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Singing the song of Daniel arap Moi

15 8 0

The death of former Kenyan president, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, in a private hospital in the capital, Nairobi, is bound to reopen old wounds in the country's national psyche. Having presided over a brutal, 24-year kleptocracy that terrorised, murdered and tortured thousands and impoverished millions, history is unlikely to be kind to him.

His tenure is referred to by many Kenyans as the Nyayo Error, nyayo being Swahili for "footsteps". Nyayo was his rallying call when he ascended to the presidency in 1978 following the death of his predecessor, Jomo Kenyatta, father of the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta. Moi vowed to follow in the elder Kenyatta's ways and was true to his word - utilising the resources of the state to vastly enrich himself, his family and his cronies, while at the same time ruthlessly crushing any opposition.

His approach to government was encapsulated in a famous declaration he made in 1984: "I call on all ministers, assistant ministers and every other person to sing like parrots. During the Mzee Kenyatta period, I persistently sang the Kenyatta tune … If I had sung another song, do you think Kenyatta would have left me alone? Therefore, you ought to sing the song I sing. If I put a full stop, you should put a full stop. This is how the country will move forward. The day you become a big person, you will have the liberty to sing your own song and everybody will sing it too."

Today, in death, the former dictator has not only escaped justice........

© Al Jazeera