By Reporter

National mourning is declared by the government to honour a person or persons of national significance.

 Days of national mourning are usually announced following the death of the head of state or when a country is hit by a major disaster that kills many people.

 Flags fly at half-mast on national buildings and books of condolences are opened, to be signed mostly by the who’s who in society. The nation is expected to turn into a sombre mood.

 Although national mourning is an established tradition in Kenya, there are no criteria for making the declaration. There is no clarity on who qualifies for the honour. The matter is left entirely to the discretion of the government.

 President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a week of national mourning when former President Daniel arapMoi died on Tuesday. Moi will be mourned until he is buried in Kabarakon Wednesday, February 12.

 As an expression of public sorrow, Uhuru said, “the Flag of the Republic of Kenya shall be flown at half-mast, at State House, State Lodges, all public buildings, and public grounds, all military bases, posts and stations, an all naval vessels of the Republic of Kenya, and however elsewhere throughout the republic of Kenya from dawn on 4th February, 2020 until sunset on the day of the burial.”

The flag shall be at half-mast for the same period at all high commissions, embassies, consulates, diplomatic offices and other facilities of country abroad, Uhuru’s declaration said.

National mourning gives the country an opportunity to reflect on the life and work of the dead person.

National events such as sports, festivals or conferences may be suspended during national mourning.

Athletics Kenya has postponed cross-country championships scheduled for February 8 at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi, to mourn Moi.

How long the national mourning period lasts varies. Often, no guidelines are issued on what citizens should do during that time.

In 2015, the government declaredthree days of national mourning after 147 students were killed by al Shabaab militants at Garissa University College. Flags were flown at half-mast.

The government has sometimes declared national mourning for foreigners such as the UK’s Princess Diana in 1997. But it has also denied certain prominent Kenyans such honours. President Moidid not declare national mourning when the doyen of opposition politics Jaramogi Oginga Odinga died in 1994.