By the time he retired as Kenya’s second President in 2002, Daniel arap Moi had earned his stripes as the ultimate professor of politics.
He had begun his career by striking the right chords, and was among the early pioneers of “listening to the ground”.
The formation of KANU and KADU was one such example of a man who was always politically circumspect, right from the start.
When the May 14, 1960 meeting in Kiambu that birthed KANU was held, Moi and his ally Ronald Ngala were abroad.
When they jetted back, they found themselves having been elected Assistant Treasurer and Treasurer respectively.
Not one to quite jump onto things, Moi took time to ‘listen to the ground.’ He had done it before when he was pulled from the classroom to be nominated member of the Legislative Council (LEGCO).
On May 21 and June 11, 1960, he took part in Chepkorio and Eldoret meetings which gathered Kalenjin tribes under the Kenya Political Alliance (KPA).
In “Politics of the Independence of Kenya”, Keith Kyle says Moi told the Chepkorio rally that “political organisations that started at the top did not flourish democratically.”
The right way was to start at the location and district level so that by the time the party goes to the top, the dictatorship would be tamed.
On June 25, KPA and six other tribal organisations converged in Ngong.
Together, under the chairmanship of Masinde Muliro, they formed Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) to rival “the dictatorship of KANU.” Later, Ronald Ngala was chosen leader of the party, Muliro deputy and Moi chairman.
In the advance of Kenyatta’s release, Moi resisted every attempt to merge KANU and KADU. On March 23, 1961, Moi was among a mix of KANU and KADU delegations that travelled to Lodwar to visit Mzee Kenyatta.
Kenyatta confronted the delegation, saying there was no difference between them and tying their disunity to his continued incarceration. Right there in Lodwar, he wanted the two parties to commit to collapse into one, united front.
Moi would hear none of it. According to Kyle, he made it clear that “under no circumstances would KADU consider a merger with KANU. He claimed the fights and indiscipline Kenyatta was complaining of were within KANU, not KADU.
In Lancaster, Moi led a hardcore, non-compromising wing of KADU militants who insisted that every letter of their majimbo demands be included in the Constitution.
At one instance, in Nairobi, during a discussion on the nitty-gritty of public service, Moi and Ngala stormed out saying the discussions on the table did not match their understanding of an earlier deal they had secured in Lancaster.
Over during the first national elections when KANU and KADU properly competed, Moi was a spectacle out there in the grassroots, campaigning against KANU: “Wait and see when I blow the whistle,” he signalled.
Throughout the pre-independence politics, Moi was stoic in his averment for dictatorship at the top.