Kenya’s former president Daniel Arap Moi recently died. The ex-teacher and politician had ruled Kenya for 25 years, from his succession to Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta in 1978 to his stepping down in 2002 after the constitution barred him from running again. He is, needless to say, the longest serving president in Kenya’s history.
President Moi’s one-party regime was marked by unfathomable ruthlessness, including the jailing of opponents, some of whom were never seen again, and flagrant interference in national elections.
President Moi’s brutality was not exclusively reserved for his political opponents. Among the public intellectuals who bore the brunt of his dictatorship was Ngugi wa Thing’o. In a piece for Literary Hub, the Kenyan writer and editor of Kwani? Billy Kahora recounts that, owing to [Ngugi’s] arrest and the politically-engineered attacks he had suffered under the then Vice President Daniel Arap Moi, Ngugi was “forced into exile swearing not to return while the Moi regime remained in power.”
The novelist and academic Mukoma wa Ngugi, who is Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s son, retweeted an Aljazeera piece and shared his view of Moi’s legacy.
Because his dictatorship forced my father into exile I cannot mourn the passing of Daniel Arap Moi. I do however still mourn the Kenya that could have been, the 24 years of his misrule, all those lives scattered, ruined and lost. https://t.co/nsrQ3f4RiH
— Mukoma Wa Ngugi (@MukomaWaNgugi) February 5, 2020
“Because his dictatorship forced my father into exile I cannot mourn the passing of Daniel Arap Moi,” Mukoma wrote. “I do however still mourn the Kenya that could have been, the 24 years of his misrule, all those lives scattered, ruined and lost.”
Shailja Patel called him “a totalitarian despot who looted Kenya for 24 years.”
Daniel Arap Moi was a totalitarian despot who looted Kenya for 24 years. Remember him for:
– single party rule
– Nyayo House torture chambers
– epic theft of public land and resources
– sending GSU paramilitaries to beat and teargas mothers of political prisoners in Uhuru Park
— Shailja Patel (@shailjapatel) February 4, 2020
There were other reactions.
By 2002 when Moi's rule ended there were an estimated 2.6 million Kenyans living abroad. The country's population was only about 20 million at the time.
No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.
— Nanjala Nyabola (@Nanjala1) February 4, 2020
A personal story I have never shared before: BBC News – 'Kenya's ex-President Daniel arap Moi jailed my father' https://t.co/CxH1c4Irsc
— FERDINAND OMONDI (@FerdyOmondi) February 4, 2020
I'll live to see the liberation of Kenya. When that happens – and it will and must happen – we will try Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and all their fellow criminals who destroyed the lives and future of millions of Kenyans. We will punish them POSTHUMOUSLY. That's a COMMITMENT.
— Dr. Miguna Miguna (@MigunaMiguna) February 5, 2020
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post implied that Ngugi wa Thiong’o was arrested and subsequently went into exile under the Moi regime. It has been established, however, that the author was arrested under the Jomo Kenyatta regime. Daniel Arap Moi -who ordered his arrest- was the Vice President at the time.