On Tuesday this week, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta led the country in commemorating the death of Kenya’s founding President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who passed on 39 years ago.
And as the younger Kenyatta – the scion of Jomo – laid a wreath at his father’s Mausoleum domiciled at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi, fresh details have emerged of how, 5 powerful members of Mzee’s independence administration started to secretly prepare for his final journey, 10 years before he breath his last.
Historian Odhiambo Levin Opiyo narrates:
“When Mzee Jomo Kenyatta died in 1978 his body was immediately put in a locally made coffin packed with dry ice.
To minimise the risk of the dry ice touching his exposed skin ,he was covered in a foil.
This was to buy time and preserve it as the Government awaited the arrival from London of a specially made casket and an embalmer who had been firmly instructed to take the first flight to Nairobi.
These funeral plans started way back in 1968 after Mzee suffered a heart attack .Although he recovered and continued to discharge his duties as president,a close knit group of government officials comprised of McKenzie, Njonjo , Moi , Mungai and Colonel Anderson the Chief of Staff at Defence Headquaters Nairobi, still went ahead with plans for his future funeral.
Both the casket and the depositum plate were made in advance when Mzee was still alive and hidden in London.
A firm which was contracted to design the depositum plate had been instructed to partially engrave it and leave out date of death which was to be added on the day of the president’s death.
It was also agreed that a protective vault be inserted in his grave to protect the casket from rain seepage ,termites and other underground conditions and also for future display after burial
The funeral director in London was given the option of choosing between an American vault similar to the one used in John F Kennedy’s burial or a fiberglass vault used in European countries.
After the selection and purchase of a suitable vault ,it was to be packed in a crate disguised as spare parts by being marked “M.T SPARES ” and then sent to Kenya Army barracks Kahawa where it would be kept until Mzee’s death.
Mzee eventually died in August 1978 ,the Queen was represented by prince Charles while America sent its first biggest delegation to Africa for the funeral.”
Info courtesy of Odhiambo Levin Opiyo