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Moi the original bottom-up proponent, pioneer radical

Daniel Moi, second right, phones Jomo Kenyatta in Gatundu to inform him that he was nominated as the only Kanu candidate. [File, Standard] 

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 began 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 elected Assistant Treasurer and Treasurer respectively. 

Not one to 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, dictatorship would be tamed. On June 25, KPA and six other tribal parties 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 run up to Kenyatta’s release, Moi resisted all attempts to merge Kanu and Kadu. On March 23, 1961, Moi was among a delegation of Kanu and Kadu which travelled to Lodwar to visit Mzee  

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. 

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.

During the first national elections when Kanu and Kadu competed, Moi was a spectacle at the grassroots, campaigning against Kanu: “Wait and see when I blow the whistle,” he signalled.