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Moi and the Kalenjin: Just who owes who what?

By Walter Chesang | Published Fri, August 12th 2016 at 00:00, Updated August 11th 2016 at 23:39 GMT +3
Deputy President William Samoei Ruto (L) and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi. According to Ruto, the senator should pay his political debts urgently because "we (Kalenjins) supported his father's presidency for many years". (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Deputy President William Samoei Ruto has been criss-crossing the Great Rift Valley collecting debts, political debts. His greatest debtor, it seems, is Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.

According to Ruto, the senator should pay his political debts urgently because "we (Kalenjins) supported his father's presidency for many years".

This is very interesting indeed and the great question of the day is whether Kalenjins are indebted to former President Moi or is Moi indebted to Kalenjins? Who helped who? Who should pay who? Did Moi benefit from the Kalenjin or the Kalenjin from Moi?

A glimpse into Kenyan history in the last 60 years or so can help illuminate the level of indebtedness between the former President and the Kalenjin and provide answers to this momentous debate.

In 1955, the Great Rift Valley was staring at a crisis of representation after Mzee Tameno, a Maasai, the member of Legislative Assembly (LEGCO) for Rift Valley, tendered his resignation. The region was in turmoil as a suitable replacement was being sought.

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, a teacher at Government school Kabarnet, was the only hope. However, Moi loved his teaching job and did not want to join politics at all.

But his age mates and his boss, the District Education Officer for Baringo Moses Mudamba Mudavadi, managed to persuade him with a rider that if things didn't work out well he could  still go back to teaching.

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Mzee Moi did not face any competition from the Nandi, Kipsigis, Keiyo, Maasai, Turkana, Samburu, Pokot, Tugen, Marakwet or Kony. This was Moi's pure sacrifice to serve the Kalenjin Nation. – The first debt.

In 1960, following the constitutional changes leading to independence, Mzee Moi, having studied the political landscape, teamed up with Coast leaders like Ronald Ngala and Western leaders like Martin Shikuku and the smaller communities to form Kenya African Democratic Union (Kadu).

Kadu stood for a federal system of government for Kenya, as opposed to the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), which was calling for a unitary system of government.

Kadu stood for Majimboism in order to protect the interests of the Kalenjin Nation. Is Kenya not a devolved system now? Is devolution not the hype of every Kenyan soul and mind? Was Mzee Moi not right from the start? – The second debt.

In 1966, Moi, Ngala, Shikuku and Kadu bigwigs folded up and joined Kanu. This was subsequently followed by Mzee Moi's appointment as the Vice President of Kenya in 1967. Moi thus took the Kalenjin profile a notch higher by his sheer magnanimity and political shrewdness.

Remember that around the same time Jaramogi Oginga Odinga had written Not Yet Uhuru that Moi was like a giraffe; with a long political neck. Did the Kalenjin pressure Mzee Kenyatta to appoint Moi his Vice President? Was there any lobbying by the Kalenjin? Did delegations visit State House for the same? No! Never! Moi by sheer instinct was reconstructing and reshaping the Kalenjin psyche – the third debt.

Moi's Vice Presidency was characterised by great humiliation by junior staff, including at roadblocks and police checks in his house and every possible hurdle was placed in his way. Did the Kalenjin petition Mzee Kenyatta? Did Kalenjins protest? Did anyone ever raise a finger even in Parliament? No! Never! Why? – The fourth debt.

In 1976, Mzee Moi faced his political Armageddon. The Gikuyu Embu Meru Association (Gema) nation organised political rallies across the country aimed at changing the Constitution to block the Vice President from automatically succeeding the President in the event that the President dies in office.

The Gema rallies and mechanisms were nipped in the bud by Charles Njonjo, the Attorney General then, when he issued a terse warning that anyone imagining the death of the President was committing treason. The Kalenjin Nation never bothered to come to the rescue of their son and watched the unfolding events with indifference. – The fifth debt.

In 1978, Mzee Daniel arap Moi assumed the Presidency of the Republic of Kenya and steered the country for a record 24 years, which the incumbent Deputy President is referring to.

Under Moi's presidency, the District Focus for Rural Development (DFRD) strategy was the vehicle for development. This was pure Majimboism, cleverly crafted to address gross inequalities in the development agenda of the country.

Under this strategy the Kalenjin nation began to reap the fruits of independence in terms of infrastructure, roads, schools, hospitals, airports, government jobs, land ownership, name them. This was DEVOLUTION at its best. Mzee Moi with a stroke of the pen made the Kalenjin what they are today. We owe him every "pound of flesh". – The sixth debt.

Throughout his Presidency, as much as Mzee Moi enjoyed the political support of the Kalenjins, faced steep resistance from the likes of Jelegat Mutai, Bishop Alexander Muge, Francis Polisi Lotodo, Samuel Phogisio, David Nangole, Taitta Towett, Kibowen Komen, Edward Cherono, Freddie Cheserek, Francis Mutwol and James Kalegeno.

However, by sheer benevolence and intrepid Machiavellian manouvres and great faith in God, Moi weathered every storm. He took his campaigns for votes very seriously in Kalenjin land. He never delegated anything. - The seventh debt.

In 1992, Moi once again came face to face with the possibility of being dispatched to political oblivion when the clamour for multi-partyism swept across the land.

Kanu tapped Cyrus Jirongo to lead a battalion of youths in what came to be called the YK 92. Jirongo conscripted a group of fresh graduates that included Ruto into the ill-fated outfit. What they did is public knowledge.

Thank God, most of these youths would be rotting in Kamiti had it not been for Mzee Moi's benevolence. The outfit was quickly disbanded and the country has never recovered from this deadly scourge. – The eighth debt.

To teach Mzee Moi and his Kanu party a lesson, the disgruntled YK' 92 leaders formed a political party called United Democratic Movement (UDM) that was led by Jirongo, Kipruto arap Kirwa and Ruto.

Mzee Moi quickly took steps to neutralise the new threat. In a divide-and-rule mechanism, he appointed Ruto assistant minister in the office of the President, technically dividing the trio.

Ruto, a product of YK'92, redeemed himself and clung to Mzee Moi like a tropical tick. The Deputy President therefore owes Mzee Moi everything, literally. – The ninth debt.

In 2002, Moi gracefully retired from politics in one of the most acrimonious yet successful political change of guard in the third world.

Moi endured humiliation, taunts by rowdy youth and dirty epithets from the political class. The Kalenjin nation deserted Moi and took to the hills filled with fear of the unknown.

Two gallant Kalenjin daughters, Sally Kosgei and Zipporah Kittony wept uncontrollably as vintage Daniel stoically boarded a military helicopter accompanied by two of his most loyal aides, John Lokorio and Lee Njiru. Thirty minutes later, they landed at the Kabarak airstrip.

The military captain removed Mzee Moi's Presidential standard, folded and handed it to Moi, who acknowledged the gesture and walked across the orchard to his residence, where he was welcomed by a few of his grandchildren and his daughter-in-law Eunice John Mark.

The following Sunday, Moi High School–Kabarak students in their trademark maroon uniform sang, "It is well, with my soul" hymn.The Kalenjins, who for 24-odd years had benefited from Mzee Moi were nowhere. – The tenth debt.

Ruto went into political Siberia, literally, after 2002. He clutched at every straw and ate crumbs from under every table, consorting with every political Tom, Dick and Harry, including Raila Amolo Odinga, and in 2007 the Kalenjin nation was almost plunged into political oblivion.

Ruto was later hauled to the International Criminal Court to answer to charges of crimes against humanity. Ruto should learn to be humble and respect Moi for he owes everything and anything to him. Mzee Moi sacrificed almost everything for our survival and well being. Ruto should be wise to realise that we owe him nothing but he owes us everything.

The writer is a postgraduate student of History at Egerton University, Njoro main campus. He is former project coordinator of Arid Lands, Resource Management Project Baringo, Office of the President 


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