• I came to be aware of Moi during my nursery school days due to his portrait.
• He had a double personality that confounded many.
Kenyans woke up to the news that retired President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi had died at The Nairobi Hospital on Tuesday at 5:20 am
While official records show he was aged 95, a proper analysis indicates he was not born in 1924 but possibly in 1918 and therefore was about 102 years old.
He is the longest-serving president of Kenya, having ruled the country for 24 years.
I came to be aware of Moi during my nursery school days due to his portrait that was hang up on the wall of our dormitory. This, coupled with the songs of praise and headline news items through KBC radio, made my little mind think there was God and Moi was second.
What about a man who was teacher number one, farmer number one, professor of politics and his CV was full of so many degrees? The feats he achieved looked inconceivable for a mere mortal. When I grew up, everybody was expected to be a Kanu member, and. in fact, there was a popular saying 'wewe si wa Kanu, if someone doubted you on any issue.
Moi had a double personality that confounded many. On one hand, he was a churchgoer every Sunday at AIC or Kabarak High School where Rev Jones Kaleli would give a sermon.
Another time he would attend Nairobi Pentecostal Church Valley Road, where pastor Dennis White would preach. He would be accompanied by a litany of ministers such as Nicholus Biwott, William ole Ntimama, Vice President George Saitoti, JJ Kamotho and other acolytes.
He had a long convoy consisting of up to 100 vehicles in certain instances. Moi loved children and we benefited from the school milk programme every Friday as we recited the famous Nyayo philosophy. He built many girls' schools across the country and named them after himself. In addition, he had dreams of industrialising Kenya when he started the nyayo car and bus projects, including the numerical machining complex. He also supported peacebuilding initiatives in countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Burundi.
However, he presided over a highly corrupt regime full of nepotism and red tape, government social services collapsed under him and there were massive layoffs, with the famous golden handshake.
Moi oversaw the collapse of the agricultural sector, especially tea, coffee and sugar. Companies such as KCC, Mumias, Webuye Pan Paper Mills, Kenya Meat Commission and other public companies went under during his high-handed regime. An African big man, he believed in harambees and presided over many of them, expecting civil servants to make huge contributions. Chiefs would charge people for mundane services for them to meet their harambee targets.
His regime oppressed the media and many journalists were either arrested or detained, with one thrown down several floors by the special branch police.
Moi detained and maimed many of his critics in the notorious Nyayo chambers, some of whom were never able to recover fully such as Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia. It was also common for people who disagreed with him to either disappear without trace or get involved in mysterious road accidents.
His regime also presided over rigging of elections such as the famous 1988 Mlololongo election where many 'unwanted' key figures were thrown out of Parliament.
Moi was a smart politician and used to know how to read the mood of the time. In 1990, he repealed Section 2A of the Constitution to return Kenya to a multipartyism. While the then opposition controlled over 60 per cent of the vote, he was still able to extend his rule for another 10 years till 2002 by using the divide and rule tactic. Moi was fit physically and Kenyans could see him sprint up the stairs of a plane. Always smart with a fresh rose flower on his blazer, he was a stickler to time. He would stop by the roadsides to take tea in vibandas as he enjoyed performances from school children, whose institutions had to be closed for them to go receive him.
Moi’s regime presided over massive land grabbing whereby a lot of public parcels and forests were hived off for private use. Thousands of people in Molo, Enosupukia, Kikambala and other places were displaced due to politically instigated ethnic clashes due to voting patterns. There were also many incomplete government projects then known as white elephants, meant to siphon out public funds. Moi would use and dump, then re-use politicians at will through his 1:00pm news bulletin reshuffles. Many promising political careers were ruined this way.
He resisted constitutional reforms and didn’t seem to support the clamour for women and other marginalised groups to be included politically. He loudly wondered how Samuel Tororei, a blind man, could be made a commissioner of the National Land Commission since Kalenjins could be swindled off their land.
Moi, a man who succeeded in naming nearly half the public institutions under his regime after him, a man whose effects we still feel and face today, a dictator and educationist. Can Moi die? May his soul rest in peace.