Why Kibaki cannot hold a candle to Moi’s democratic credentials

Friday July 30 2010



Were it not for his restraint and love for children, Mr Daniel arap Moi would have challenged his successor to debate him on prime time TV over who is the better President.

The ongoing public spat between the two leaders would have ended instantly before the cameras, mortally wounding President Kibaki’s reputation forever and pulverising his tattered legacy.

Mr Moi would have used the opportunity not only to lay out his reform credentials, but also to publicly humiliate the President for his numerous failings.

As President, Mr Moi staved off a national crisis by agreeing to minimum reforms in 1997. Through the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group deal, the country was pulled back from revolution by allowing public meetings without having to seek permits, giving political parties a voice in picking electoral commission officials and agreeing to a roadmap for constitution review.

Mr Moi then lured Prof Yash Pal Ghai from overseas to lead constitution-making. His subsequent refusal to give Prof Ghai’s Constitution of Kenya Review Commission audience in no way detracted from his great personal contribution. Of course, he was wise enough to avoid giving a time frame for completing the review. He was only being neutral and presidential.

Before that, Mr Moi had responded to the public clamour for plural politics by advising Kanu to repeal the constitutional provision for single-party rule.

Let the record reflect that Mr Kibaki, then Vice-President with his eyes on the presidency, had single-handedly proposed the constitutional amendment that turned Kenya into a one-party dictatorship, rushed it through debate, and presented Mr Moi with a fait accompli. As President, Mr Moi had little choice but to assent to it.

Other than the constitutional reforms carried out under Mr Moi, what can Mr Kibaki say he has done with the constitution? Nothing, except waste money on referenda!

Were it not for foreigners bullying him into tinkering with the very constitution he had sworn to protect in 2008, he would have served his time without a single amendment.

Mr Moi, on the other hand, reformed the constitution to take away the security of tenure of judges — then he put it back. There were numerous other reforms he surmounted great difficulties to deliver.

Despite Mr Moi lending his successor generous help in the 2007 elections, he could not even create a million vote margin between him and his challenger, forcing him to be sworn in at night. The violence that followed those elections made Mr Moi wish he was in charge.

As President, he always had the capacity to predict violent events and control them. When clashes broke out in 1992 and again in 1997, he knew exactly how they would begin and end. When time came for the killing to stop, he ordered so, and it was done.

How does a President who is serious about democracy allow so many of his trusted lieutenants to fall by the wayside in an election? You pick the people you want to work with, or you end up with humourless characters in the Cabinet. Tell them to sing like parrots, and they start speechifying. How is it that everyone can talk at the same time? Kimya, Professor!

The desire to surround himself with NGO-types has been Mr Kibaki’s greatest undoing. Take the little matter of corruption. In terms of scale and audacity, nothing in recent history matches the gold and diamonds export compensation puzzle that was the Goldenberg affair.

By the time the matter was being unearthed, it was 10 years after the fact. Look at the kind of competence that went into Anglo Leasing, a project set up under Mr Moi’s tenure and passed on. Two years on, with no money transferred and there was already a scandal.

Obviously, Mr Kibaki did not take enough lessons from his boss when he was Vice-President. The matter of illegally armed groups like Mungiki is illustrative.

As President, when Mungiki slaughtered people in Kariobangi, Mr Moi did not strike them with a hammer. He personally invited them to State House, served them tea and lent them army Land Rovers for the 2002 campaigns. What did President Kibaki do? Start shooting them left, right and centre. Next thing we know, a UN Special Rapporteur is in town, and ministers are wanted in The Hague!

When Mr Moi detained people for national security, even the UN could not challenge that. Nowadays, every time someone is killed, a team of foreigners rush to Kenya to investigate. If it is not Philip Alston, it is Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Kenyans did not know these fellows.

Mr Moi must pity his successor when he looks at his puny achievements. Where Mr Moi has numerous schools, roads, bridges, stadia and children bearing his name, his successor’s face is on one miserable Sh40 coin. And he calls himself Mr Economy!