initiated by the president and opposition leader Raila Odinga following their March 9, 2018 truce, has sparked a fall-out in the ruling Jubilee Party. The faction loyal to President Kenyatta supports the reforms, and the side allied to Deputy President William Ruto sees the campaign as part of a scheme to block the latter’s path to the presidency in 2022.
The pro-Kenyatta group has teamed up with the opposition to push the BBI reform process, which is widely expected to conclude with a constitutional referendum and shape the presidential succession debate.
The one-week break from Kenya’s rough political platforms enforced by the death of Moi, whom a majority of the top politicians called their mentor, was just a lull before the storm.
On Thursday, the day after Moi’s burial, Ruto and Odinga were back, sparring over BBI while addressing separate gatherings in different parts of the country.