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Daniel arap Moi's struggles

Tuesday February 4 2020

Daniel Moi

Former President Daniel Moi. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The late president Daniel Moi was fondly referred to as ‘professor of politics’ by his admirers given his genius and sometimes ruthless methods of neutralising critics, and his unpredictability.

But away from that larger than life imagine, he had his fair share of struggles in social and political life.

Broken Family

Moi told British author Andrew Morton in his 1998 biography, The Making of an African Statesman, that he felt disappointed and let down by his own children.

In the book, Moi said he was frustrated that apart from Gideon and June — his adopted daughter and niece to his estranged wife Lena — his other children did not appear in public when he was president to give him moral support.

With Lena absent, and Moi taking the country’s presidency in 1978, the teenage children lacked a mentor. Andrew Morton wrote as much: “This combination of absence and sternness produced the inevitable backlash, and as adolescents, the boys rebelled against their father’s austere moral code.”


In many occasions, it was the presidential guards who would discipline the children, according to Moi’s biographer.


The fact that there was no first lady throughout his presidency sometimes meant odd moments whenever visiting heads of state were accompanied by their wives.

Those close to Moi said while he downplayed it, the separation affected his life and relationship with the children who sometimes blamed him for causing their mother’s departure.

Robert Ouko’s death

The assassination of Foreign Affairs minister Robert Ouko in 1990 blighted Moi’s image at home and abroad. And claims that he may have personally supervised the killing is said to have hindered conclusive investigations until the time of his demise.

Being Jomo Kenyatta’s vice-president

Accounts abound of Moi having to endure mistreatment from Jomo’s handlers with a former Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner said to have even slapped him on one occasion.

He is said to have attended many ‘cabinet meetings’ conducted in the Kikuyu language.

Then came change the Constitution group, a cabal that formed around Jomo Kenyatta when the first president started showing signs of illness. They plotted to repeal the laws which made it automatic that a vice president would succeed his boss in the event of a death in office.

It took the intervention of the Attorney-General Charles Njonjo to stop the march when he declared that it was treasonable to imagine death of a president.

Julie Ward’ death

Despite numerous contestations, the Mois never got over claims that Jonathan Moi (now deceased) killed Julie Ward while in a tour of Maasai Mara in 1988.

In 2012, Mr John Ward, Julie's father, accused Jonathan of plotting the murder of the photographer.

“Our government sensing that Moi didn’t want this to be a murder decided to help him in the cover up. He (Jonathan) raped and killed my daughter. That's why the government covered up the matter,” Mr Ward said.

Attempted Coup

A push by mutinous soldiers to seize power from him in August 1982 was another low moment for the second president of the republic.

Analysts believe that a defining moment, Moi adopted dictatorial tendencies after the attempt which was thwarted in its formative stages.

Struggling economy

The country’s economy almost came to its knees under Moi’s watch.

While this is largely attributed to poor management on his side, the numerous sanctions by international players such as the IMF also had a crippling effect.


Said to be almost paranoid, Moi was overly concerned about his security and almost believed that someone was always after his life.

Cataract operation

Failing eyesight saw him disappear from the public for about one week in 1995.

As the public speculated on his whereabouts, Moi was in Israel for the operation.

Bomb blast 1998

Coming towards the tail of his presidency, the US embassy bombings not only shook the country but the region.

It fundamentally changed Kenya’s diplomatic position and relationship with the West for good.