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    Daniel Arap Moi. Credit: The New York Times.

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,” 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.”

There were other reactions.

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. 


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Chukwuebuka Ibeh is a Staff Writer at Brittle Paper. An alumnus of the Purple Hibiscus Trust Creative Writing Workshop, his work has been published in McSweeneys, Clarion Review, Charles River Journal and elsewhere. He was longlisted for the Awele Creative Trust Award in 2017 and was a finalist for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award. In 2019, he was named by Electric Literature as 'One of the Most Promising New Voices of Nigerian Fiction' in a feature introduced by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. He is a regular contributor with the New England Review of Books and lives in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

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