Saturday, October 11, 2008



October 11, 2008
By Standard on Saturday Team

Six years ago retired President Moi handed over the sword of honour amid the confusion and protocol mess at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.

A few hours later he landed at his Kabarak home for the first time as a senior citizen and statesman.

As he strode into retirement, a life that he yesterday marked on the occasion of a national holiday in his name, life literally changed with the end of his era and style.

The former Head of State also spoke against perception Kenya, because of the Government of National Unity, has two centres of power.

President Moi, wearing the Kanu red shirt, addresses the public at KICC after the party’s parliamentary meeting in June 2002. Photo: File/Standard

He said despite the circumstance of a unity government, it as one under President Kibaki.

"The public tends to think that we have two governments but we only have one government in place," he said.

"I am happy and spending time moving around the country," Moi told journalists at his Kabarak home.

A jovial Moi later hosted leaders among them former long serving Kanu Secretary General Joseph Kamotho and Nakuru Town MP Lee Kinyanjui at his Kabarak home.

Kamotho’s presence, despite having ditched Kanu, which Moi on Friday reiterated he is still a firm member, rekindled memories of the Independence party’s heyday when delegations streamed to the old man’s home at the end of which they would be feted with food and drinks, and also cash to buy ‘sugar’ and ‘fare’.

Moi insisted he was still in Kanu and would not waver in his support for the party that brought Independence.

He said he had warned Kenyans prior to the introduction of multi-partyism that it would lead to tribalism.

"But instead of listening to me people mistook discipline in Kanu as a party for dictatorship," Moi said.

He said Kanu, which has structures all over the country, embodies the unity of all Kenyans.

"Development cannot be achieved if you are divided," he said. A delegation from the larger Kericho District assured the former President of their support.

Kamotho said he had come to greet the former president after working with him for along time. "During the time we were in Kanu the party was a bridge between the governors and the governed," the former Kanu spokesman said.

When he was in power President Moi’s Kabarak and Kabarnet Gardens homes, and various State Houses and lodges were important addresses.

They were the venues to which delegations were ferried to ‘greet’ the grand old man who ruled Kenya for 24 years, beside nine years as vice- president.

The delegates who later arrived in their rural homes ecstatic after listening to their president, talking to him directly about their grievances and telling him about their support.

Father of the Nation

They could have been Kanu branch officials, current and former councillors, headmen, or even chiefs and their assistants. But the journey and interaction with the Head of State gave them a different rating.

In the market centres, school boards and development committees they stood out, occasionally letting out their experiences and lessons from the Father of the Nation.

Today they speak with nostalgia about the era that ended six years ago, to be replaced with President Kibaki’s business-like approach to leadership. The residents of Uasin Gishu found out recently when during a delegation to President Kibaki in Eldoret, the president took his notebook and continued writing as local leaders spoke. When one veered off to politics the Othaya MP chided him: "All these years you people of Uasin Gishu just talk politics."

Some of the leaders missing Moi remain members of Kanu, a party he gave shape after he took over from President Kenyatta, who had put it to little use and preferred to work with civil servants.

But even those who worked with him then defected to other parties as Kanu stared defeat in the 2002 General Election, now say there was something about Moi’s "common touch" that is missing in national politics today.

With Kanu struggling to remain alive, some politicians recall with nostalgia the numerous party delegations they led to Moi’s Kabarak home, or to State House to discuss how to strengthen the party.

From those delegations, political fates were sealed while other got a lifeline.

In the end, the leaders got "something small" for fare back home.

"His style of leadership is gone forever. Many of us miss State House today that used to be our friendly home," former Homa Bay MP Oluoch Kanindo said.

In the Moi days, Kanindo says, hardly a year would pass without Kanu leaders visiting him either in Kabarak or any of the State Houses. When the time for leading the delegations came, it was a serous affair.

Misses Moi

Mr Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri, a former Nakuru District Kanu chairman, fought many political battles in Rift Valley for the party.

He is not shy to say he misses Moi: "If there is anything I miss about Moi it is the moment I led delegations to meet him either at Kabarak or State House."

"It is not the cash hand-outs that I miss. No, it is that special moment when you communicate directly with the Head of State, telling him issues affecting the common man," he added.

Those were the days, according to a Mombasa Kanu official, "Kanu was Moi and Moi was Kanu’, the days when "Kanu came first ahead of everything else".

The former president observed the day by visiting a home for the mentally handicapped.

In the spirit of the day named after him, Moi donated food to children at Njoro Salvation Army Special School.

"This day is for the less fortunate and Kenyans should ensure they assist their needy neighbours," he told a crowd, which gathered at the school to listen to him.

He reminded Kenyans to stay in peace, love, and unity as he advised when he ruled.

He said he was however concerned about the sky rocketing food prices making basic necessities out of reach for most Kenyans.

In an apparent reference to the hijacking of ship along the coast by Somali pirates, he said issues of security should be left to the President.

"Everybody is payukaring (speculating) about security issues, which should be left to the President and those charged with security issues," he added.

Kamotho thanked Moi for spearheading reconciliation among communities in Rift Valley.