How Moi treated those who paved his road to power

By Noah Cheploen On Mon, 10 Feb, 2020 11:49 | 4 mins read
Retired President Daniel arap Moi
Retired President Daniel arap Moi. PHOTO | FILE

By Noah Cheploen and Peter Leshan

President Daniel arap Moi had a unique ability to make and keep friends beyond generations.

A story is told about how Moses Mudavadi, then-District Education Officer for Baringo, persuaded a young Moi to leave his teaching job and join politics.

Several years later, Moi returned the favour by picking Mudavadi’s son, Musalia, to replace him as MP for Sabatia. Apart from helping the 29-year-old land economics graduate join Parliament, he appointed him minister.

Musalia also became Moi’s last vice president in 2002. Moi’s ability to keep friends and make friends out of his friends’ kin is replicated across the country and generations.

From sons of his peers, to their children and grandchildren, Moi who died last Tuesday, always kept an eye on them.

In almost every district, Moi had a close ally and he transmitted this rapport to their offspring.

Moi’s relationship with the family of his predecessor Jomo Kenyatta, who served as vice president until his death in 1978, transcended politics.

President Uhuru attested to this on Saturday when he described Moi’s death as a personal loss to him.

Moi introduced Uhuru to politics by first nominating him to Parliament and later picking him as his preferred successor.

Lunch paid off

In Baringo, Moi had a close relationship with former Baringo paramount chief Chebet Morogo.

He helped his two sons, William and Eric, join Parliament as MPs for Mogotio and Rongai respectively. William served in Moi’s Cabinet.

Former Westlands MP Fred Gumo is another politician who benefited from his father, Magero Gumo’s friendship with Moi.

The elder Gumo was a Kitale businessman. In a past interview, Moi’s long-serving press secretary Lee Njiru retraced the friendship between the senior Gumo and Moi to an incident in the 60s when the former bought lunch to the latter at a restaurant in Nairobi.

“Moi was still finding his footing in the city and he appreciated this gesture,” Njiru said. Moi helped his son, Fred, to become the chairman of the Kitale County Council.

The younger Gumo later moved to Nairobi where he served as MP for Westlands and minister.

Sharif Nassir was not only a Cabinet minister in President Moi’s Cabinet, he was also his point-man in the Coast region and a trusted troubleshooter in national politics.

It was not a surprise, therefore, that Moi later supported his son Abdulswalam for the Mvita parliamentary seat.

Noah Katana Ngala, the son of Ronald Ngala, who was with Moi in Kadu, later became Ganze MP and served in Moi’s Cabinet.

Cleared loans

John Cheruiyot, the son of former African Inland Church Bishop Ezekiel Birech, was elected MP for Aldai in 1988. Moi appointed him Cooperatives minister.

Former Central Bank Governor Eric Kotut was the son of Elijah Kotut, a longtime friend of Moi’s and fellow AIC faithful.

Because of former Bomet MP Isaac Salat’s loyalty to him, he ensured his son, Nicholas Salat became an MP.

Salat, who is the Kanu secretary-general, says Moi rewarded hard work and loyalty, adding that there was nothing he could not do to assist those who were loyal to him.

“He was like my father. When my dad died he kept the family going by paying school fees for us and even cleared loans he left behind,” says Salat.

William ole Ntimama became friends with Moi when he served as a colonial District Officer in Kabarnet.

When Moi became the President, he supported him to clinch the Narok North MP seat and made him a minister.

Justus ole Tipis accompanied Moi to the Lancaster House Conference on the Constitution and when he became President, he appointed Tipis to ministerial positions.

Moi met Nicholas Biwott when the latter was a District Officer in Meru.

Biwott later joined politics and became one of the most powerful ministers in Moi’s government.

The story of Moi, former Eldoret North MP Reuben Chesire and his sister, Zipporah Kittony, started when young Moi was accommodated by Isaiah Chesire, the father of Reuben and Kittony, when he was attending school in Kabartonjo. Chesire is also said to have paid school fees for Moi.

Major General Mahmoud Mohamed helped Moi crush the 1982 coup attempt.

His brother, Mohammed Mahmoud, was later elected Ijara MP and Moi appointed him a minister.

When John ole Tameno relinquished his position as the Rift Valley representative in the Legco, Lerionka ole Ntutu who later became a Masai senior chief, and Ole Sankale who was also a senior chief, campaigned in Maasailand for Moi to take the seat.

In reciprocation, Moi assisted Ntutu’s son Stephen ole Kanyinke to become the Narok South MP in 1997 and appointed him an assistant minister and later Tourism minister.

No favours

Ntutu was also the father of Patrick Ntutu who inherited his brother’s Narok South parliamentary seat when Stephen successfully vied for Narok senatorial seat in 2013.

Patrick, who unsuccessfully vied for Narok gubernatorial seat in 2017, is now the Labour Chief Administrative Secretary.

Stephen ole Ntutu said on Sunday that when Moi once asked his father what he could do to reward his efforts of unifying the Maasai and his long-time friendship, the senior chief answered that he did not want any favours.

“At a family meeting towards the 1997 General Election, Moi told the family that he wanted me to become the Narok South MP. After some consultation and prodding by family members during the meeting, Mzee agreed,” said ole Ntutu.

When he was the Vice President and Home Affairs Minister, Moi worked closely with Joshua Kulei, Isaiah Kiplagat, Abraham Kiptanui, Hosea Kiplagat among others, all of who were prison officers.

The four occupied influential positions in government when Moi became President.

“Moi never forgot those who helped him. He extended favours to them by appointing them or their children to various positions. He was in touch,” says Raen Ololoigero, 94, a Masai elder who once served the defunct Narok County Council as a councilor.

Philip Lemein, 93, the first Narok Senator who also went to the Lancaster Conference, says Moi remembered all the people he worked with in his political journey, adding that he used them later when he became Jomo Kenyatta’s VP to build a big network of friends that helped him overcome the many political hurdles.

“I think it had all to do with his upbringing. This man depended on people for him to access education,” he says.

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