The country woke up to the news of the death of former President Daniel Arap Moi, the man who ruled Kenya for 24 years. Media, was a wash of the late Head of States’ pictures as many reminisced the reign of the man who took over from the nation’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Many, who knew Moi, say he was loved and loathed in equal measure. Critics say Moi was corrupt and brutal.
Moi assumed office as President on August 22, 1978, following the passing on of Mzee Kenyatta. He had served as Kenyatta’s third Vice-president for about 11 years.
As Vice-President, critics describe Moi, a Baringo herder boy and former school teacher, as “modesty but cunning” — a man who played his cards well until he ascended to power. He wasn’t seen as a threatening figure and this helped him rise to the presidency on Kenyatta’s death, a character that earned him the “Professor of Politics” title.
After Moi was elected as President in 1978 having served on an interim capacity for 90 days, the former Head of State is accused of massive corruption and land fraud.
The corruption deals perpetuated by Moi, his family and close allies are detailed in a report leaked by Wiki Leaks in 2004 popularly known as the Kroll Report.
The document revealed a web of shell companies, secret trusts and frontmen used to steal over two billion dollars from state coffers.
The report by a United Kingdom auditor forensically investigated corrupt transactions and holdings by several powerful members of the Kenyan elite.
It detailed how the money was laundered across the world to buy properties and companies in London, New York and South Africa and even a 10,000 hectare ranch in Australia.
Following the 2002 victory, retired President Mwai Kibaki commissioned the report and in 2003 appointed John Githongo, formerly of Transparency International, as his personal advisor on Anti Corruption and Good Governance.
Githongo was charged with the role of engaging Kroll & Associates (UK), a private investigation and security firm, to trace and report on what was said by Transparency International to be over 3 billion US Dollars stashed abroad, by Moi and his closest associates.
But the report was suppressed after Kibaki’s government was involved in the Anglo Leasing scandal that roped in allies, denying millions of taxpayers justice.
Githongo accused the Mwaki Kibaki’s regime of lack of commitment to fight corruption. He fled into exile in the UK citing threats to his life.
Some of President Moi’s associates that were named in the graft report his son Philip Moi, his long time aid Joshua Kulei and late politician and businessman Nicholas Biwott. The report detailed companies and oversea accounts linked to the individuals.
The late Moi has for a long time been linked with the murder of prominent opposition leaders who died mysteriously during his reign.
A report presented in parliament in 2010 stated that late Rober Ouko, who served as Foreign Minister from 1979 to 1983 and from 1988 to 1990, was murdered in State House lodge, Nakuru, in February 1990, after fallout out with Moi.
The report called for investigations into top officials, including Moi’s then-top aide, Biwott.
Biwott denied plotting Ouko’s murder.
The report was rejected by parliament in December the same year on grounds of lack of unity and disagreements between committee members.
Moi’s is also accused of eliminating student leaders who staged demonstrations during his reign.
Critics say he managed to silence many young activists by eliminating people like Solomon Muruli, a University of Nairobi Student leader who was found dead on February 24, 1997 in his room at Kikuyu Campus.
Muruli had been burnt to death in a mysterious explosion in his room. Reports indicate that he had received a death threat letter a week before his death from unidentified people.
Before his death, the 23-year-old education student had been summoned by the University’s senate severally for organising riots and demonstrations against the university administration. At the time, police brutally were extreme with the men in uniform being accused of killing many students.
University of Nairobi students organised demonstrations that lasted for five days condemning their colleague’s death.
Moi is said to have ruled the nation with iron and fist.
Politicians and students, who were opposed to his rule were arrested and detained without trial. Human Rights activists say the political detainees were tortured and denied basic needs such as food and water.
It was during Moi’s tenure that the Wagalla massacre in Wajir took place, a shameful “security operation” that resulted in the death of an estimated 4,000 ethnic Somalis in Kenya’s north-east.
The claims were corroborated by the Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission found that between 1978 and 2002, Moi’s government was responsible for numerous gross human rights violations.
Some of his victims include ODM leader Raila Odinga, his late father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, late Kenneth Matiba, Siaya Senator James Orengo and Wangari Maathai.
In 1982, there was an attempt by a group of Kenya Airforce soldiers to overthrow Moi.
Leading the defiant group was Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka and Sergeant Pancras Oteyo Okumu.
Ochuka ruled Kenya for about six hours before escaping to Tanzania. He was later extradited back to Kenya, tried and found guilty of leading the coup attempt and hanged in 1987.
Oginga, Raila and were also implicated in the attempted coup.
Despite Moi, being labelled a dictator a section of Kenyans have credited him for uniting the country — some view him as a man who held the country together.
He is also said to have brokered peace deals with troublesome neighbouring countries, hence, ensuring that Kenya remained an “island of tranquility” in a strife-torn region.
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Moi allocated a large chunk of the national budget to education and many remember him for “Maziwa Ya Nyayo”, even the younger generation that learnt of the free milk from their older siblings, or parents.
The milk was distributed to primary schools.
As the man lies in the Lee Funeral’s cold room, Kenyans reminisced the excitement that came with the Nyayo milk, and many remember him for that.
But many have refused to be blinded citing the impunity and atrocities Moi committed.