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Nyayo philosophy: The Kenya Moi dreamed of

By Kamau Muthoni | Feb 7th 2020 | 4 min read
Former president Daniel arap Moi takes a salute, flashes his rungu.

Former President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi envisioned a prosperous nation, where people of different ethnic backgrounds could coexist peacefully.

In his book, Kenya African Nationalism: Nyayo Philosophy and Principles, published in 1986, the former president penned his thoughts on what a prosperous nation should look like.

By the time Moi was writing the 208-page book, Kenya was turning 23, after gaining independence from Britain.

The book, a re-examination of where the country that had 21 million people was, illustrates the former president’s passion for good leadership.

When Moi got into power after the death of President Jomo Kenyatta, he vowed to better the country through the principle, fuata nyayo (follow footsteps).

Three traits

He then documented the Nyayo philosophy, whose central theme was peace, love and unity.

These three traits, he wrote, would form the foundation Kenya needed to build a united, strong and prosperous nation.

By the time he was writing the book, Moi had already been president for eight years, having succeeded Kenyatta in 1978.

He envisioned a country that would prosper under the helm of clean and irreproachable leaders.

“What do you see everywhere? Destruction of hard-won wealth, ruination of vestiges of progress and the disillusionment of everyone; the leaders, donors and the people. It is with these sad examples before us today that we look at the Nyayo philosophy, which insists on peace, love and unity,” he wrote.

Africa, in 1986, had its fair share of troubles. There were still several nations seeking independence from colonial rule, while those that had received their freedom had not yet figured out how to cope with the new challenges of self-governance.

According to the book, corruption and self-interest thrived, while a majority of those who agitated for independence languished in poverty and were deprived of the basic needs by their fellow Africans.

According to the former president, his numerous travels to restore and maintain peace across Africa had taught him the essence of peace in a country’s development.

“It is my sad observation that the numerous and continuous theatres of war in this continent are an eloquent commentary on the extent of our devotion and human will to achieve peace. Therefore peace is very elusive, so elusive that one wonders whether negotiations can achieve peace. Yet, negotiations are the only sane channels for national solidarity and international concord,” Moi wrote.

He added: “Peace must begin at home. For this reason, Kenyans have no reason not to respect our formula of peace; namely, where love exists, justice and equality will be promoted.”

The former head of State listed Ghana and Sudan, which were then beset by various troubles, as nations that he would not want Kenya to be like.

Sudan gained independence in 1956 from an Anglo-Egyptian government administered by Britain and Egypt.

Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, was also a British colony and had also got its independence in 1956.

Kenya’s second president observed that Sudan and Ghana were faces of the sorrow that had befallen Africa. Moi was of the view that a colonial hangover, which was infested with “intellectual and moral parasites”, was the continent’s major problem.

“In innumerable instances, by omission or commission, leadership in Africa has fallen short of expectations because of a disease called ‘political fever’. We as Kenyans are not immune. Far from it, it is our duty to note the most frequent symptoms,” he wrote.

In his eyes, the future Kenya ought to have unblemished politicians and intellectuals who would steer the country from the aforementioned ‘disease’ that had befallen other independent countries across the continent.

He continued: “I frequently ask myself, how can we ensure that political chaos don’t occur in Kenya? The politicians and government administrators must stand high and clear above the corrosive mire of corruption and degenerative tendencies that would mess the country.”

Moi was of the view that the masses ought to see their leaders as clean and irreproachable.

“Therefore, the leadership corps must be clean and demonstrate moral probity,” he wrote, saying this was the only path to a peaceful future.

NYS training

The former president further detailed the role he envisioned each person would play in building a prosperous Kenya.

For the youth, his idea was to have them go through the National Youth Service (NYS) before they transitioned to university.

According to him, the NYS training would give young people a sense of national belonging and practical education that would in turn be of use to the country.

“In summary, the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. This program, therefore, aims in laying the foundation of responsible, committed and responsive leadership for tomorrow,” he wrote.

The intellectuals, according to Moi, were to guide the youth. He, however, expressed his dismay that the youth and university students believed violence was the path to leadership.

“That is sad, very sad! They may decide to acquire leadership by violence. They forget the art and power of speech and dialogue,” Moi wrote, adding that some of those who were agitating for alternative leadership had failed as class prefects, school captains or monitors.

He called on young people, when they got to university, to strive to make the world a better place and to resolve to be dependable and responsible citizens.

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