Moi was a nationalist who spent his entire life serving humanity
- Moi promoted African Socialism as the economic and political model suited to the continent’s tribal and historical contexts.
- He cautioned against a wholesale embrace of Western-style democracy and capitalism by pointing out its pitfalls.
His flaws notwithstanding, second President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi remains one of Africa’s towering patriarchs and the last true Father of the Nation.
Moi’s unlikely rise to the presidency, from an obscure village in Baringo, was heavily informed by his Christian roots and Christ-like personality.
He endured scorn, ridicule and humiliation as well as attempts at overthrowing and killing him.
Powerful donor nations frustrated him by withholding development finance, leading high-stakes smear campaigns against him and providing material and moral support to underground movements.
But Moi saved our republic from bloodshed, economic chaos and political anarchy by overcoming these dark forces.
Moi was a nationalist who opened wide the doors of his cathedral to remote, marginalised and oft-forgotten groups.
He had a deep sense of awareness that the country belonged to all of us, regardless of tribe or race. He staved off opposition and integrated ‘outsider’ Kenyans into our national family.
In exercising discretionary powers, he was thoughtful and balanced — as seen in Cabinet and Provincial Administration appointments, which reflected the face of Kenya.
He denounced the flawed practice that sensitive, strategic and powerful ministries could only be steered by his tribesmen.
On sustainable development, Moi was ahead of his time. He prioritised and inculcated in schoolchildren the importance of environmental sustainability through conservation, tree planting, reforestation and soil erosion remedial programmes.
He established Nyayo Tea Zones as a novel buffer for the dwindling forest cover from human encroachment.
Remarkably, long before the UN’s three pillars of development, Moi had articulated and demonstrated that it was impossible to attain social and economic well-being without proper regard to the environment.
Moi promoted African Socialism as the economic and political model suited to the continent’s tribal and historical contexts.
He cautioned against a wholesale embrace of Western-style democracy and capitalism by pointing out its pitfalls.
He favoured the ubiquitous Harambee spirit — a participatory development approach where the citizens collaborated in developing local infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and churches.
Andrew Morton writes that Moi was adjudged guilty for simply “defending the uniquely African traditions and values of his people, of guarding the sovereignty of his country, and of attempting, albeit often hesitantly and awkwardly, to define a Kenyan approach to the problems a new nation faced.
The President was condemned for conflicts with the donor nations over the pace of economic and political reform, his warnings about dire consequences of multiparty politics in a country where tribal loyalties often suffocate national allegiance, for his emphasis on conciliation and consensus, which hacks back to tribal values, but sits oddly in a world promoting an adversarial legal and political system”.
Moi was an enigma: a man of limited formal education, yet he accomplished a lot. He was widely admired, including by his critics, for his high energy levels, wisdom, tolerance, forgiveness and love for the common mwananchi.
He also had splendid instinct and foresight. For instance, 30 years ago, he unsuccessfully championed a variance of the competency-based curriculum (CBC) and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) that we are trying to mainstream.
‘Baba Moi’ selflessly spent his entire life serving humanity, as Morton wrote, “perhaps because serving his nation is now second nature; he rarely, if ever, thinks of himself before his country… his day-to-day life is a rigorous round of meetings and audiences that Moi the president and politician has subsumed the personality of Moi the man. When he took a short holiday in Israel in 1996, it was his first break in more than 40 years of public life”.
It’s with sadness and gratitude that we say, “Go well, Agui.”
Mr Chesoli is a New York-based development economist and global policy expert. @kenchesoli