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We should learn from history as we mourn Moi

By Alberto Leny
Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
President Moi, when President Uhuru Kenyatta we to visit him. Photo/File

Today we bid farewell to the second President of the Republic of Kenya, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, a man whose stature is inextricably engraved in the nation’s history.

Since his death last week, Moi has been mourned and trolled by Kenyans of all walks of life and the rendition of his momentous years have resoundingly reverberated at home and globally.

Moi’s enduring aura spread like a colossus across the country, magnified by his 24 years at the helm of the Executive after succeeding Jomo Kenyatta whom he had loyally served as vice-president.

His humble nature aided his ascension at a time when Kenya was a one-party state and Kanu was the “Mama na Baba” of Kenyan politics, the alpha and omega of the political, social and economic heartbeat of the nation.

Moi’s simple mien and humility was amply demonstrated during his tenure as he constantly appealed to Kenyans to remain patriotic to the nation and to adhere to the “Nyayo philosophy” of peace, love and unity.

Praised and pilloried in equal measure during his presidency and since his demise, Moi has been described as a benevolent dictator who wielded immense instruments of power in a domineering control of statecraft.

Historians have amply chronicled Moi’s enduring larger than life legacy but he had already carved a niche for himself from his humble background as a teacher to an illustrious career in national leadership.

My close encounters with Moi emanate from the days when he was the Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, just one year after he took office.

He valued the power of education and actively participated in the expansion of the sector.

But he also loathed what he perceived to be excessive academic freedom that propelled him to a collision course with the academia and legal minds who contributed to the “second liberation” that sounded the death knell for the one-party dictatorship to usher in multi-party democracy.

Moi also knew the power of the media and did not hesitate to immerse himself in the day-to-day affairs including management and ownership. 

His influence in the media remains to date from the time he founded the Kanu-owned Kenya Times (now defunct) that groomed some of Kenya’s finest journalists.

It was a delicate balancing act for the reporters and editors who had to contend with the task of fulfilling professional and ethical obligations while serving the interests of the “master” keen on burnishing the less palatable aspects of the regime that had its fair share of dark secrets.

Through aides, Moi closely monitored media content and literally controlled the headlines in those that he had direct influence.

It was not unusual to receive phone calls from the House on the Hill inquiring what was on the front page and in some cases causing it to be changed.

So as we say goodbye to Moi, we remember the positive aspects of his life and leadership that have left an indelible mark in our nation. 

We must also learn from the lessons that have traversed our nation’s history under his leadership and continue to grow our democracy and freedom of expression. [email protected]

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