The original title for the article was meant to be “Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Daniel Moi”. However, almost everyone knows him as the longest-serving Kenyan president and his controversial rule. So that title would have been misleading. What I’ll do here is simply add more information to what you already know. I’m going to cover everything that is known about the former president from early childhood to today. These are the top 10 things you need to know about Daniel Moi.
This is going to be a long read so I hope you are ready to digest all this information.
10. Early Life
He was born Toroitich Arap Moi in Kabarak village, Sacho Division, Baringo County on 2nd September 1924. Moi took the name Daniel when he was baptized at the Karbatonjo Mission school. His father died while he was still young which meant his mother raised the family single-handedly.
Moi’s formal education consisted of mission and government schools. His paternal uncle, Senior Chief Kiplabet, arranged for him to attend the mission schools. He then went on to receive further training at a teacher’s training schools and started teaching at government training schools. Moi’s last job before joining politics was that of as the Assistant Principal of Tambach Government African Teacher’s College.
9. Early Political Career
The former president’s introduction to politics came in 1955 when he was selected to be an African representative to the British colonial Legislative Council (Legco). He and several other African members of the Legco formed a lobby group known as the African Elected Members’ Organization. Tom Mboya, Oginga Odinga, and Masinde Muliro were among the members of this lobby group.
Moi was among the nationalists who participated in the constitutional talks held in London in preparation for Kenya’s independence from Britain. They went on form the Kenya Africa National Union upon their return but Moi’s stay at the party was shortlived. He and others from minority tribal groups broke away from KANU as they felt the party represented the interests of the dominant tribes i.e. Luos and Kikuyus.
This resulted in the minority groups forming the Kenyan African Democratic Union (KADU) as an alternative to KANU. You can actually see the effort they made in coming up with the name. Anyway, Moi became the chair of the new party upon its formation. But the party later merged with KANU in 1964. So…yeah.
8. Vice Presidency
Jomo Kenyatta convinced Moi that KADU and KANU should be merged so as to complete the process of decolonization. This led to KADU being dissolved in 1964 making the country have two major parties: KANU and the Kenya People’s Union. That was also short-lived as the party was banned in 1969 making the country a de facto one-party state.
Let’s remember that KANU was dominated by Kikuyus and Luos. The merger had to make some compromises so as to accommodate the minority groups. To gain the support of the Rift Valley region, Kenyatta promoted Moi to Minister for Home Affairs in 1964 and later as Vice President in 1967. This was seen as an acceptable compromise by the major tribes and the minority groups were satisfied with the appointments. Everyone seemed to be in good terms until 1978 when Jomo Kenyatta passes away. This saw the beginning of the Moi era.
As per the constitution, Moi became the acting president and a special presidential election for the balance of Kenyatta’s term. That never happened as the cabinet held a special meeting without Moi and decided that no one else was interested in the seat. He was, therefore, declared President of Kenya in September 1978. Can you imagine if that happened today?
To be fair, his era wasn’t bad at first. Moi was quite popular with the masses at the beginning of his term. He even stressed the continuation of Kenyatta’s policies in his theme of “Nyayoism”, or “footsteps”. As president, he introduced free milk programs for school children, released all political detainees, and abolished land-buying companies that had been gouging small landholders.
Appeasement, it seems, wasn’t enough to make everyone like you. This saw a moment of loyalty being rewarded. Some actually call this the birth and uprising of Kenya’s infamous corruption. All you needed to do was be on his good side and you were good to go. Some people were unhappy about things were at the time and decided to take action.
6. Coup de tat
While Nigeria has had several coups in their democratic history (9), Kenya has only had one and it failed. There is a lot to digest about what happened so let me make it as simple as I possibly can.
Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka (pictured above) had an obsession with being president for quite some time. So much so that he carved the words “The next president of Kenya” on his desk. When Obuon and Oteyo (co-conspirators) approached him with the proposal to overthrow the government, Ochuka didn’t hesitate to make his decision.
Obuon and Ochuka went on to recruit soldiers for the coup. Just one issue; the two couldn’t agree on who would assume the presidency once they overthrow the government. Oteyo intervened and advised Obuon to let Ochuka assume the role so that they could later kill him.
Ochuka seemed to have his suspicions about his co-conspirators and led him to rally support from the soldiers. Even if he meant he had to lie about a few things. When I say a few things, he did a lot of lying.
This was true when he held a secret meeting in late July 1982 where he told the attendees that he had the support of Uganda, Tanzania, and Sudan who were to send their soldiers from the borders. He even went on to say he had the blessings of Russia which would allegedly send a Soviet ship to the Kenyan coast. Remember this was during the cold war era, where capitalism and communism were in conflict.
Unsurprisingly, Moi knew about the coup and preferred the matter to be dealt with internally by the military. The coup was meant to be done on August 2nd, 1982 but was carried out a day earlier. Voice of Kenya radio station was captured by the militants and it was broadcasted that the military had overthrown the government.
At the same time, there was a plan to bomb the statehouse but that failed. And senior military officials carried out a counter-attack and recaptured the radio station and it was broadcasted that Moi is back in power. And that was that. 100 solders and about 200 civilians were reported dead during this short stint. At least Ochuka got his wish of being president as he ruled the country for six hours or so.
5. Aftermath and controversies
Moi’s era after the coup was the most controversial time in Kenyan history. To begin with, Oginga Odinga’s name was mentioned several times during the court trials as having financed the coup. As a result, he was put under house arrest. His son, Raila Odinga, and other university lecturers were sent to detention after being charged with treason.
While Ochuka and other co-conspirators were sentenced to death, Moi made changes to the constitution to formally make KANU the only legal party in the country. Any form of opposition was met with hostility and oppression by the government. I won’t even mention the several corruption scandals and violations of human rights. That could another article on its own.
To make everyone remember his legacy, Moi became somewhat obsessed with his name. Several places, institutions, and roads are named after him. We have Moi Airbase (Nairobi), Moi International Airport (Mombasa), Moi International Sports Centre (Nairobi), Moi Stadium (Kisumu), Moi University (Eldoret), Moi Avenue (Nairobi and Mombasa), and Moi Girls High School. Just to mention a few.
3. Repeal of Section 2a, Multi-party elections, and Retirement
In 1991, Section 2a of the constitution was repealed in parliament to allow the country to be a multi-party state. It’s not like the ruling party had a choice as the country’s economy was collapsing and international countries were not willing to aid the country until changes were made.
While this was a win for the country, another problem came about. Who was going to run against Moi in the upcoming 1992 elections? We had Oginga Odinga, Mwai Kibaki, and Charles Matiba all seeking to take over but their division broke down along tribal lines. The big tribes wanted to be represented in power and this division came to Moi’s advantage as he easily won the 1992 and 1997 elections.
Of course, the elections were marred by political violence from the opposition which made Moi’s dominance quite easy. There were speculations that there may have been electoral fraud but that ended up being just that, speculations.
His rule, finally, came to an end in 2002 as the constitution didn’t allow him to run for another term. Moi chose Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor but lost to Mwai Kibaki in a two to one defeat.
2. Personal Life
You know much about Moi and his kids but what is rarely mentioned is the mother of his children. Her name was Helena Bommet. Moi married her in 1950 but separated in 1974. Together, they were able to bring forth eight children, five sons and three daughters. The most popular of the children is Gideon Moi who is the current governor of Baringo County; Moi’s hometown. Helena passed away in 2004.
1. Where is he now?
The former president is currently admitted at the Nairobi Hospital after he developed breathing complications. It is reported that this is the second time in two weeks that he is seeking treatment from the hospital. We can only wish the father of politics a speedy recovery.
So you made it to the end. Quite a lengthy article. Did you like it? Let us know in the comments below.