Monday, July 19, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

July 19, 2010

There was an interesting story that caught my attention over the weekend. It was carried out in one of the weekend editions of mainstream newspapers. Under normal circumstances, it would have not bothered me. This time it did.

Apparently retired President Daniel arap Moi was unhappy that the coalition government had decided to use civil servants to campaign for the Yes team. In Moi’s wisdom, it was wrong to politicize the civil service by involving them in partisan political campaigns against their code of conduct.

When I read this story, my mind raced back to 24 years of the retired president’s rule. Then I remembered many scenes when Moi manipulated the civil serve from the local chief to the Head of the Civil Service. I remembered those days when Moi used DOs, DCs and PCs as election returning officers from 1979 to 1997 without giving any thought about their being civil servants. The 1988 Mlolongo elections were a clear example of misuse of the civil service by the President to gain political control. Who but Moi had his rallies addressed by PCs whenever he went on a campaign trail in all those years of KANU supremacy? And when Isaiah Mathenge, Hezekiah Oyugi, Simeon Nyachae, Eliud Mahihu or Yusuf Haji rose to welcome the President at a political rally, was that politics or a Christian Sermon on the Mount?

During the 2002 campaigns, Moi used the Provincial Administration to ferry lorry-loads of supporters from every corner of the republic to boost his rallies that were being eroded by the Narc euphoria. We saw these hired crowds in Afraha Stadium in Nakuru, Eldoret, Kericho, Mombasa and other campaign venues that Moi traversed at the time.

And Moi did not just use the Provincial Administration alone. He ravaged the entire civil service, Permanent Secretaries, heads of state corporations, the Police Force, the Special Branch and any arm of the government that could help him contain the tide against KANU.

In those days when merit and competence counted for nothing in the appointment of senior civil servants, the Presidency became the Alfa and Omega of Kenya’s political gravy train. Mtukufu had the last word on the future and lives of many a Kenyan. If Moi liked your face, you would become a top dog in public service over night. All you needed was a tall relative or a good friend in high places to put in a good word for you. In the same vein, if you crossed his line, it did not matter who you were. You would be a nobody the following morning.

Jokes are told of the era when top civil servants of the ranks of DC and above all bought transistor radios and placed them in their offices. This was necessary after Moi had formed the habit of firing and hiring top civil servants during the 1pm news bulletin. Prior to that, many unsuspecting Permanent Secretaries and heads of public corporations had been embarrassed when they were dumped by the roadsides unaware that Moi had sacked them at 1pm while in important meetings or attending state functions. On returning to their cars, they would find rude drivers declining to take them back to their offices, gleefully informing such officials that Mtukufu had fired them.

Perhaps the rain started beating us when Moi chose to use the offices of the Attorney General and Head of the Civil Service to scuttle his perceived political rivals. In those days, the Attorney General’s powers knew no bounds. He would pluck MPs from the precincts of Parliament and throw them into detention for years without any judicial process. Victims of that era included Waruru Kanja, Marie Seroney and Martin Shikuku among others. It was the era of a perfected impunity that knew no bounds or limits. It was the wapende wasipenda era of Taib Nassir of Pwani and Kariuki Chotara of Naivasha

Kenyans may well remember the reigns of Hezekiah Oyugi Ogango and Simeon Nyachae when they were the two top dogs in the Office of the President. In those days, one’s lucrative job could be on the line if one was perceived to be anti- Moi, Nyachae or Oyugi in Nyanza. While Simeon Nyachae decided the fate of political leaders and senior civil servants in Gusiland, Oyugi presided over who went to Parliament or got a lucrative civil service appointment in South Nyanza. In both circumstances, they couldn’t have achieved what they did without dabbling in politics.

During Moi’s era, the authorities of all Provincial Commissioners were undermined when he started appointing DCs without consulting PCs or the Public Service Commission. However, when he started dealing directly with DCs without going through their respective PCs, the die was cast for a dysfunctional administration. The saving grace was his authoritarianism that suppressed any discontent from the ranks of the top civil servants.

By 1992 when multiparty politics was knocking on the doors of KANU, Moi threw all caution to the wind. He enlisted the services of every imaginable civil servant, from the sub chief to the Head of the Civil Service to ensure his victory in the 1992 elections. From then on, the power and influence of the Administration Police under the command of the Provincial Administration grew in leaps and bounds.

If the present administration has seen the need to enlist the services of the civil service during this referendum campaign, it is because the present leaders mastered their skills from the best- Daniel Toroitich arap Moi. Now the master is reaping the fruits of his labour.