• Sacrificial lambs littered the path the President followed to consolidate power that proved he was not a weakling or a passing cloud as some leaders opposed to his presidency insinuated.
• Victims of Moi’s iron fist rule were academicians, lawyers, students, journalists and politicians, among some nondescripts.
Former President Daniel arap Moi is dead and messages of condolences seem to shower his reign with unmatched praise.
The Baringo native wielded power and instilled fear across sectors during his reign that one could not dare challenge and survive.
Sacrificial lambs littered the path the President followed to consolidate power that proved he was not a weakling or a passing cloud as some leaders opposed to his presidency insinuated. Victims of Moi’s iron fist rule were academicians, lawyers, students, journalists and politicians, among some nondescripts.
As some of the six Nyayo House torture survivors were preparing to observe the 32nd anniversary of their release from detention on February 5 at State House, Nairobi, the news of the death of 95-year leader was splashed on television screens to the shock of the nation and scores of political orphans, some aspiring to leadership positions.
That hot Friday afternoon in February, Moi presided over the release of unwelcome guests, among them opposition leader Raila Odinga , this writer and four others whose families have not forgotten their treatment and stigmatisation by security agents.
The Nyayo House graduates met the visibly shaken President in an empty room without guest seats, including the host ready to lecture them on the progress made while they were away in captivity. In short, we did not fit the description of State House guests — hence the casual treatment by the Head of State and his handlers.
Moi was not particularly amused when I raised the issue of reinstatement of detained persons to former posts. As the President was looking for answers, then powerful Internal Security Minister Hezekiah Oyugi intervened by saying getting back jobs will be part of the rehabilitation. Oyugi signed most of the Kenya Gazette notices on detentions.
The President could not also entertain the thought of abolishing the much-abused detention without trial raised by Raila whose freedom and another comrade, Israel Otieno Agina, were short-lived. The duo was arrested and detained in August the same year after the President showered them with praise for snubbing an international press conference I organised at Chester House Press Centre.
Raila concern was not far from the truth. Some of the people arrested and detained in Kenya were victims of vendetta and revenge. I am a living case in point. The then Assistant Commissioner of Police, Peter Kimundi attached to the CID headquarters, made good his threat to get me framed after his earlier arrest flopped in the face of a habeas corpus filed by my employer, the defunct Sunday Post in 1974.
After the arrest in the law courts in 1987 and presented to Kimundi’s office, he told me that I was lucky to escape prosecution in 1974. Not this time, he said without a wink. My crime, according to Kimundi, was that I was a member of clandestine movements, Mwakenya and December 12 Movement and that I used my journalistic skills to chronicle human rights violations to the hostile media including Amnesty International.
Nyayo House experience is unspeakable, to say the least. I will not forget a day that I was led to the 26th floor at Nyayo House naked. There was an attempt to serve me tea in the nude state. When I declined the offer I was blindfolded and led back to the cells in the dungeon. I could not be served food because I had refused tea. The rest that happened in prison is a story for another day.
The unique public relations event presided over by Moi preceded the dissolution of Parliament to pave the way for the first and last infamous Mlolongo voting in which candidates with short lines were declared victorious over rivals in the long queues.
The result of that shambolic election could not be challenged but silent murmurs about the system that disenfranchised an undisclosed number of voters ensued with the late Cabinet minister, Kenneth Matiba, spearheading the protest that later cost him his freedom, hence terminal illness.
Matiba, Charles Rubia and Raila were arrested and detained for organising a political rally without a permit in 1990.
The writer is a journalist and former detainee. Email: [email protected]