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Kenya mourns death of an icon

Wednesday March 18 2020
By JOHN KAMAU

Kenya’s former President Daniel arap Moi is dead.

The former teacher who became Kenya’s longest-serving President and transformed the country’s political landscape with his iron-fist rule for more than two decades died at the Nairobi Hospital in the early hours of February 4, 2020.

He was 95.

Making the announcement in a presidential proclamation, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the former head of State passed on in the presence of his family.

"It is with profound sadness and sorrow that I announce the passing of a Great African Statesman, H.E. Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, the Second President of the Republic of Kenya. His Excellency the Former President passed on at the Nairobi Hospital on the early morning of this 4th February, 2020; in the presence of his family," Mr Kenyatta said in a statement.

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President Daniel arap Moi (R) congratulates Uhuru Kenyatta on 14 October 2002 in Nairobi after his nomination to run for president on a Kanu party ticket. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP

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"His legacy endures in Kenya even to this day, encapsulated in the Nyayo Philosophy of ‘Peace, Love and Unity’ that was his mantra throughout his tenure as our Head of State and Government."

DIED PEACEFULLY

At a brief press conference at Nairobi Hospital on Tuesday morning, his son Gideon Moi said his father had passed away peacefully.

He also expressed his family's gratitude to Kenyans for the prayers they've been making for the former president.

"I was by his side, and as a family we have accepted. Mine is just to give my heartfelt gratitude to all Kenyans and non-Kenyans for the prayers and thoughts that they have been giving to Mzee and to our family. Thank you all."

His body has been moved to Lee Funeral Home.

STRONGMAN

Moi is one of the last in a chain of African strongmen who ruled in the 70s, 80s and 90s - and who were forced out thanks to multi-party politics.

Loved and hated in equal measures, the late President Moi was often dismissed as a dictator by his critics and his 24-year reign was plagued with claims of widespread human rights violations, nepotism, assassinations and embezzlement of state funds.

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It's all smiles as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is welcomed by his Kenyan counterpart Daniel Moi at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

But his admirers describe Moi as an African statesman – the man who kept the Kenyan nation together amidst the turmoil experienced in the neighbouring Uganda, Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia – a feat he positively used to dismiss his ardent Western critics who were pushing him to open the political space.

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Frome left: President Moi, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Togo's Gnassingbe Eyadema during the opening session of the Africa-Europe summit in Cairo on April 3, 2000. PHOTO | FILE | ENRIC MARTI | AFP

Although the former president has been ailing for some time, little was known about his poor health which was kept within the family. Occasionally, when admitted to hospital, his press team would say he had been taken for “routine check-ups”.

Moi ruled Kenya for 24 years between 1978 and 2002 and was always portrayed as vibrant and healthy. If he had any ailments, during that period, it was concealed from the public.

Unlike his predecessor, Jomo Kenyatta, whose struggle with a heart problem and gout was public knowledge, Moi and his handlers had a desire to keep his physical condition secret at the time of his presidency.

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President Daniel arap Moi (left) and his Ugandan counterpart Milton Obote at a past event. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

WORKAHOLIC

Moi was a workaholic – at least before he retired - and kept fit for his age. He never used a walking stick in public – opting to keep off from the glare. Even when he experienced troubled eyesight, later on, it was the font size to his speech which was increased rather than Moi wear reading glasses in public. It is only once, during his presidency, that Moi publicly acknowledged he had been unwell after he returned from an eye surgery in Israel and after prodding by the opposition.

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President Daniel Moi (right) welcomes Pope John Paul II at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on September 18, 1995. PHOTO |FILE | ABDELHAK SENNA | AFP

For the last three years, President Moi had started missing out in major public events – and when political figures went to see him in his Kabarak home, he would be photographed sitting down; at best with a distant look. He also had added some weight.

In March 2018, Moi was flown to Israel aboard a chartered plane in the company of his long-time doctor, well-known cardiologist Dr David Silverstein and his youngest son Gideon Moi. The media was told by Moi’s spokesman Lee Njiru that President Moi had been flown to Israel for a check-up on his “knee” which “had been troubling him for some time.

The knee problem was the only ailment that was publicly known. On January 27, 2017 Moi underwent a minor surgery at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi to correct the knee problem that started on July 30, 2006 when his Range Rover collided with a pick-up truck near Limuru’s Rukuma View Point.

As Moi flew out to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel, his doctor said that the Moi family was “eager to have a second opinion on the knee, which has been a source of discomfort to him [Moi]”.

“The old man is not feeling well. He will go for medical check-up (and) needs your prayers as he leaves the country,” said Gideon Moi, the family spokesman.

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Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi (left) with US President Bill Clinton at the opening of the National Summit on Africa aon February 17, 2000 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. PHOTO | FILE | MANNY CENETA | AFP

For the last two years, Moi has been on wheelchair and during the October 26, 2017 election, he did not leave his car at the Kabarak University polling station. Instead, he cast his vote from the car with the assistance of a polling clerk which was a clear sign that the old-man had a mobility problem.

On December 12, 2018, President Moi was again admitted at Nairobi Hospital with a “bout of flu” with Dr Silverstein saying the former head of state would spend a couple of nights in the hospital to accord doctors ample time to carry out their analysis. Mr Moi left hospital on Monday December 17, 2018.

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Retired President Daniel Moi celebrates his 94th birthday at his Kabarak home in Nakuru County on September 2, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | COURTESY

In September 2, 2018, Moi celebrated his 94th birthday in a private function at his Kabarak home, flanked by his children and grandchildren.

He would also watch the burial service of his eldest son Jonathan, from the house – an indicator that the former President’s health had largely deteriorated.

READ: The turbulent life of Jonathan Moi

The passing of the late Moi will reshape the Rift Valley region politics where he had become an icon – and a king-maker. But for the last decade, Mr Moi has been cut out of the national politics; thanks to ill health and change of guard.

President Kenyatta has ordered flags to be flown at half-mast at State House, State Lodges, all public buildings and military bases until sunset on the day of burial.

Additional reporting by Lynette Mukami

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