What you need to know:
- To many Kenyans and, indeed, the international community, President Moi ruled with an iron fist for 24 years.
- Moi Senior’s rule was chequered by human rights abuses, corruption, one-party rule and impunity.
Kanu, the first party to rule independent Kenya, recently held its convention, where members unanimously elected Baringo Senator Gideon Moi as its 2022 presidential candidate in next year’s general election.
Emboldened by his party’s faith in him, Mr Moi even joked that perhaps he might be the best option for One Kenya Alliance (OKA). What intrigued me in his acceptance speech was his near-apologetic sentiments on the excesses and abuses of Kanu under the rule of his father, the late President Daniel arap Moi. He said: “We acknowledge, therefore, that during Kanu’s time in power, some things went wrong.”
It is refreshing to hear a party in Kenya own up to misdeeds. However, it will take more than words to right the wrongs of Kanu; the party has its work cut out for it.
To many Kenyans and, indeed, the international community, President Moi ruled with an iron fist for 24 years. Ignoring that is tweaking history. Even Senator Moi alluded to the fact, saying that “If history has taught us anything as a people, it is that we can never edit, revise or erase our past”.
Shortcomings and blunders
Moi Senior’s rule was chequered by human rights abuses, corruption, one-party rule and impunity. He had no tolerance for women’s rights and, hence, castigated women who returned to the country demanding for equality, after attending the UN’s 1985 Beijing Conference on Women. Ironically, he still relied on the Maendeleo ya Wanawake organisation for votes.
Despite his shortcomings and blunders, President Moi can still be forgiven because he left behind a stable country and acknowledging the fact that “siasa mbaya ni maisha mbaya (bad politics leads to poor lifestyle)”. His words still ring true since, looking at our detrimental political environment, nothing has changed on that front.
Moi Junior has a monumental task of rebranding Kanu and bringing it in line with Kenya’s democratic ideals. It is healing for him to acknowledge that some things under the Kanu of his father were injurious to individuals and the country at large. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, as the saying goes; hence, Senator Moi will need to prove now and in future that today’s Kanu has learnt from past mistakes and turned the corner for the better.
The greatest challenge that Mr Moi faces is that of trust. Nothing bars him from throwing his hat in the ring but his quest for the highest office in the land may come at a price and a lot may play to his disadvantage. All that hinges on his father’s past conduct as the second and, controversially, longest-serving President of Kenya. This is the shadow he needs to leave and carve a niche for himself. He may be Moi’s scion but he does not have to be the man that his father was.
In his last speech while in office, President Moi asked for forgiveness. But forgiveness is not something that is easy for many people to give. For instance, unlike somebody whose only loss was being demoted from a ministerial post — as was the norm then — pro-democracy activists who were tortured during his reign may have found it hard to forgive him. The Nyayo House torture chamber stories were just tales appearing in books and the media to the rest of us but were, in fact, harrowing experiences for the individuals and families that went through it.
Carrying the flag
To gloss over the dark history of Kenya is to do the future generation grave injustice. There are many lessons to be learnt from the regimes of President Moi and his predecessor Jomo Kenyatta. Those that need to learn them first are their descendants, whose ancestors had a hand in the excesses of power. It was, therefore, refreshing to hear flashings of acceptance of guilt from Senator Moi on his father’s behalf — which, in my opinion, falls in the second part of transitional justice that Kenya has been waiting for. The first is the introduction of the current Constitution that repealed the one-party rule in 2010.
Kenya is in a different place compared to Independence Constitution. Democracy has been our way of life, some would think. However, given the realignment of political parties with the same dynastic faces, it is likely that Senator Moi will play a part in the next government. It won’t be surprising either for him to end up carrying the flag for OKA.
Where there is smoke, there is fire, and the hint from Senator Moi as the best choice for OKA is to be taken with the seriousness it deserves. But where would Moi Junior leave Kenya if at all he gets the chance to rule? That can be deduced from his position away from his father’s shadow.
These streets do not forget, and if he fails on his promises, his words will come back to haunt him. We hope he is cut from a different cloth and can be relied upon to right the wrongs of his father’s ilk and leave a better legacy.
Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo