When Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, the second president of Kenya and a leader who ruled the East African nation for 24 years with an iron fist, passed away on Feb. 4, Kenyans from every walk of life expressed various sentiments regarding his rule.
Moi, who was in office from 1978 to 2002, has been a controversial figure in Kenyan political history. Coming to power unexpectedly and against all odds in 1978, he would go on to serve the longest in the presidency in the history of the country, leading a brutal crackdown on the country's democratic aspirations in the '80s and '90s. He oversaw some of the most horrendous state violence Kenya has ever seen yet eventually handed over power peacefully in 2002.
This being the case since he passed away, his legacy has been contested and equally scrutinized in the Kenyan media and all over the world. For starters, the man the Western media dubbed a "professor of politics" was unpredictable – a ruthless anti-socialist political strategist and conservative Kenyan nationalist who viewed political authority as supreme and unquestionable.
The 'Rungu' rule of Moi
Having grown up in Baringo County in the country's Rift Valley region, Moi 's style of rule was largely symbolized by his "Rungu." This wooden baton, traditionally used for combat or hunting and a symbol of authority and power that Moi always carried with him, was indeed metaphorically emblematic of Moi’s political praxis and its subsequent totalitarian excesses.
His tenure as the president of Kenya has been referred to, in Kenya’s political historical lexicons and in popular culture, as the "Nyayo Error" (rather than "era"). And indeed it was an error. Moi had promised to follow in the Nyayo – "the footsteps" in Kiswahili – of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of an independent Kenya. Under his rule, Moi embraced, entrenched and continued the one-party rule of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) party and its totalitarian legacy inherited from Kenyatta.
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