The rise and fall of Gideon Moi

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Born a ‘prince’ on October 22, 1963, to the family of the late President Daniel Arap Moi, Kenya’s second Head of State, Gideon Moi’s rise from a Member of Parliament to a senator and his father’s political heir was meteoric.

For Gideon, the youngest son of Mzee Moi -- who was popularly referred to as the professor of politics -- his swift rise and fall is akin to that of the life of the proverbial Simon Makonde.

Propelled by the fact that his father was President, Gideon swiftly transitioned from being Baringo Central MP -- the seat his father held for 39 years -- to a senator and presidential hopeful in the run-up to the 2022 General Election, before he dropped his bid and supported Azimio la Umoja One Kenya flagbearer Raila Odinga. 

However, his fall after the just concluded August 9 polls, just like his rise, was quick and surprising.

The Baringo senator was last week dealt a humiliating defeat in his backyard after the independence party Kanu, which he leads, lost almost all seats in the region to Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance candidates.

Apart from losing his Senate seat to former Baringo North MP William Cheptumo, Kanu also lost the woman representative seat, which was held by Gladwell Cheruiyot, to UDA’s Florence Jematia.

Cheptumo, who vied on a UDA ticket, has served as Baringo North MP for 15 years.

He trounced Gideon after garnering 141,777 votes, while the senator came second with 71,408 votes.

Kanu only retained the Tiaty parliamentary seat, which was won by William Kamket, a close ally of the Mois.

Gideon’s defeat is now seen as a big win for Ruto, who has for long been embroiled in a protracted battle for supremacy with the senator, for the control of the vote-rich Rift Valley region.

Gideon Moi Handed Mzee's Rungu || #MoiFinalJourney

He has been affiliated with the Azimio-One Kenya coalition of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who ran against Ruto in the Tuesday presidential race.

But is this the end of the Moi dynasty?

According to some political pundits, Gideon’s resounding defeat is a sign of the collapse of the Moi dynasty.

“The loss is a visible end to the political supremacy of the Moi family. This is because despite his elder brother Raymond Moi’s hopes of clinching the Rongai parliamentary seat, Gideon has been the political heir of his late father President Daniel arap Moi,” said Gilbert Kabage, a political analyst.

“On February 12, 2020, during the burial of Mzee Moi, the Baringo senator was handed a baton, replica of the silver-tipped ivory rungu, that was synonymous with his father’s 24 years’ rule, signifying the unenviable responsibility on him to not only revive Kanu, but to return it to the giant it once was. Through the symbolic gesture, he was anointed heir of the family's political throne,” added Kabage.

Another political analyst and lawyer Steve Kabita says: "The Mois still wield a lot of influence in Nakuru and Baringo counties' politics and the defeat of Gideon Moi does not mean the end of the Moi dynasty. The Moi scion actually lost the Baringo Central parliamentary seat in 2007, but later made a comeback in 2013 when he went for the Senate. This can easily repeat itself in 2027. His defeat does not necessarily mean he has been sent to permanent political oblivion.”

But political analyst and professor at the University of Nairobi Herman Manyora predicts a comeback for Gideon, saying he will get a way back to national politics.

“I think it is not yet done for Gideon Moi, just like his father Mzee Daniel arap Moi held outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2002 and made him president, Uhuru will have to pay the debt at some point. This means Uhuru - in a similar fashion to Mzee Moi's honouring Mzee Kenyatta’s wish to see his son ascend to the presidency – will have to return the favour,” said Manyora.

Recently, while conducting campaigns ahead of the August 9 polls, Gideon told residents of Baringo that his eyes were still trained on the presidency.

“After 2022, I will still go for the presidency. The Baringo Senate seat is just a springboard for the top seat.

According to former Senator Ben Njoroge, Gideon Moi still has a role to play in the country’s national politics.

“It is a matter of time. Gideon Moi still has a future, not necessarily in the Baringo County politics, but at the national platform,” said Njoroge.

However, back in the Rift Valley, the Kanu chairman faces a herculean task of ousting President-elect William Ruto as the Kalenjin kingpin.

“The political supremacy between Gideon Moi and William Ruto still exists. The Moi scion has an uphill task of portraying himself as the kingpin of the Rift Valley,” said political analyst Jesse Karanja.

The late President Moi ruled for 24 years and bestrode Kenya like a colossus, wielding power and determining who survived the cut-throat politics in the country and in his Rift Valley backyard.

Gideon Moi

Kanu party leader and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi with some Kalenjin elders on January 22,2021. 

Photo credit: Pool

For more than a quarter of a century, Moi, who died in February 4, 2020, dominated Kenyan politics.

By the time of his death, the former president, who took over from Kenya's founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta following his death on August 22, 1978, had earned the sobriquet "professor of politics".

And two years after Moi's death, his larger-than-life political stature still looms large.

At the time of his death, two of his sons -- Gideon and Raymond Moi – were holding elective seats in Baringo County. Gideon was senator, while his elder brother was MP for Rongai in Nakuru County.

However, Gideon Moi was last week trounced in the Baringo County Senate seat race. Raymond is yet to know his fate, after the Rongai parliamentary seat election was postponed to August 23 by the electoral commission.

However, Raymond faces a tough political battle with a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate.

Political analysts say it is set to be a two-horse race between Kanu and UDA for the Rongai MP seat.

And if Raymond Moi retains the seat, he will be the only Moi scion in elective politics.

The strong ties between the Moi and the Kenyatta families, which dates back to the 1960s, have also played to Gideon Moi’s advantage, with Uhuru Kenyatta previously appearing to be tactically bringing him into national politics.

His long friendship with Uhuru, which dates back to their days as students at the St Mary’s School, Nairobi, in the late 1970s, has come in handy, reinforced by strong ties that bind their families.

Mzee Moi had eight children, among them a set of twins They are; Jennifer, Jonathan, John Mark, Raymond, twins Philip and Doris, June and Gideon.

However, the most well-known Moi family member is the last born, Gideon, born in 1964.

He was Mzee Moi's favourite child and heir apparent and has since taken up the role of family spokesperson.

"The family of Kenya’s second President Daniel Moi could not be left just like that, according to traditions. That is why Senator Moi was handed the baton to take over his father's leadership and as spokesperson of the family. More members of the Moi family might join politics in future, to carry on their father’s legacy and ensure the Kanu party does not die," Kalenjin elder Philip Lagat told the Nation.

People close to the Moi family say, that Mzee Moi had told his entire family, years before his death, that Gideon was his preferred successor.

"Mzee Moi started grooming Gideon at a very early age and went out of his way to hold the young Moi's hand as he cut his political teeth. Gideon was his preferred successor and everyone in the family knew," revealed Lee Njiru, who served Moi as press secretary for the 24 years he ruled Kenya.