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Why Kibaki, Moi cordial relations later turned sour

President Daniel arap Moi is received back home from an OAU summit by Vice President Mwai Kibaki at JKIA in 1980 [File]

While President Mwai Kibaki and his predecessor Daniel arap Moi took different political paths after Kenya attained its independence, their relationship began quite early.

Moi was among the pioneer political class that in the late 1950’s played a big role in the talks that helped the country gain its independence, while Kibaki emerged later as the Kanu executive officer in 1961. Their temperament was different but they worked closely in their long political careers before falling out in 1990.

“They had a long political relationship since Moi joined Kenyatta Cabinet in 1964, because Kibaki was already there as an Assistant Minister and later as a minister,” says former Cabinet minister Amukoa Anangwe.

Kibaki is described as being more reserved and academic, while Moi was more charismatic and pragmatic during their working relationship.

From Prof. Macharia Munene’s appraisal, Moi wanted to be on top of everything, while Kibaki allowed people do their work without close scrutiny.

 “Moi was a hands-on man who wanted to know everything, unlike Kibaki whose way of doing things sometimes got him into trouble because people took advantage of too much trust he had in them,” says Prof Munene.

They were both elected to serve in the first parliament after independence; Moi as the MP for Baringo North, later Baringo Central and Kibaki the MP for Donholm, later Bahati.

Whereas Kibaki, while in Kanu, served as the party executive officer for two years prior to his election, Moi was among the founders of the pro-devolution Kadu opposition party alongside Ronald Ngala and Masinde Muliro. Moi was appointed Secretary for Education and later became Minister for Home Affairs after President Jomo Kenyatta convinced them to dissolve Kadu.

Kibaki, at the time Kenyatta’s blue-eyed boy, was an assistant minister for Finance and Economic Planning, being ripened for a long stint as a full minister in the same docket later.

In 1970, he was elevated to Cabinet minister for Finance and Economic Planning, with Moi already serving as a loyal vice president in Kenyatta’s government. The duo built a good relationship, while working very closely as faithful servants to the then aging president. It, therefore, came as no surprise when Moi appointed him to continue serving as the Finance minister when he took over from Kenyatta in 1978.

 “When Moi took over, the relationship continued until the 1982 coup attempt against Moi’s government when he began charting his own course,” says Anangwe.

Although Kibaki was not an immediate victim of the purging, his nemesis, Attorney General Charles Njonjo, was forced to resign after he was accused of undermining the Government.

Sources within government at the time claimed that Njonjo had in fact been plotting to have Kibaki removed from his position as Vice President for him to take over as he schemed to succeed Moi.

“Njonjo saw Moi as a passing cloud and was trying to displace Kibaki as the vice president with the ultimate aim of succeeding him because he thought was he a stumbling block to his ambitions,” says Anangwe.

And so whereas ties between Kibaki and Moi remained strong after the 1982 coup attempt, Moi began rebuilding  Kanu party by conducting a massive recruitment drive across the country.

Party organs were strengthened at national level where new powerful forces like Joseph Kamotho and GG Kariuki emerged as Kibaki retained his position of Nyeri district Kanu chairman.

Kibaki continued serving in government and defending both Moi and the Kanu party, which he described as a Mugumo tree that could not be cut with a razor blade. But Moi then demoted him from his position of Vice President in 1988 and took Kibaki to the less-glamorous Health ministry, forcing him to relinquish the Finance docket he had held for 18 years.

Meanwhile, pressure was mounting against the Moi government, with demands for change gaining momentum in 1990.

In 1991, the International Monetary Fund suspended lending to Kenya as the State finally bowed to pressure from the opposition and repealed section 2(A) which restored multi-party politics.

Seeing the opportunity to chart his own course in the new space, Kibaki resigned from Moi’s government and formed the Democratic Party (DP).

He ran for elections against Moi in 1992 and emerged third, behind Moi, Ford Asili’s Kenneth Matiba (second) and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga of Ford Kenya (fourth).

In 1997, he came second and became leader of the official opposition, with his DP party as the official opposition party.

He then became an eloquent outspoken critic of the Government from the opposition benches and put a lot of effort in the campaign for constitution change.

Together with Wamalwa Kijana and Charity Ngilu, he was part of the Ufungamano Initiative, the civil society and church groups led NCCK Secretary General Mutava Musyimi which was pushing for people-driven reforms.

With him were young lawyers like Isaac Lenaola and more seasoned colleagues like Dr Oki Ooko Ombaka and Nancy Barasa, youth led by student leaders Suba Churchill and Hassan Omar Hassan among others.

President Moi had at the time appointed Raila Odinga to chair the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution.

The Ufungamano group, with Kibaki as the senior-most politician, opposed the decision by Moi to appoint 15 well-connected commissioners who had been proposed by regional kingpins.

After a stand-off and the interventions of the then Constitution Review Commission chairman Yash Pal Ghai, Moi agreed to appoint 12 more commissioners from Ufungano to make a total of 27.

When Kibaki took power in 2002, it was widely rumoured that powerful people close to Kibaki wanted him to be jailed over alleged misdeeds.

“They had decided to victimise Moi, and Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi has said as much. They wanted to jail him and that it was because of Kibaki’s intervention that it was not done,” says Anangwe.

Kibaki is said to have demanded that Moi be accorded the respect he deserved and opposed any kind of retribution, saying common decency required he be allowed to retire peacefully.

Kibaki further ordered that a title deed for Moi’s Kabarnet gardens residence be processed and handed to him to be his city retirement home.

Kalenjin MPs in parliament also raised concern at the manner in which Moi was being treated at the time by the Narc government and sought assurance that he be left alone.

Sources said a team of 12 Kanu MPs, most of the from the Rift Valley, arranged a meeting with Dr Chris Murungaru and Mr Kiraitu Murungi who were seen as the owners of power in Narc, to argue their case.

Things however became rosier, when Kibaki later invited Moi to State House to seek his counsel over some national issues, among them descent that was emerging in his government.

Both Kibaki and Moi pushed for better education standards and invested heavily in the sector, Moi taking credit for free school milk and the introduction of the 8-4-4 system.

Kibaki was then credited for free primary education, exponential growth, secondary school fees subsidy, expanded university education and expansion of HELB grants.