Politics on the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga dominated speeches at the burial of Machakos Senator Boniface Kabaka in a ceremony marred with tensions, long irritating speeches and breach of protocol.
Leaders from both sides of the political divide traded accusations and exchanged bitter words before the grieving family, in a shameful display of confrontations over the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
The Kabaka family and the clergy watched helplessly as the politicians traded barbs and exchanged bitter words in front of the casket bearing the senators’ remains, until 5.30pm.
His two widows and children kept fidgeting in their seats in clear discomfort as MPs and senators ignored pleas from the master of ceremonies, Dr Isaac Kalua, to shorten their speeches.
The family, through the local Catholic priest, had unequivocally asked they be spared politics and be allowed to mourn their beloved husband and dad. However, their wishes were not only ignored, they had to endure more than 5 hours of politicking – from 1pm to 5:30pm.
Soon after their speeches, the politicians dashed to their helicopters and tinted high-end vehicles, leaving Kabaka’s family alone to take his body to his grave. Only a handful of them remained for the final rites.
The politicking tone was set by former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko whose impeachment was upheld by the Senate last week. Sonko accused the senators of acting at the behest of “orders from above”.
In his first public encounter with the senators who hounded him out of office, Sonko, who appeared visibly angry, blasted the legislators, calling them “cowards and rubber stamps for the deep state”.
“I am not bitter because you impeached me. I’ve gone to court to challenge your decision and I leave everything to God but I know the behind the scenes shenanigans that happened and the forces that controlled your voting,” said Sonko.
The former governor said he will soon be releasing video clips of ODM leader Raila Odinga and Jubilee Vice-Chairman David Murathe allegedly asking him to cooperate in an plan to undercut Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka in the just concluded Msambweni by-election.
“I want to tell Kalonzo that these people are only using you to marshal votes to pass their BBI. After that you’re nowhere near their 2022 political arithmetic. Let’s meet in the evening and I’ll share the video clips with you,” said Sonko amid applause from mourners.
Moments later, tempers flared when Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria dismissed Mr Musyoka as a visionless leader, saying the Wiper party boss is herding his Kamba community to the opposition benches.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua and his Makueni counterpart Mutula Kilonzo Junior threatened to have the MP ejected from the ceremony as other leaders took turns in castigating Mr Kuria.
The funeral ceremony dragged for hours as the more than 40 senators and dozens of other MPs in attendance insisted on addressing the mourners to eulogise their fallen colleague but only used the podium to drum up support for their respective political sides.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and his colleagues who support Deputy President William Ruto took turns in calling for a political pact between the DP and Mr Musyoka in the 2022 elections.
Mr Murkormen, Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Samson Cheragei (Nandi), Christopeher Langat (Bomet) and Millicent Omanga (nominated) urged Mr Musyoka to team up with the DP in a joint presidential ticket in the next elections.
This prompted Senator Kilonzo Junior to question why the Ruto camp was so keen to have Mr Musyoka on their side yet they have been calling him names over the years.
The Makueni senator told off his colleagues, saying their boss, Dr Ruto, had been mocking the Wiper leader on many occasions as a political light weight.
“How comes Kalonzo Musyoka has suddenly become important to your plans?” Senator Kilonzo Junior asked, adding the Kamba community has not forgotten that Mr Ruto was the same person who used to mock their leader as a person who sits on the tarmac when they were demonstrating after the 2017 elections.
It took the intervention of Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua who took over the programme and said that it was shameful that the endless speeches and politicking was forcing the bereaved family to bury their kin in darkness.
The Machakos governor said it was only in Kenya that politics dominate burial ceremonies instead of such events being a moment to condole and comfort the bereaved.
“Honestly, this country has a bad culture that is very sickening. Do we pause as leaders to imagine the pain a grieving family endures when we spew all manner of hateful politics at funerals?” Governor Mutua posed as he apologised to Mr Kabaka’s family for the embarrassment.
Dr Mutua announced that Mr Musyoka was carrying President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message of condolence to the Kabaka family, and would therefore speak last after the deputy president, throwing protocol to the wind.
With Dr Ruto attending, it was expected that he would speak last and convey the President’s message.
The DP said Senator Kabaka was his college mate and a leader who had distinguished himself as forthright and firm in what he believed in.
On his part, Mr Musyoka said Ukambani region had lost a respectable leader who got along with all leaders regardless of their political persuasions.
The Wiper leader told Mr Ruto to forget about a political pact with him as suggested by his troops and prepare to face him for a tough presidential contest in 2022.
“I’ll only respond to one thing, my friend Ruto, be ready to face me at the ballot and just forget about those suggestions of us teaming up,” said Mr Musyoka.
The late Senator Kabaka, 54, who is survived by two widows — Jennifer Mueni and Vascolina Katanu — and five children, was interred at his Kabaa village home in Masinga Constituency some minutes after 6pm.