Friday, October 11, 2019

Moi's hashtag warriors

"MOI was a serious political adult; fully in charge of the national homestead he headed. He genuinely cared for National Unity, running a Govt largely representative of the face of Kenya. He fully protected our territorial borders. History will judge this man kindly. #MoiDay" - Linus Kaikai
I am part of the generation that came of age during the Nyayo Era. We mouthed the Nyayo Philosophy of "Peace, Love and Unity" and recited the "Loyalty Pledge" (whose words escape me today) with fervour. I quaffed down "Maziwa ya Nyayo" without a care in the world and I performed in the national celebrations of "10 Years of Nyayo Era" with thousands of the members of my age group. The one constant back then was Baba Moi - after all, Voice of Kenya dedicated fully two-thirds of its news broadcast to Baba Moi. He was everywhere, all the time. He was, indeed, a "serious political adult".

Mr Kaikai elides a few details, however, when he declares that "MOI...genuinely cared for National Unity, running a Govt largely representative of the face of Kenya". Take the manner in which Moi was "fully in charge". Along Kenyatta Avenue is Nyayo House and along Loita Street is Nyati House. Both are infamous for the number of Kenyans who passed through their basements, especially those that never saw the light of day. "Wagalla" and "Wajir Airstrip" are names of places that cemented Moi's reputation of being "fully in charge". "Land clashes" and "ethnic cleansing" gathered political currency because Moi was so determined to forge a Government that represented the "face of Kenya" at all costs.

Mr Kaikai, and many of the Kenyans singing Baba Moi's praises, confuse a lack of civil war in the 24 years of Moi's rule with peace. Murders of dissidents and rivals were a small price to pay for peace and stability. Corruption on an industrial scale - whose effects are felt 17 years after Moi left office - was a price worth paying for a Government that reflected the face of Kenya. Territorial integrity guaranteed a crumbling public education and public health systems whose coffins, the Jubilation is nailing the final nails into. Baba Moi's shadow looms long over our collective national fate - the outlook is bleak.

Moi's Government represented the face of Kenya only if the face of Kenya was one characterised by an avarice that was almost comical. To be fair, when Moi said that he was going to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, he did exactly that when it came to land. But this grab-as-much-as-you-can philosophy came at a high cost: millions of landless Kenyans have passed on their hardships down to the third generation with very few escaping the poverty trap Moi's land policies built for their parents and grandparents.

When history writes Moi's obituary, it will only be kind to him if it only states, "He ruled Kenya for twenty-four years" and left it at that. The truth, while "complicated", is not that difficult to recall. The Nyayo Philosophy of "Peace, Love and Unity" was not so much about national unity but about self-preservation at all costs. The footsteps that Moi was following were laid by Kenya's first, and only, president for life. The philosophy called for a massive security apparatus to control what the people said, what they read, what they wrote and what they thought, and when that failed, it exacted punishments that ranged from low-degree harassment to more permanent solutions for which proof has always proven elusive. Linus Kaikai's #MoiDay call to arms is a reminder that though many Kenyans paid a high price for the Nyayo Philosophy, a small cohort became fat off of it.

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