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.   

The Supreme Series

It’s Smokin, Not Smoking!

If you wish to be modest about your accomplishments, then that is well and good. But that isn’t Dr. Smokin Charles Wanjala’s portion, at least going by one of his most spoken about moments of ...

The Guy Who Went to Alliance

Justice Isaac Lenaola isn’t exactly your typical Alliance High School guy, the ones who never tire of reminding you that they went to Alliance. But be that as it may, Isaac Lenaola is still an ...

I Listen Louder

In 1990, for thirty days and on a diet of sugarless porridge, no blankets to shelter him from the cold and no access to a toilet, Justice Mohammed Khadhar Ibrahim—then a young advocate and partner ...

Say Chairperson, Not Chairman!

Before becoming a judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya in June 2012, Susanna Njoki Ndung’u was known for leaving an indelible mark during her stint as a nominated MP between 2002 to 2007. Much ...

If Institutional Memory Was A Person

Can one claim to be a fully formed judge if they lack the ability to throw a rib-cracking salvo or two during judicial proceedings? Maybe not. And so during the reading of the Supreme Court’s ...

The Supreme’s Supremo

Chief Justice Martha Karambu Koome has an almost sacred ritual. Once a month, the soft spoken but firm Chief Justice takes her golf clubs and wanders into one of the golf courses, where she spends ...

I Speak in Algebra

In 2017, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mbete Mwilu became a viral meme video