What are the Instruments of Power?


What are the Instruments of Power?

According to Section 14 of the Assumption of the Office of President Act of 2012, during the swearing-in ceremony of a President-elect, the outgoing President is to hand over the instruments of power and authority—a sword and the Constitution—as the final mark of the change of guard. It is only the late President Daniel arap Moi who received the instruments of power from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) upon assumption of office in October 1978—having been elevated from the Vice Presidency—as the then sitting President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, died in office. 

The instruments of power, which are a tradition observed across the Commonwealth nations,  are largely symbolic of the seat of authority and the head of government. The practice, which is borrowed from the British government was originally adopted from the Instrument of Government, the name given to the written constitution which Oliver Cromwell—the former Head of State of the Commonwealth and the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, Land and Sea of England, Scotland and Ireland—used to govern the Republican Commonwealth from December 1653 to May 1657.

The first handover of the instruments of power was witnessed in 1963 when the then Governor-General, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip Andrew, handed over the independence papers to Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta, symbolising the self-rule of Kenya. From then on, this was adopted as the hallmark of the transition of power from one government to another. 

During the inauguration of the President-elect, the instruments of power are handed over to the incoming President after the signing of the certificate of inauguration and before the hoisting of the presidential standard of the new President. 

The Constitution is handed over as a symbol that the country is governed by the rule of law and also serves as a guide in the decisions that the President makes. Whereas, the ceremonial sword, made of a stainless steel handle and a gold-coated blade, signifies the position of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Traditionally, the sword is kept at the office of President in Harambee House, Nairobi.

The transfer of the instruments of power is crowned by a 21-gun salute to bid farewell to the outgoing administration and welcome the new President to take charge.   


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