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Moi's doctor claims Mzee was a centenarian

Wednesday February 12 2020

STEVE OTIENO
By STEVE OTIENO
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The personal physician of former President Daniel arap Moi has suggested that the former leader was more than 100 years old, adding to the mystery of Mzee’s real age.

In an emotional tribute that he gave during Moi’s burial in Kabarak, Dr David Silverstein recounted his first encounter with the former leader in the late 1970s.

“I first met Mzee in 1977 when he was a 60-year-old Vice President and I was a 33-year-old cardiologist.

“His secretary, Mrs Smith called to ask if, when and where I could see him (Moi) and I replied, yes anytime, at Kenyatta National Hospital,” Dr Silverstein said.

The cardiologist went on to narrate of how their friendship blossomed over the last four decades that he used to visit the former president on a weekly basis to check his health and also catch up on issues with Moi at State House when he became president.

“Mzee always invited me for a cup of tea and he would whisper a silent prayer as he held his cup and we would talk our favourite topics. The latest medical developments, international politics and the state of Israel,” he said.

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Dr Silverstein’s sentiments then places Mzee Moi as a centenarian, who passed the 100 years mark and was somewhere between 102 and 103 at the time of his death.

Medical professionals often carry out age assessments to determine the age of their patients especially when the age cannot be established or there is need to give medicinal attention that is strictly age-bound.

This is a common exercise done by doctors attached to athletes and sportspersons whose health are constantly under check.

According to the World Medical Association (WMA), the age assessments may take the form of X-ray scans of the jaw, hand or wrist, CT scans of the collarbone, MRI scans of the knee; or the examination of secondary sex characteristics to determine the patient’s exact age.

However, the global association noted some ethical concerns about these forms of examination, as they can potentially endanger the health of those being examined. Furthermore, there is conflicting evidence about the accuracy and reliability of the available methods of medical age assessment, which may generate significant margins of error.

“For example, some available studies do not appear to take into account potential delays in skeletal maturation caused by malnutrition, which is just one factor that could translate into a risk of age misclassification,” a part of a report filed in October 2019, by the WMA reads.

With such advancements in the medical fraternity, then Moi’s long serving press secretary, Lee Njiru could be right. He has been quoted on several equations saying Mzee Moi was more than a hundred years.

During an interview with local television last week, Mr Njiru countered the general belief that the former president was 95 years.

“I will confirm this to you, Mzee had told me not to look at his ID card, I want to correct you, Moi was between 102 and 103-years-old not 95 like everyone is saying,” he said.

While addressing the press on Monday, Moi’s son, Raymond, also challenged the media reports on the departed president’s age.

“We read in the magazines and newspapers that Mzee was 95 years old, but Mzee was not 95 and I think many of you have surmised that,” said Raymond.

Raymond said Mzee Moi had a childhood friend who lives in the US and was a missionary. “Ërik Barnett, who used to play football with Mzee is now 103 years,” said Raymond.

Raymond went on to narrate that Barnett, kept asking why they keep saying Moi was born in 1924 when he last visited Moi,  yet he was older than him (Barnett) and that during football matches he would beg Moi not to break their legs because he was older and stronger than them.

Reverend Barnett was the officiating cleric when Mzee Moi married Lena in 1950, a year after Moi returned from training at Kagumo Teachers' College.