COMMANDED RESPECT

Sally Kosgei: Moi could not bear personal fights in Cabinet

Former Head of Public Service says those who breached the peace were either sacked or demoted

In Summary

• President preferred receiving reports from state officers in the morning and reserved the mid-morning and afternoon hours for politicians and other private contacts.  

• Kosgey says Moi was keen on how Kenya related with her neighbours as well as the international community. 

Former Head of Public Service Sally Kosgey gives her tribute at the burial service of former President Daniel Moi in Kabarak on February 12.
MAN OF TOP SECRECY: Former Head of Public Service Sally Kosgey gives her tribute at the burial service of former President Daniel Moi in Kabarak on February 12.
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Former head of Public Service Sally Kosgey on Wednesday said President Daniel Moi instilled discipline in the civil service and conducted his business with top secrecy. 

Kosgey told the thousands of mourners at the former president’s Kabarak home that her boss, who was laid to rest Wednesday, was meticulous in his work. 

 

She worked with Moi, who died on February 4 aged 95, as an envoy (UNEP) for six years, as Foreign Affairs PS for 10 years and head of Public Service for two years.

In Moi’s administration, intelligence and security meetings were held regularly but because of the president’s strictness, no one would leak information from the sessions.

Kosgey told of a "little group of six people" who were cogs in the state machinery.  That group briefed the head of state from time to time.

She moved mourners to laughter with her account of how some of them used to ‘go underground’ to avoid Moi’s wrath.  

“We became big consumers of intelligence and everything had to be confidential. Leaking information was out of the equation,” the former Aldai MP said. 

She said the President preferred receiving reports from state officers in the morning and "were not found at State House in the afternoon".

The President reserved the mid-morning and afternoon hours for politicians and other private contacts. 

 

The former MP said that Moi did not tolerate personal disagreements in Cabinet. Those who breached the peace were either sacked or demoted.

“Mzee was very kind and was very stern if one did not act professionally. Most of the time, I found myself alone whenever he summoned us for correctional advice,” the ex-MP said.

“I found out that it was easy for my colleagues to send me to him because, in our culture, it is not right for a man to shout at a woman.”

She said Moi was always a step ahead on matters security and that he could listen even in tense moments. He also met intelligence chiefs attached to foreign missions.

Civil servants were under strict instructions to stay out of controversy, especially with politicians–save for rare circumstances.

“He would quietly protect you if you were being attacked unjustifiably.”

Kosgey said Moi was keen on how Kenya related with her neighbours and the international community, sometimes cleverly averting imminent fallouts. 

She cited the time he travelled to Congo alone to ask then strongman Mobutu Sese Seko to share power. Four other leaders developed cold feet. 

The president also advocated for agriculture as a means of beating budget deficits and encouraged all state officers to promote it, she said.

She narrated events that characterised Moi’s interaction with international leaders, saying he commanded a lot of respect even by those who did not believe in his policies.

UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Chancellor Helmut Khol, France’s Jacques Chirac and Israeli leaders are among notable names that listened to Moi.  

“Global leaders used to consult him on matters international relations. When they come to you, it means they respect you and you’re the boss,” she said. 

“When travelling to London, he had a representative from the palace and was assigned a police escort. Her Majesty the Queen always spoke of how polite Moi was,” she said. 

It was through these ties that British officials helped in the building of Moi University, notably the Margaret Thatcher Library, which was the largest in the continent then. 

During the attempted coup in 1982, Kosgey said, the president remained calm and educated them on what a military takeover meant.

“When this happened, my two colleagues who were to brief the president on the attempt left me. He asked me why I was speaking of the military for work police could do.”

Sally reminisced how Moi composed himself after his preferred successor – Uhuru Kenyatta–lost to Mwai Kibaki.

His administration has been hailed for environmental conservation–building gabions, national tree-planting drives, and cementing for UNEP’s presence in Nairobi. 

Moi is credited with the revitalisation of the East Africa Community and also for supporting refugees who sought safe haven in Kenya from time to time. 

The former Head of Public Service hailed Moi as her mentor and the person behind her achievements since their first meeting in 1974 when she sought to do manual work at the then VP's farm. 

Edited by R.Wamochie