MOI LEGACY

Moi left many lessons for us

When Kenyatta died, he carefully but meticulously took over the reigns of power without a drop of blood being shed.

In Summary

• As President, Moi was an ardent fan of children. His free primary school milk will perhaps be best remembered by those not in their youth presently.

Worst of all, many, including former Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko, were assassinated during his rule.

A man reads former president Daniel Moi's eulogy at Nyayo Stadium on February 11, 2020
A man reads former president Daniel Moi's eulogy at Nyayo Stadium on February 11, 2020
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

This week, Kenya laid to rest its Second President, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi.

His funeral, as expected, was a national event with thousands attending his burial and tens of thousands attending his farewell service. Presidents from neighbouring countries as well as leaders from all over the world attended the funeral service to bid him farewell.

The state declared a public holiday on Tuesday to allow Kenyans time off to mourn as well as celebrate the life of the late President.

However, since his death was announced, Kenyans have been treated to mixed reactions from the old and young alike — some vilifying Moi and others honouring him at the same time. It would appear his 24-year rule had achievements to cheer about but also pitfalls to be sad about.

For a person who didn’t live under and experience Moi’s rule, it would be difficult to fathom whether he was a good or bad leader.

Looking back, Moi was a political schemer who waded the turbulent waves and rough seas of politics. A few years to Jomo Kenyatta’s death in August 1978, he faced stiff resistance from the President's allies who did not want him to succeed him. However, he remained cool and somehow maneuvered to remain the Vice President. When Kenyatta died, he carefully but meticulously took over the reigns of power without a drop of blood being shed.

Four years into his rule in 1982, an attempted coup shook his rule to the core. In the aftermath, many laid dead including those charged with the attempted coup. Kenyans will remember how he convinced loyalists to stand with him and fight off the coup leaders. However, Kenyans will also remember how ruthlessly he dealt with those behind the coup. They were all executed within prison precincts and not even accorded a decent burial.

As President, Moi was an ardent fan of children. His free primary school milk will perhaps be best remembered by those not in their youth presently. The milk gave children an incentive to be in school at a time when education was not compulsory or even a necessity as is today. Besides the milk, Moi was a conservationist and encouraged tree planting as well as building of gabions to stop soil erosion.

On the flip side, Moi was unkind to critics, especially those he considered a threat to his rule. Horrid stories are told by survivors of the Nyayo House torture chambers where victims had sharp pins pushed right behind their nails or those who spent days on end in knee height freezing waters, or others who had their wives raped right in front of their eyes as they were forced to watch.

Worst of all, many, including former Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko, were assassinated during his rule.

Under Moi’s rule, the country became a de jure one-party state when after the coup, the constitution was changed and introduced Section 2A. This essentially made Kanu the only political party allowed in the country.

It is again under Moi’s rule, nine years later in 1991, when the same Section 2A was repealed and multi partyism was reintroduced. The following year, in 1992, Kenya had its first competitive multi-party elections that Moi won by a clear majority.

Although Moi allowed democracy to take root in the country and party politics to thrive, his electioneering will be remembered by tribal clashes instigated by his regime to win him an undue advantage during polls. In Molo, Mombasa and other parts of the country, hundreds lost their lives and livelihoods from the politically instigated tribal clashes. Many who were affected then never recovered from the ordeal.

But perhaps one of his last national acts was the most important of all. The handing over of power. Peacefully. When all other presidents including Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) have changed their countries’ constitutions and our governors are thinking of extending their stay in power, Moi called it quits when he was supposed to. That has set the precedent for following presidents to equally do the same peacefully.

Moi left many lessons for us all to learn from his 24-year reign.

Fare thee well Mtukufu Rais Daniel Arap Moi.