NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – Why was the late Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi referred to as the professor of politics?
And how did he manage to navigate the murky waters of politics, then, to become the most powerful and longest-serving Kenyan leader?
These are questions that can only be answered by those who served under him during his 24 years as President.
This is a man who was dismissed as a ‘passing cloud’ by critics after he assumed power in 1978, following the death of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta- Kenya’s founding father.
“His unpredictability in dealing with friends and foes made him a professor of politics,” said Moses Wetangula, the Bungoma Senator, after viewing Moi’s body at the Lee Funeral Home on Tuesday morning.
Wetangula who once represented the former President said he vividly recalls how he pulled surprises during his tenure in power.
“He was a shrewd politician,” Wetangula said, “who climbed the radars of humility to become the President of Kenya.”
“He valued advices but he would also make an independent decision after that.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta described Moi as a true African son, who served his country with diligence.
But there is the lot who have accused Moi of being a dictator, and one who should be remembered for ruling Kenya with an iron fist.
“He ruled during turbulent times in the country,” Senator Wetangula said, sentiments shared by former Cabinet Minister Fred Gumo.
“You cannot be respected if you are not feared,” the former MP said, describing himself as “a student of Moi.”
Like Wetangula, the former Westlands Member of Parliament said he joined politics because Moi held his hand.
Why was Moi’s leadership described as firm?
According to Senator Wetangula, other than Moi facing major hurdles as he scaled through the political radar, he is also the only President who faced a real threat to his presidency- an attempted coup.
“This made him firm,” Senator Wetangula said of the 1982 attempted coup.
A firm man he was, so agrees Musalia Mudavadi who once served as his Vice President.
“He loved his country. He did it for the country,” Mudavadi, who is also the Amani National Congress leader said, after viewing Moi’s body at the Lee Funeral Home.
But was Moi a prince of peace?
During his tenure in power, the leaders who spoke to Capital News hailed him as a champion of peace, both in Kenya and the region.
Wetangula recalls that it is Moi who hosted President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda-as a mere rebel- when he was fighting dictators in his own country.
He is also credited for upholding peace in Sudan, with the eventual birth of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation.
Moi was succeeded by retired President Mwai Kibaki in 2002- after he trounced his preferred candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, the current president.
“I ask for forgiveness to anyone I may have wronged. To those who wronged me, I forgive you,” this remains the most remembered words of the late President, before he handed over power to Kibaki.
According to Mudavadi and Wetangula “he surprised many” since no one knew if he was prepared to hand over power.
Moi died on Tuesday morning, aged 95.
His son Gideon said he died at Nairobi Hospital at 5.20 am, surrounded close family members.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared a national mourning period, during which flags will fly at half-mast until his burial.