Herdsboy who rose to rule Kenya for 24 years hits milestone

Retired president Daniel Moi (left) and former Nominated MP Mark Too at a Kanu rally at Kurgung High School in Nandi North District on January 15, 2011. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA

Retired president Daniel Moi (left) and former Nominated MP Mark Too at a Kanu rally at Kurgung High School in Nandi North District on January 15, 2011. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |
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Retired President Daniel arap Moi turns 90 on Tuesday.

The former President, described by an aide as being at his happiest, will mark the milestone with a party at Kabarak University.

“The Bible says that a human being’s life span is 70 years and anything above that is a bonus. Mzee Moi is extremely grateful to God for giving him that bonus where he continues to enjoy excellent health while looking forward to being a 100 years and even more,” said his private secretary Lee Njiru.

Mr Moi, who rose from humble beginnings, to spend more than 50 years as a Member of Parliament, and a quarter a century as President, is remembered for his authoritarian rule, during which there was widespread violation of human rights.

His government is remembered with bitterness by those who fell out with the system and suffered for it. The runaway, high-level corruption damaged the economy and gutted institutions.

But Mr Moi is also increasingly thought of with some respect because of his forthright nationalism and political effectiveness.

In an interview with the Nation on Monday, Mr Njiru said that Mr Moi had a million reasons to be grateful to God and Kenyans for giving him time to serve them as President for 24 years and another 60 years in the high stakes arena of politics.

ACTIVE LIFE IN POLITICS

“Mzee Moi has enjoyed an active life even after leaving office where he has led a peaceful enjoyable life not in hibernation or in the back burner but in public, executing various projects beneficial to mankind,” he said.

He said the retired President would celebrate with the Kabarak community comprising primary and secondary school children as well as university students.

Several bulls will be slaughtered for guests.

Mr Moi will also witness the launch of a book detailing his various works during his tenure in office and before, in words and pictures.

“Let me set the record straight: Mr Moi has never been defeated in any political contest in his entire lifetime. Even in 2002, his name was not on the ballot paper but that of President Uhuru (Kenyatta) who was trounced by Mwai Kibaki,” Mr Njiru said.

Mr Njiru said that at 90, the former President planned to reflect on his journey as an orphan, rising to become a teacher in 1945, the Rift Valley representative in the Legislative Governing Council (Legco) aged 31 and eventually an assistant secretary of education, representing Kenya in the Unesco conference in Dar es Salaam.

“It was here that then President Kenyatta and his Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga openly agreed Mr Moi was a shrewd politician with a unique political acumen that ended with Mr Oginga branding him a ‘giraffe’ — a person who sees far ahead,” he recalled.

Mr Njiru said that in 1978, Mr Moi’s leadership was severely tested when politicians attempted to change the constitution to bar him from succeeding then President Jomo Kenyatta, and later a coup in 1982 which made him assert his position as a leader “in order to save Kenya”.

ENEMY WITHIN

“The world over presidents were being assassinated by their close confidantes and governments overturned all over. President Moi passed through all this by ensuring Kenya searched for the enemy within, in its closest closet,” he said.

Mr Njiru said the retired Head of State was looking forward to Tuesday’s celebration as a hero who was able to outlive major challenges that also saw his government starved off funds to run by foreign donors, which funded internal opponents to trounce him.

“What we are seeing here is a joke as there are only three people in the opposition. During Moi’s time, there were communal kingpins all over, all fighting Moi but he proved to be the professor of politics.

“There were Koigi wa Wamwere, Odinga senior, Masinde Muliro, Mwai Kibaki, James Orengo, Moseti Anyona… name them. There were over 200 opponents but he managed to floor all of them,” he said.

Mr Njiru, who has been on the retired President’s staff for more than 36 years, defended Mr Moi’s rule, saying the former Head of State did everything in his power to ensure peace prevailed and that no one threatened Kenyans’ well-being.

This he did without fear of stepping on the toes of his friends within and out of the country, he said.

“Ninety years is a time to enjoy life and thank God that through His grace, Mr Moi ensured Kenyans benefited as a people, not individuals. At his heart is ascendancy of his chosen successor to the presidency, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, which affirmed his belief that his choice was right,” he said.

Mr Moi will first plant a tree before being ushered into the auditorium to be entertained by Kabarak community choir and eventually the book launch.

On Monday, former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott congratulated Mr Moi on his 90th birthday.

“On this auspicious occasion, I wish to congratulate you most heartily on your 90th birthday. May God grant you more happiness, good health and more years,” Mr Biwott said in a statement to the Nation.

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