Daniel Arap Moi Former Kenyan President Who Ruled With Iron Fist Dies At 95

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Daniel Arap Moi Former Kenyan President Who Ruled With Iron Fist Dies At 95

Former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi, who rose to power promising to end tribalism and corruption and to make his country a Cold War bulwark against communism but who brutally crushed political opposition, deepened ethnic tensions and enriched himself at the public’s expense, died Feb. 4 at a hospital in Nairobi. He was 95.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the death but did not provide a specific cause.

Mr. Moi was one of the last of Africa’s so-called Big Men, who presided over their countries in increasingly despotic ways. During 24 ruinous years in power, he curtailed political freedom, presided over the stagnation of Kenya’s economy and encouraged patronage politics. He enshrined his name on currency, schools, an international airport and other prominent sites throughout the East African country.Despite condemnation by human rights groups and allegations that he had stolen millions of dollars in aid money, Mr. Moi’s ties to the United States remained strong because of Kenya’s staunch anti-communism and relative stability in a region ravaged by war and by leaders who were even more erratic.

“We’ve been having peace for 39 years,” Mr. Moi told a crowd before he stepped down in 2002. “Sometimes when I hear all the criticism, I ask myself, ‘Are you tired of peace?’ I wish people would go to the neighboring countries and then speak.”

That year, Transparency International, an anti-corruption group, called Kenya one of the most corrupt countries in the world, assailing the nation’s police and judges as among the worst offenders.

https://www.washingtonpost.com

Kenya remained a mostly poor nation. While its economy grew marginally, corruption and crime became entrenched under Moi.

In the years before Mr. Moi became president, most Kenyans regarded him as unthreatening: a tall, immaculately dressed former schoolteacher who belonged to neither of Kenya’s two largest tribes. He seemed, by all appearances, the opposite of his predecessor, Jomo Kenyatta, the war-scarred hero who led Kenya after it gained independence from the disappearing British Empire in 1963.

Mr. Moi had been vice president to Kenyatta, and he took over after Kenyatta’s death in 1978, having gained broad support by promising to maintain a balance of power among Kenya’s tribes. He was a member of the Kalenjin tribe, and the two largest tribes, the Kikuyu and Luo, had ruled the country since the pre-independence period.

Early in his presidency, Mr. Moi’s administration claimed to be primarily concerned with such objectives as good governance, economic development and tribal harmony. Mr. Moi established a free milk program for schoolchildren and released political detainees.

One of his favorite accoutrements was a silver-topped ivory stick, a symbol of a prosperity that was rare in Kenya outside his inner circle.

He told an audience in 1997 that he was misunderstood as a leader and that many of his critics were duplicitous. “I am not a dictator,” he said. “Although people blame Moi now, one day they will understand what Moi was.”

Alcindor is a former Washington Post reporter. Adam Bernstein contributed to this report.

Daniel Arap Moi Former Kenyan President Who Ruled With Iron Fist Dies At 95

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