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PRESIDENT DANIEL
TOROITICH arap MOI

Daniel arap Moi

President Moi has been a dominant political figure in Kenya and indeed Africa, both during the pre and post-colonial periods. A gifted politician, even by his own admission, ("mwana siasa namba moja"--which is Swahili for "a brilliant politician"), he has often mesmerised Kenyans with his yet unsurpassed charisma and sense of humour, particularly his choice of phrases. Kenyans have no doubt become accustommed to some of his phrases for example, "muendelee na moyo huo huo"--Swahili for "keep on with what spirit", "siasa mbaya maisha mbaya"--Swahili for "bad politics destroys lives", just to mention but a few. In fact the success of "Reddykulass", a popular Kenyan theater group, stems entirely from their portrayal of President Moi's speeches. This in itself attests to the fact that whereas Kenyans have had some concerns with the way the Moi administration has dealt with certain issues, he still commands a soft spot in most of their hearts and a lot of people identify with him. So as the sun sets in on his career as a politician, I think its fair to say that Kenyans will miss him, not so much for his brand of politics, but the fatherly figure he has portrayed all through his tenure.

He was born on September 2nd, 1924 in Kurieng'wo Village, Sacho Location, Baringo District, North Rift Valley Province. In 1934, he began his elementary education at Africa Inland Mission(AIM) School in Kabartonjo. He later proceeded to AIM kapsabet in 1938. In 1942, he joined Kapsabet AIM School for his High School education and later proceeded to Government African School in Kapsabet. In 1945, he joined the Teacher Training College in Kapsabet to pursue a career in Teaching. By 1950, he had risen to the rank of Assistant Principal at Tambach Teacher Training College, Kapsabet.

His illustrious political career began in 1955, when he was elected Member of the Legislative Council for Rift Valley. He was re-elected in 1957 as member of the Legislative Council for Baringo North. Shortly after this, he would double as the Chairman of Kenya African Democratic Union(KADU). KADU played a huge role in the struggle for Kenya's independence from the British. In 1961, after attending a parliamentary course in the UK, he joined Kenya African National Union(KANU). He would then be appointed to serve at various cabinet positions including Minister of Education in 1962, Minister of Local Government in 1964, and later Minister of Home Affairs.

He then served as the Vice President and Minister for Home Affairs from 1966-1978, during which time he doubled as the leader of Government Business. In 1978, he was unanimously elected President of KANU and the Republic of Kenya, and immediately launcehd his famous philosophy of "Peace, Love and Unity". In 1979, Cabinet unanimously bestowed on him the Chief Of The Golden Heart Award-the highest honour in the Republic of Kenya. He was elected Chaiman of the Organisation of African Unity(OAU), at the 18th Heads of State session in Nairobi. In 1989, he was conferred an award by the United Nations for outstanding environment achievement.

In 1992, facing arguably the stiffest opposition in his political career, and with the world's eyes fixated on Kenya, he won the first Multi-Party General Election in Kenya. He would later repeat his feat in 1997. Constitutional provisisons currently prohibit him for running again in 2002, having already served two five-year terms. He has vowed not to run in the 2002 elections, opting instead for retirement from active politics.

But as is the case with many other leaderships, his has not been free of controversies. Most scholars and political experts in Kenya believe that President Moi's qualms began shortly after 1982, with the failed coup attempt. It is widely speculated that the events of 1982 may have hardened the previously "soft" President, making him deal ruthlessly with any kind of opposition, imaginary or factual. His administration has since then taken the brunt for a host of ills that people, particularly in the opposition have blamed on his administration. Some of the issues his administration has been blamed for are, a clamp-down on the freedom of the Press, especially when they got critical of his leadership. This situation came to a head in the early 1990's, with radical US Ambassador Smith Hempstone constantly voicing American frustration at Moi's government. The outspoken US ambassador would later be recalled, easing tensions between the US and Kenya. Corruption has also become a word synonimous with the Moi administration, even prompting him to appoint anti-corruption task forces many times. The most popular however was that headed by former wildlife conservationist Dr Richard Leakey. Most scholars argue that the education system in Kenya has been seriously dilluted thanks mainly to the introduction of the 8-4-4 system in the late 80's. The most scathing attack on his administration however has been the plundering of Kenya's once flourishing economy. Kenyan's pride was seriously hurt when she featured highly in the "world's poorest" and "most corrupt" lists There have also been a wave of unexplained political assassinations, including but not limited to that of prominent Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko. The number of political prisoners have also been on the rise during the President's tenure. Then of course we have those infamous land/tribal clashes that almost plunged Kenya into civil war. The clashes have widely been attributed to some powerful KANU insiders who favoured the Majimbo System(Federalism) because they were allegedly afraid they may fall from grace during the Multi-Party elections of 1992. Having Kenya divided into several states, would make it harder for them to face reprisals if someone else came to power.

Whether these allegations are indeed factual or not is neither here nor there, and we can only wait to see if the President himself will address them once he leaves office. What is factual though is that President Moi has been a dominant player in Kenyan politics during both her pre and post-natal stages, and as one of Kenya's founding fathers, he will always enjoy a dignified place in Kenya's history books.

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