Kenya’s former president Daniel Arap Moi has died aged 95, according to a statement from the current head of state Uhuru Kenyatta, announced on the state broadcaster on Tuesday morning.
“It is with profound sadness and sorrow that I announce the passing of a Great African Statesman, H.E. Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, the Second President of the Republic of Kenya,” the announcement said.
“His Excellency the Former President passed on at the Nairobi Hospital on the early morning of this 4th February 2020, in the presence of his family,” it said.
Daniel Arap Moi, a former schoolteacher who became Kenya’s longest-serving president and presided over years of repression and economic turmoil fueled by runaway corruption had been in and out of the hospital for months.
Kenyatta ordered national flags to fly half-staff from Tuesday until sunset of the day of the burial. He said Moi, Kenya’s second president, was a leader in the struggle for independence and an ardent Pan-Africanist.
Despite being called a dictator by critics, Moi enjoyed strong support from many Kenyans and was seen as a uniting figure when he took power after founding president Jomo Kenyatta died in office in 1978. Some allies of the ailing Kenyatta, however, had tried to change the constitution to prevent Moi, then the vice president, from automatically taking power upon Kenyatta’s death.
So wary was Moi (pictured here in 1980) of any threat during that uncertain period that he fled his Rift Valley home when he heard of Kenyatta’s death, returning only after receiving assurances of his safety.
In 1982 Moi’s government pushed through parliament a constitutional amendment that made Kenya effectively a one-party state. Later that year the army quelled a coup attempt plotted by opposition members and some air force officers. At least 159 people were killed.
Moi’s government then became more heavy-handed in dealing with dissent, according to a report by the government’s Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission that assessed his rule.
Political activists and others who dared oppose Moi’s rule were routinely detained and tortured, the report said, noting unlawful detentions and assassinations, including the killing of a foreign affairs minister, Robert Ouko.
“The judiciary became an accomplice in the perpetuation of violations, while parliament was transformed into a puppet controlled by the heavy hand of the executive,” the report said.
Corruption, especially the illegal allocation of land, became institutionalized, the report said, while economic power was centralized in the hands of a few.
In 1991, Moi yielded to demands for a multi-party state due to internal pressure, including a demonstration that year during which police killed more than 20 people, and external pressure from the West.
Multi-party elections in 1992 and 1997 were marred by political and ethnic violence that critics asserted were caused by the state.
By the time Moi left power in 2002, corruption had left Kenya’s economy, the most developed in East Africa, with negative growth. Kenyans later voted for a new constitution that was implemented in 2010.
Moi often blamed the West for bad publicity and the economic hardships many Kenyans had to endure during his rule.
As with his predecessor, Kenyatta, many government projects, buildings, and currency notes and coins were named after Moi.