The body of the late Kenyan president and elder statesman, Daniel Arap Moi, who ruled Kenya for 24 years, was buried on Wednesday, February 12 at his Kabarak home in Nakaru County. His official state funeral on Tuesday, February 11, was attended by current and former East African heads of state. More than 30,000 people were said to be at the stadium where the ceremony was held.
For the thousands of mourners at the stadium, they remembered the late leader with nostalgia and sang his praises. That could explain why his mourning turned into a celebration of Moi’s life. In his tribute at the event, President Uhuru Kenyatta described the late icon as “a father of our nation, a champion of Pan-Africanism,” while his son, Gideon Moi, portrays him as “a man with an elephantine memory and a compassionate heart.”
Arap Moi, who was born on September 2, 1924 in the Kenyan Rift Valley died on February 4, 2020 in Nairobi, Kenya at the age of 95. Moi began his early education at the African Inland Mission School. He later trained as a teacher and taught until 1955 when he entered politics. He was elected a member of the Legislative Council for Rift Valley. Moi was among the Kenyan delegation for the Lancaster House Conferences to negotiate Kenyan independence from Britain.
It was in such conferences too, that the first post-independence constitution of Kenya was drafted. Moi founded the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) in 1960 to rival Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s African National Union (KANU). However, at independence in 1963, the Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta, who later became the president of the new nation, reached agreement with Moi for the two parties to merge. Moi was appointed to Kenyatta’s government in 1964 and later promoted him to Vice President in 1967.
Moi’s loyalty might have made Kenyatta to groom him as his successor and he eventually took over as president following the death of Kenyatta in 1978. He thus became the second president of Kenya. Having ruled Kenya from 1978-2002, he became the longest serving president of the East African country. His wide grasp of Kenyan politics earned him the sobriquet, “professor of politics.” He ruled Kenya with iron hand and made it a one-party state under KANU during the 24 years his reign lasted.
He introduced authoritarianism in Kenyan politics and governance. While some people see him as a good leader, others, especially his critics, see him as a dictator and brutal leader. He cracked down on opposition following a failed coup in 1982. Moi was a towering figure who dominated the politics of Kenya during his 24-year presidency. He later introduced multi-party politics, which made him popular. He won landslide in the 1992 election. Apart from Jomo Kenyatta, Moi brought so much socio-economic development to his country.
There is no doubt that Moi will be remembered for his enduring legacy in education. He built schools and universities across the country. He will surely be remembered for the distribution of free milk in schools to attract children from poor regions. At the same time, he will be remembered for the brutal crackdown on opposition. Moi was reported to have detained and tortured his fiercest critics, often without trial. Like other African dictators and sit-tight leaders, Moi was feared and often seen as a deity by Kenyans.
Despite many criticisms that trail his rule, Moi was also given the credit of maintaining stability in Kenya. As a man of peace, he mediated in wars in Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. He even opened Kenya’s doors to refugees from the war-torn countries. It is worth mentioning that before he left office in 2002 Moi asked for forgiveness from those he had wronged. It is commendable that President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised that his government will work with the family of the late former president to ensure the completion of projects initiated by Mzee Moi, including a referral hospital in Kabarak for all mission hospital in the region.
We urge African leaders to emulate his good examples. They must ensure that democracy thrives on the continent. As we join millions of Kenyans to mourn the demise of their great leader, Arap Moi, we pray to God to grant him eternal repose.