Saturday , September 23 2017
Home / ARTICLES 2008-2015 / Lessons from my days in Kenya

Lessons from my days in Kenya

By Kavuma-Kagwa

How President Moi developed the Rift Valley and Western Kenya

In terms of surface area occupied, The Republic of Kenya is the second biggest country in East Africa, the biggest being Tanzania.

Kenya achieved Independence on December 12, 1963 after going through a ten year Mau Mau war of Independence which was led by the Founding Father, Jomo Kenyatta, of the Kikuyu tribe. Kenya last had a national census in 2009 and population figures can be disputed, but most estimates place the Kikuyus at about 10 million of the nation’s 46 million. The Kikuyu have always been Kenya’s most populous ethnic sub-group and it is partly for this reason that they spearheaded the war of Independence.

Since then, Kenya has made tremendous economic, educational, social and democratic progress.


While Uganda stands out uniquely as a country which has had nine Presidents since Independence, Kenya has had only four Presidents in its 51 years since Independence. It appears each Kenyan president, plays a unique part in the development of Kenya, which at the same time is scripted along the same lines.

Jomo Kenyatta, who led Kenya for 15 years, will always be remembered as the man who laid a firm economic foundation for the Country. Mwai Kibaki who was the first person in East Africa to acquire a First Class Degree in Economics from Makerere University built a strong democratic system for Kenya as well as a wonderful economic infrastructure. Mwai Kibaki led Kenya for ten years after succeeding Daniel arap Moi in 2002.

But it is President Moi, who succeeded Jomo Kenyatta in 1978, and stayed in power longest – 24 years, who has had the most impact. Jomo Kenyatta had appointed Moi as his vice president in 1966. At Kenyatta’s death in 1978, Moi had been vice president for 12 years.

Jomo Kenyatta had developed the philosophy of – “HARAMBEE” which means that – “Let all the people of Kenya unite together all the time to build a strong nation”. The philosophy of Harambee has kept the Kenyans united up to now, despite challenges that sometimes have led to massive upheavals.

Daniel arap Moi was appointed Vice-President of Kenya by President Jomo Kenyatta in 1966 and he served for 12 years until 1978 when Jomo Kenyatta passed away because of old age.

According to the Kenyan Constitution, Moi was elected by Parliament as an interim President for 3 months and after that he was elected in a popular vote as President of Kenya.

When Daniel arap Moi took over in 1978 he straightaway declared that he would follow in the footsteps of Jomo Kenyatta. He invented a word – “Fata NYAYO”, which means – “following in the footsteps of Jomo Kenyatta” and often stated simply as “Nyayo”. Many Kenyans liked him for that.

During public political rallies at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on national occasions and gatherings of that nature the people were repeating that word “NYAYO” after saying three “Harambees”.

I lived in Kenya for 33 years when I was a student and when I worked for the defunct East African Airways which was part of the first East African Community of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. As a professional journalist and historian I learnt a lot from the people of Kenya during the time I lived with them.

The Independence Constitution gave Kenya a multi-party system and the parties were Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta which fought for Independence and Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) of Ronald Ngala of the Giriama tribe from the coast.

Later on Kenyatta invited Ronald Ngala to join him and they formed a government of National Unity under KANU but the constitution was not changed to a one-party system.  In 1983 President Moi changed the constitution to a one-party system under KANU. The people did not oppose this because he had clearly told them that he was following in the footsteps of Jomo Kenyatta.

During the same year after feeling that he had consolidated himself in power he developed a tendency of suppressing the economic power of the Kikuyus who had helped him a great deal to take power.

Good enough the “Kalenjin Elders” (Abataka) of the Great Rift Valley where Moi comes from, advised him to completely leave the Kikuyus alone and never ever interfere or suppress their economic empowerment. (Remember the Kikuyus now control 60 percent of Kenya’s economy).

They told him –“Do not think that you will be President of Kenya for a million years. Do not make that big mistake which Milton Obote did in Uganda, instead of developing the North where he came from, he concentrated on suppressing the Baganda and he ended up not having developed his ancestral area”.

“Use this time when you are President to develop the Rift Valley and Western Kenya. When you leave power in future we shall proudly say that we produced a son; Daniel arap Moi, and when he was President, he did all these good things for us”.

Thank God Moi heeded the advice of the “Kalenjin elders” and he moved very fast to develop the Rift Valley and Western Kenya.

He started with changing the education system from one that has senior five and six as the pre-University entry level as is in Uganda. Instead he introduced an 8-4-4 system; that is 8 years in Primary, four years in secondary and four years university.

The 8-4-4 system helped him to educate thousands and thousands of Kalenjins and people of Western Kenya. He offered them jobs in the civil service. He set up facilities which enabled them to buy farms, set up industries, factories and businesses of different kinds in many areas of the country.

He built schools, colleges and universities in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya. The universities include his Moi University which is located twenty miles from Eldoret town. It is a good university and almost rivals Makerere University in Uganda. When he took over in 1978, the Rift Valley and Western Kenya had no universities but when he retired in 2002 Western Kenya and the Rift Valley had more than seven universities.  President Moi built roads, hospitals and an airport which is as big as Entebbe airport. He set up a branch of the Central Bank of Kenya in Eldoret town.

Right now, it is extremely rare for a person from the Rift Valley and Western Kenya who has completed his university education to go to Nairobi searching for employment. Most graduates find a lot to occupy them in their home area. They can work in hospitals, schools and universities, in factories or manage is farms business or create their own employment.

Return of multi-party system

In 1990 the Kikuyus said enough was enough and they came out in full force to demand the multi-party system to be re-established in Kenya. There was a formidable demand for it, and two leading Kikuyus: Kenneth Matiba and Charles Wanyoike Rubia spearheaded the demand. Raila Odinga, a veteran politician from Luoland and a son of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga who was with Jomo Kenyatta when they fought for Kenya’s Independence, also joined them in the struggle.

Moi detained them for two years and many Kikuyus who had settled in the fertile farming areas in the Rift Valley lost their lives in tribal clashes which developed as a result of this demand. Moi rightly saw the demand for the multi-party system as a ploy to kick him out of power and the Kikuyus viewed the re-introduction of the multi-party system as their one-way ticket to the Kenya State House.

America, through their ambassador at that time, Smith Hempstone, put irresistible pressure on Moi to accept the multi-party system. In January 1992, Moi called a general meeting of the KANU party at Kasarani and they passed a Resolution accepting the system. President Moi had released the detainees in 1991. Mwai Kibaki formed the Democratic Party. KANU and Moi won the general elections in 1992 and 1997 that followed the introduction of the multi-party system.

The Kikuyus portrayed a high degree of political maturity because during the tribal clashes in 1990, the Kikuyu Elders advised the young generation not to retaliate against Moi and the Kalenjins.

They declared: “Do not answer Moi’s provocation because in five years time he will not be President of Kenya and we shall come back to power. We do not want to destroy what we fought for in Mau Mau war of Independence and we do not want to destroy what we have built”. True the Kikuyus “came back to power” in 2002 when President Moi handed over to the now retired President Mwai Kibaki.

In 2002 when President Moi was retiring from politics, both the Kalenjins and the Kikuyus set a remarkable and historical precedent in politics.

There were rumours circulating in Kenya that Moi, his family and his people had amassed a lot of wealth and properties. Both the Kalenjins and the Kikuyus declared that in order to keep peace and tranquility in Kenya forever and ever nobody will ever prosecute or confiscate Moi’s wealth and the wealth of his people. It was reported that there was a secret agreement signed between Moi and Mwai Kibaki to this effect witnessed by the American Ambassador and the Army Commander at that time.

That agreement, if it exists, was very good for Kenya and the rest of East Africa. It has kept Kenya peaceful (forget what is happening now at the coast) and Kenya is progressing at full speed economically. That is what we want and praying for to happen in Uganda at one point, when President Museveni will be handing over to his successor after the general elections.

Kavuma-Kaggwa is an elder from Kyaggwe, Mukono District

Tel: 0772-584423

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *