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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 6th February 2020

How to remember Moi?

Blue Lines

The traditional reluctance to speak ill of the newly dead is serving Daniel arap Moi well. The death of Kenya's President from 1978-2002, on 4 February aged 95, has been greeted with accolades from African and Western officials in the media. Moi dominated Kenyan politics for over two decades. After surviving a plot to block his succession, he systematically co-opted or cudgeled his opponents, with the help of enforcers Nicholas Biwott and Wilson Boinett.

Many cheered at first when wealthy cash-crop exporters from Central Province lost out and Moi used the state to distribute jobs and resources to his Kalenjin people and other minorities. He was also a stalwart Cold War ally of British and US governments who ignored the worsening repression and state theft until Kenya's pressure for political pluralism became irresistible.

When Moi took over from founding President Jomo Kenyatta, the economy was growing at 6.9% and Kenya was seen as an African country following in the footsteps of the fast-growing East Asian economies. When he handed over to Mwai Kibaki, growth had slumped to 0.6%, after 13 politically connected banks had collapsed in the previous decade, and a state-sponsored export scam known as Goldenberg lopped about 10% off national income. All Kenya's leaders today owe Moi: President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were directly backed by him at different stages, as was Musalia Mudavadi. Even Raila Odinga rose to opposition stardom after being jailed by Moi.