Kenya’s relationship with politics and the past is something I do not truly understand. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s something that can be understood. For some reason, any political act older than a year or two morphs into something completely unrecognizable.
This has never been more clear than when reading the #Moiat90 tweets. I never thought I’d see the day when people would praise Moi. I’m sad I saw it. Right now I’m not even sure which was more shocking. The people who honestly said he was a good (even great) leader or those who had some weak justification for why he was ok after all.
‘”He had flaws but he was authoritative.”
“He was a dictator, but he’s lived for 90 years, what have you done?”
“He had shortcomings like everyone else.”
Some of it is just ridiculous.
“There was no tribalism in Moi’s reign” Uh….what!?
“Insecurity was not a problem under Moi. We were safe.” Excuse me?
You have no idea how much restraint it took not to start yelling at random people on the internet. Instead, I decided to compile a small list of highlights of the Moi “legacy.” It’s not conclusive, there’s definitely much more but it’s enough to get a snapshot. Enough to get an idea of the extent of the Moi era excesses. Here we go.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is arrested after his play Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I want) angers Vice President Moi. He writes his next novel in prison on tissue paper.
1982 – 1986
All political parties, save for KANU, are outlawed.
Following the 1982 failed coup d’etat several people are rounded up in Kamiti Maximum Prison which has been converted into a concentration camp. Hundreds of them are university students, a group that had challenged the one party system before the coup.
The Special Branch begins to act act as a tool of oppression. Arrests take place in the name of cracking down on “Mwakenya Activist rebels.” Several people are taken to the now infamous Nyayo House torture chambers
Some literature, the likes involving Karl Marx, Che Guevara, Malcolm X etc, is banned and confisicated.
Sporting a beard becomes borderline illegal as they are associated with Marxism. Having a beard while being a lecturer is almost certain to get you arrested as a Communist Mwakenya dissident.
Mary Anne Fitzgerald, A British journalist, is briefly arrested on trumped up charges after reporting on Illegal exports by businesses men connected to Moi.
The Mlolongo voting system is introduced. Voters are supposed to line up behind pictures of their candidates. Intimidation is rife. And, if there is doubt about the result, the recount is not possible for obvious reasons.
The Police now have the right to detain anyone who criticizes the administration for up to 14 days.
Mary Anne Fitzgerald publishes an article alleging that the judiciary is under the government’s thumb. She is deported.
There are plans to build a 62 story skyscraper in Uhuru Park topped with a statue of Moi. Wangari Maathai opposes the project as a waste of both resources the country doesn’t have and one of the few green spaces in Nairobi. While she manages to erode investor confidence she is forced to seek refuge in Tanzania.
The Government breaks up the Saba Saba demonstration killing at least 20 and arresting hundreds.
Kenneth Matiba, Raila Odinga and Charles Rubia are imprisoned without trial for calling for multiparty elections. Matiba is denied medication and suffers a stroke.
A play is banned for it’s political content. It is a rendition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
It is believed that the government is intentionally instigating and fanning ethnic clashes in order to demonstrate the folly of multiparty elections. From 1991 – 1996 KHRC estimate 15,000 people die in the clashes and 300,000 are internally displaced.
David Makali, a journalist for The People, writes an article indicating that a court ruling saw interference from Moi and the government. He is jailed after refusing to sign an apology drafted by the court. He is one of at least 18 Journalists that year penalized through the legal system for criticizing the government.
Clarion, a research group that has published a study exposing widespread corruption, is banned.
Mwangaza Trust which has campaigned for constitutional reform is banned.
The Safina Party is unable to officially register. Their application is not approved until 1997. One of it’s leaders, Richard Leakey is accosted in his home by a gang calling him a colonialist (sentiments echoed by Moi) and demanding that he leave.
The High Court dismisses a petition filed by Mwai Kibaki against Moi for rigging the election. The reason given for the dismissal is that a copy has not been delivered to Moi personally.
It is ignored that this is because bodyguards prevented access to Moi’s office.
Moi declares that courts should not interfere in matters involving land and political parties.
There are things I didn’t fit into the timeline. Like amendments aimed at increasing presidential power to take away rights while reducing accountability. The intentional breaking down of the checks and balances that keep the Judiciary neutral. Significant portions of the countries wealth siphoned away. Possible assasinations. The list goes on and it only gets darker.
I truly wonder how many of our problems today can be attributed to the effects of that era still haunting us. Wounds we’re still patching up and healing from before we can even grow. The effects of that man’s legacy.