Moi may have been all the bad things, but he was a patriot
- Even in our most fierce fight against Mr Moi, we may have questioned his humanity, but I never recall anyone seriously questioning his patriotism.
- The Second Liberation did not end corruption, election rigging, tribalism and incompetence in government. But it delivered human rights, an open political system and a liberal constitution.
Many of the people commenting about the regime of retired President Daniel arap Moi are talking through their hats.
Some were quisling sell-outs, others Mr Moi’s rivals for power; their word can’t be relied upon. The rest had no first-hand experience of Mr Moi and his iron-fisted regime and are just repeating stuff they know little about.
The Second Liberation — the opposition movement which started in the 1980s to remove Mr Moi and Moism — was won.
Opposition forces removed Mr Moi in 2002 and key elements of that movement have been part of mainstream government for the past 17 years.
The history of the Moi era has been recited, if not written, by the products of that revolution. They are, after all, the victors.
The ugly truth is, the Second Liberation has produced leaders who are as incompetent, tribalist and avaricious as the worst of the Moists. Some of the Second Liberation crop have less principles than the Moists.
They are more committed to power, wealth and tribe than they are to the nation, and that is why our country is in trouble.
A few of those brave folks — and here I have in mind Dr Willy Mutunga, Prof Kivutha Kibwana and Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o — are diamonds of the first water; leaders who reject the primitive theft of public money and apply themselves to public service with honesty and passion.
A section of the revolution embraced stragglers from Kanu and allowed itself to be pollinated, contaminated and polluted by that regime so that it is difficult to distinguish between the liberationist and the Moist: they are all out there, destroying our grandchildren’s future, having destroyed ours and our children’s.
I was a politically aware university student and later journalist in the last decade of the Moi regime. I became managing editor of the Nairobi Law Monthly when I was still a kid.
My Editor-in-Chief, Mr Gitobu Imanyara, was not only a political detainee who wore his scars without fear but was actively involved in the fight against the Moi despotism.
Our offices on the fourth floor of Tumaini House were like a river of radicalism; the most tortured, the most oppressed and hounded of the leftists dropped in and out of them.
Mr Paul Muite, Dr Mukaru Ng’ang’a, Mr Raila Odinga, Prof Nyong’o, Dr Oki Ooko Ombaka, Dr Mutunga, Prof Pheroze Nowrojee, the irrepressible Fida brigade — all the cleverest, most rabid anti-Moists — passed in front of my little desk, I met at functions or published.
These honourable people suffered to bring down the Moi system. When it fell, they were either betrayed by smooth-talking politicians, corrupted by the remnants of the Moi regime or were unprepared and, therefore, unable to deliver the goods — as Trump says, they choked — when the moment came.
The Second Liberation won the battle of vanquishing Moi and restoring human rights and freedom to Kenya but lost the war of cleaning up Kenyan politics.
I am a Nation journalist and editor; I am hired to speak my mind. Many of the folks on Twitter blasting Linus Kaikai for his comments on Mr Moi are mainly shallow and given to keeping with the herd, echoing vaporous comments and unable to form a clear and honest opinion.
Make no mistake, Mr Moi was a brutal dictator who stayed in power by brutalising the rest of the country. But there were other sides to him too.
Even in our most fierce fight against Mr Moi, we may have questioned his ability, brains and humanity, but I never recall anyone seriously questioning his patriotism.
Mr Moi came from my father’s generation, for whom this country was so precious that young people in their thousands, most of them barely literate and with no training in arms, were prepared to lay down their lives for it.
And even those who did not have the courage to die for it were prepared to kill for it.
I think if you went to Mr Moi and offered him money to allow you to alter our borders or to allow a wanted war criminal to visit the country and soil its name, you would probably be discovered somewhere with your money inside your stomach. He was baddie who loved his country.
The Second Liberation did not end corruption, election rigging, tribalism and incompetence in government. But it delivered human rights, an open political system and a liberal constitution.
Kenyans are still being murdered by police, yes, and the Special Branch still has a strong grip on the State, yes. But those who lived through the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, when it was a crime to speak the way I am speaking, know that Kenyans have freedoms that few on this continent enjoy.
That is the fruit of the Second Liberation: those who died and those who were betrayed did not suffer in vain.
This does not mean that we cannot examine ourselves and the Moists and make a fair judgment.
Mr Moi was a tribalist and a dictator, but he was also a passionate patriot who in his own way wanted what was best for the country: so long as all of you did as you were told.
And those who rebelled against him were not angels, some were as bad as the worst Moists. The challenge is for us — and our children — to acknowledge our history with honesty and go back to the fight of making our country better for all of us.