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Kenyans queue to see body of Moi, country's longest-serving ruler

AFP  |  Nairobi 

Kenyans formed long queues on Sunday to glimpse the body of the country's longest-serving leader, Daniel arap Moi, which is on public display ahead of a state funeral service.

Moi, who is respected by many despite a 24-year rule infamous for corruption and the crushing of opposition voices, died on February 4 aged 95.

The body of the late president who towered over Kenya between 1978 and 2002 was escorted by military guard through the streets of the capital to the parliament building, drawn on a gun carriage and wrapped in the national flag.

He will be on public view in Nairobi for three days, until a memorial service with full civilian and military honours on Tuesday.

Many queued for hours to pay their respects to a ruler they revered, while others stood in disbelief that the man they had long feared was gone.

Magdalene Njoki, a vendor, travelled with her two children from Thika, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Nairobi, to thank the president who provided free milk in school under a Moi-era policy.

"He was a good leader," she said.

Foreign dignitaries, soldiers and ordinary citizens alike paused, bowed and saluted as they passed the former ruler, dressed in dark suit.

Justin Okello, who also queued to see Moi's body, said "even the mention of his name" could evoke fear.

"I can't believe that is Moi's body lying there.

That man who terrorised this country is now sleeping there, motionless," he said.

Moi leaves a mixed legacy. During his tenure, corruption became endemic and tribal divisions were stoked and turned bloody, but many also remember a period of relative peace in Kenya as east Africa was roiled by conflict.

Among those to pay respects on Sunday was Mwai Kibaki, the opposition leader who defeated Moi's handpicked successor -- now President Uhuru Kenyatta -- at the ballot box in 2002, ending his grip on power.

The clerk of the national assembly, Michael Sialai, said nearly 25,000 people saw his body on Saturday, with greater numbers expected Sunday with longer viewing hours.

Nixon Indeche, a retired public servant, said he was "going to see his body for closure".

"He detained a lot of people without trial and destroyed our economy, but all that is in the past now because he asked for forgiveness publicly," he said.

In neighbouring Ethiopia, at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, a brief moment of silence was observed Sunday by visiting leaders and dignitaries before an annual two-day conference got underway.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Africa "had lost one of its illustrious sons".

President Kenyatta, who on Saturday led the tributes for Moi, remembered "a father of our nation, a champion of Pan-Africanism".

In recent years observers had criticised the apparent rehabilitation of Moi as the elderly former president often received visits from Kenyatta, his opposition rival Raila Odinga and other politicians, seeking his blessing ahead of elections.

Kenyatta revived "Moi Day" in honour of the former president in 2017, after it was scrapped in 2010.

Moi's body will be buried Wednesday in his home area of Kabarak, 220 kilometres northwest of Nairobi.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, February 09 2020. 18:46 IST
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