KABARNET, Kenya, Feb 13 – The stories were told in small ways, yet so powerful.
Anecdote after the other, just to tell the story of a man who ruled Kenya for 24 years- the longest ever. The late Daniel arap Moi who died on February 4, 2020.
One might have expected tales of his role in development, regional peace and so on, but during his burial in Kabarnet, it was the personal encounters with the former president that dominated.
For President Uhuru Kenyatta, he credits Moi for “standing with us as a family, to where we are today as the Kenyatta family. It will only be fair if I recognize the work and effort, he put in moulding us.”
President Kenyatta also lauded Moi for his political success that later catapulted him to become the country’s fourth President.
“I have learned first hand the values and advice from Mzee that I have always used in my life,” he said, referring to Moi as a “professor of politics.”
A young girl from Nyaribo was picked to be the one to give the President a banquet of flowers on his arrival in Nyeri.
The year was 1992.
At 8 years, Caroline Karugu, like any other child was then excited and looked forward to meeting the most powerful man in the country.
Moi died on February 4 at the Nairobi Hospital, and was buried at his Kabarak home, where he received a 19-gun salute, complete with a fly-past by the military fighter jets.
“I was picked up after a very strenuous process,” Karugu told thousands of mourners at Moi’s burial, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Deputy William Ruto and other senior government and political leaders.
Karugu, who is the Nyeri Deputy Governor, was at the time a pupil at Nyeri primary school.
But her encounter with the former President changed her life, for the better. “He offered to sponsor my education throughout all the levels.”
Like a ritual, after this meeting, Karugu went to meet President Moi every year in State House.
One time, she recalled having an argument with the President.
You see, the President had asked Karugu to say what she would want him to do for her.
Her request caught Moi by surprise.
“I asked him to scrap off Kiswahili as a subject in my class,” she said amid laughter.
The request was rejected.
“I believed a presidential proclamation was enough,” she added.
Every other time they met, she said Moi would jokingly ask her whether she is ” still playing with education?”
Thanks to the education foundation laid by the late President, she has since acquired a doctorate.
“Moi had authentic compassion for education,” she said.
And such was the experience for Dr. Sally Kosgei, who served in the Moi regime for over two decades.
As Moi exited power in 2002, she was the Head of Public service.
“Moi would never shout at me,” she said.
According to Sally, who would face the President even during tense moments, “Moi would never shout at a woman.”
She fondly recalled how Moi would refer to her- a doctor, my daughter or simply my child.
And such was was the tale for many others, who said they were proud “Watato wa Nyayo(Moi’s children).”
One of such ‘child’ is Senator Moses Wetangula who was nominated by the former President to Parliament as a legislator in 1992 he lost in a parliamentary election.
“I was planning to go to court when Mzee called,” he narrated.
It marked the beginning of his political career.
Years later, he is serving as a Senator and a senior politician.
Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi refers to himself as Moi’s political last-born.
He served as the last Vice president in Moi’s tenure, albeit for a short period.
Deputy President William Ruto equally refers to Moi as his ‘political father’.
“We became his last born in politics,” the Deputy President said.
“We bid farewell to a legend of the country and our father, we are graduates of Moi school of leadership,” said Ruto who served as a Secretary-General in Moi’s KANU party.
President Kenyatta too credits Moi for catapulting him into national politics when he nominated him to be a Member of Parliament and later named him as his preferred successor in the 2002 elections, in which he lost to Mwai Kibaki.
Davis Ayegah contributed to this article from Nairobi.