Badly needed is a legal regime to fearlessly safeguard rights

Tuesday February 20 2018

President Moi

Former President Daniel arap Moi. After dealing with the Mafiosi of the Kenyatta regime, President Moi then promoted a new set of characters to bring down the very same figures who had propped him up. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By Macharia Gaitho
More by this Author

Kenya has a history of presidents plucking some fellows out of nowhere and pumping them up to positions of great power and influence.

Fellows who are owned lock, stock and barrel by their “sponsor” will willingly play enforcer, especially when tasked to keep political opponents in check.

Kenyatta the First, Old Man Jomo, had a bunch of venal Kiambu and Nakuru politicians, as well as a network of security and administrative apparatchiks, detailed to harass and intimidate the first Vice- President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, onto his last and then much later Vice-President Daniel arap Moi.


The fellows who used to be known as either the Nakuru or Kiambu Mafia — the likes of Nakuru North MP and Ngwataniro Land Buying Company founder Kihika Kimani, Nakuru District Commissioner Njuguna Ndoro, and Rift Valley Police boss James Mungai— grew to great wealth and power, but only as appendages and errand boys of a vicious dictatorship that needed them for its dirty work.

On succeeding Mzee Kenyatta in 1978, President Moi adopted the same old tactics.

Although he had some influential central Kenya figures by his side, notably Attorney-General Charles Njonjo and Vice-President Mwai Kibaki, he also elevated all manner of dubious characters to take the frontline against remnants of the Kenyatta-era power elite, who had tried to block his ascension.

Kariuki Chotara comes to mind.

After dealing with the Mafiosi of the Kenyatta regime, President Moi then promoted a new set of characters to bring down the very same figures who had propped him up.

First, the powerful Njonjo axis was smashed to smithereens, and eventually the Vice-President Kibaki’s group was also scattered. 

President Moi’s modus operandi came with two hallmarks: One was to take irascible barely literate figures with a chip on the shoulder, like Kariuki Chotara, Mulu Mutisya, Shariff Nassir and Kuria Kanyingi, and unleash them on whoever he wanted to bring down.


The other was the use-and-dump strategy: Those fellows that he owned and lavished with power, money and land were at the end of the day no more than dispensable cannon fodder.

He would eventually get rid of them in the same fashion he had used them to get rid of others.

They would not be mourned because they had made so many enemies when carrying out President Moi’s dirty work, that their departures would be celebrated with glee across the country.

Though the constitutional and political dispensation has changed a great deal, we are seeing in the Jubilee administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto a clear programme to replicate elements of the one-party Kanu dictatorships of Kenyatta I and Daniel Moi.

One is in the effort to create an all-powerful ruling party that claims supremacy over the Executive, the Legislature and also the Judiciary.


We are also seeing recreation of a State machinery that operates as if it is above the Constitution, one that breaks the law under the pretext of enforcing the law, often on spurious national security grounds.

To recreate the dictatorship of the past, the regime needs willing men and women to take the front line, and that is where the likes of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Dualle come in.

They may be a bit more educated and polished than the Kariuki Chotaras and Kurias Kanyingis of yesteryear, but they serve exactly the same functions as the disreputable enforcers of the past – taking war to the opposition, shutting down all voices of dissent.


What the political enforcers of today and the vast army of Jubilee functionaries, cheerleaders and social media warriors forget is that history repeats itself.

Those used by the system to commit illegalities will always be dropped like hot potatoes when the system is called to account. That is when you will hear “everybody must bear his own cross”.

They also forget that what goes around comes around.

Today we may cheer emerging dictatorship because our party or our tribe is in power, but tomorrow we’ll be the ones crying out for protection.

What all of us should crave is a constitutional and legal regime that will fearlessly safeguard our rights when our worst nightmare, the one we hate and fear, comes to power.


Email: [email protected] Twitter: @MachariaGaitho