Grand send-off for Moi, the ‘professor of politics’

Wednesday March 18 2020
Moi final

Members of the Kenya Defence Forces conduct the last military honours at the gravesite of retired President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi at his Kabarak home on February 12, 2020. PHOTO | PSCU


Daniel arap Moi of Sacho, Baringo, who was educated as a primary schoolteacher, but rose to become Kenya’s longest-serving President with a reputation for charming, outwitting or crushing his opponents, was laid to rest on Wednesday at his home in Kabarak, Nakuru County.

Mr Moi — who ruled Kenya between 1978 and 2002 — was buried at a corner of the lush green compound, about 100 metres from his massive two-storey, diamond-shaped home that sits in the middle of a 2,300-acre plot.

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His final resting place is to the right of his wife Lena Moi, as per the Kalenjin traditions, outside the house that was the seat of power for much of the 24 years he ran the country.

He was buried in a State funeral — the second such ceremony after that of founding President Jomo Kenyatta — with a 19-gun salute accorded to him at the graveside.


After an eventful ceremony attended by a sea of humanity, marked by dramatic revelations and political undertones that ended at 3pm, 400 family members and select dignitaries and guests were ushered into the graveside.

And, at 4.35pm, just as the sun hastened its descent into the West, thuds of dust fell on the mahogany coffin bringing to an end the journey of a man who strode the land like a colossus for nearly a century.

At 3pm, the military made the Last Post, ending the journey of a leader who, at the height of his power, it was unimaginable that he would leave the political scene.

His larger-than-life exploits earned him the sobriquet 'professor of politics', establishing a political ideology in which he prophesied that his Kanu behemoth and phenomenon would rule for 100 years.

While Kanu, the party, was crushed in 2002 by a united opposition coalition, his political students, including Mr Uhuru Kenyatta — the man he fronted in that fateful election — is today serving his second term as President and Mr William Ruto, the ideologue of Mzee Moi’s dying days in power, is the second-in-command.

Virtually every important player on Kenya’s political scene is a scion of his political phenomenon and it would be impossible to imagine the modern Kenyan State without him as a key cog.

Acknowledging Mzee Moi’s pivotal role in his own political career, President Kenyatta said he had lost a father, a teacher and a mentor.

He spoke of several times when Mzee Moi would reign terror on him for undisclosed mistakes, and how he shuddered to face him in such circumstances, painting the picture of a man who was completely beholden to the former Head of State, who unsuccessfully tried to make him President in 2002 but who, in the fullness of time, was proved right.

“The motto for his school of politics was fuata nyayo, the mission siasa mbaya maisha mbaya and the vision peace, love and unity,” Mr Ruto had earlier said during the memorial service held on Tuesday at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.

He earned the nickname “prince of peace” largely from courtiers and also for his stabilising hand, though his legacy was tarnished by economic stagnation, muzzling of free expression, accusations of massive corruption and ruling with an iron fist.

But, as Kenyans from all walks of life bade farewell to the fallen leader, mourners were in agreement that his contributions to the country outweighed the mistakes he might have made.

His last Head of Public Service Sally Kosgei defended the former President’s record, blaming the Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed by the World Bank and the IMF in the 1990s for the near-economic ruin of the country during his tenure.

“His legacy remains secure. He talked and practised tree planting to protect forest cover. One of his enduring images is that of lifting stones to build gabions to check soil erosion. He made it clear that if agriculture fails, the budget will not balance. He was respected internationally even by those who did not respect his policies,” Dr Kosgei said.

She also defended Moi’s democratic credentials, saying that long before the 2002 elections were held, he had told world leaders about his willingness to hand over power.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, one of Mzee Moi’s detainees, but who went ahead to reconcile with him, said the former President came from a poor family as did Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and dismissed those defining the families as dynastic.

“The first handshake was done here at Kabarak. We ate meat together with Mzee Moi and also shared many light moments,” Mr Odinga said, revealing that he reconciled with the man he called a freedom fighter.

The casket carrying the body had earlier landed at the nearby Moi Airstrip from Wilson airport after an eight-day stay at Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi three of which it lay in state.

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), with representatives from the three arms — Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force and Kenya Navy — saluted their former commander’s remains before taking the body into the tent.

The clergy took over the programme with prayers, followed by tributes and then the military took over again to take Mzee Moi’s body to his final resting place.

KDF sang The Munros’, The Last Post, which signifies the final farewell.

Mzee Moi had, during the burial of his wife Lena in July 2004, identified the site of his own burial '' when my time comes''.

The former President — celebrated by many as an icon of peace and stability in a region scarred by conflict but reviled by critics as a dictator — led Kenya from 1978 to 2002 when he handed over power to Mr Mwai Kibaki.

Mr Charles Njonjo, who recently turned 100, is the most prominent among the former President’s Cabinet colleagues of pioneering African leaders, who ushered their countries’ independence, before steering them through the uneasy early years and finally passing on the baton.

Moi married Lena, the daughter of prominent Eldama Ravine farmer Paul Bomet, in 1950. They were blessed with five sons and three daughters.

Along the way, they separated then divorced, but she was accommodated in the family’s Kabimoi Farm where she passed on in July 2004 but was buried at Moi’s Kabarak home.

In death they are united.

A number of religious leaders paid their homage to the retired President who they described as a great man of God.

Retired AIC Bishop Silas Yego, who gave the sermon, introduced a number of his colleagues.

The family of Australian missionary Rev Albert Barnet, the man who introduced Moi to Christianity and became his lifelong friend, was represented.

The singing of hymns was led by a combined choir drawn from learning institutions founded by the former President, namely Sunshine High School, Moi High School Kabarak, Sacho High and Kabarak University.

The clergy presented Mzee Moi’s children with a Bible, as per the request of their father.

In an event that left no doubt that it was the end of an era, Kalenjin elders briefly halted the military-controlled ceremony, saying Mzee Moi’s family cannot remain without a political kingpin.

They then went and handed Mzee’s eldest son Raymond -- the MP for Rongai -- a rungu resembling his father’s popular ''Rungu ya Nyayo'' in a symbolic transfer of power.

“Today, as we bury our father, I stand here to announce that, as a family, we have bestowed Senator Gideon Moi with our blessings to take over Mzee Moi’s political leadership role. He will also ensure that Kanu, the party that our father founded, lives on,” said Raymond amid cheers from the crowd.

The symbolic passing of Mzee Moi’s political baton to his youngest son and Baringo senator Gideon Moi formally sets the stage for the latter's competition with Deputy President William Ruto, the de facto Rift Valley leader.

Mr Odinga had caused a stir mourning the former President in a manner that drew parallels with the way his father mourned Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta in 1978.

Mr Odinga reminded the mourners how Moi, his father Jaramogi and Ronald Ngala, who has since died, travelled to London in 1961 during the Lancaster Constitutional talks dressed in monkey skins.

“I want to send him off as a true African,” he said, while receiving the black flywhisk from his aide, who was standing a few metres away.

He then broke into a Luo dirge while lifting the flywhisk with his right hand.

Translated, the dirge said: “Remember the soil, so daring. You boy, what you eat is yours, what remains,” he sang, then waved it and started shouting “Jowi! Jowi! Jowi.”

He then approached the casket, waved to the body three times, from left to right, bowed and walked to his seat.

Additional reporting by Ibrahim Oruko