The inference of the era of retired president Daniel arap Moi as the “dark days” has become vogue among some commentators and politicians today.
Judging by what's happening in the country at the moment, can the Moi days really be described as dark?
To understand Moi’s style and principles, one must appreciate the circumstances under which he ruled. Hardly four years into his presidency, he survived a coup attempt that served to demonstrate how delicate his position was.
He then set out to establish a firm grip on the psyche and activities of his government, ensuring that there was discipline and consistency of thought and practice within the bureaucratic ranks.
During his reign, the Constitution bestowed on him the luxury of total and nearly unfettered executive powers, the practice of which he would appear, at least in today’s perspective, to have inclined towards imperialism.
The manner in which this power was exercised, along with the level of development in the country then, should determine the ratings of Moi’s reign. His strong point was his emphasis on education, security and national coherence.
Whereas the retired president’s critics would be quick to remind us of the mayhem visited on those agitated for political pluralism, it must be remembered that, in total disregard of the wishes of a large part of the retinue in his own court, in 1991 Moi spearheaded the repeal of Section 2(a) of the constitution of that time, when Kenya was a de jure one-party state, thereby unlocking access to competitive politics.
In 2000, Moi set up the Commission for Constitutional Reform of Kenya to spearhead Kenya’s first major constitutional reforms.
Like any other political kingpin, Moi desired to put in place a succession plan. What stood out, however, was the grace with which he accepted the defeat of the candidate of his choice and the civility with which he exited the helm of the country’s leadership.
Even though many an unfortunate episode of tumult was witnessed during the span of his reign, as is wont to happen in any society, it should not be lost on us that some effort and political adroitness went into juggling the politics of the time to successfully keep the country together and maintain an environment in which peace and security largely prevailed.
Dark days, really? I think not.
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