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Daniel Torotich Arap Moi

President of Kenya

Torotich Arap Moi was born in the Baringo district of Kenya on September 2, 1924, a member of the Tugen, a small clan of the Kalenjin tribe. He received much of his early education at the American Mission School (where he took the name Daniel) and the Government African School at Kapsabet. He qualified as a teacher in 1945 and soon became headmaster of a small local school.

Moi entered politics by being nominated to the Kenya Legislative Council in 1955. In 1957 he campaigned successfully in the first elections for African members of the Legislative Council, and then served successively as Minister of Education and of Local Government.

In 1960 Moi led a breakaway movement from Jomo Kenyatta's Kenya African National Union (KANU), which was dominated by the Kikuyu and Luo tribes, and formed the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), which was essentially an alliance of smaller tribes that worked closely with a party of white settlers. Moi and Kenyatta merged their two parties in November 1964, and when Kenyatta became President of the Republic of Kenya in December 1964, Moi was made Minister of Home Affairs. He was made Vice-President in 1966, but kept his position as Minister of Home Affairs. Moi became Acting President upon the death of Kenyatta, on August 22, 1978, and was subsequntly endorsed by KANU to stand unopposed in the presidential election.

As President, one of the first things Moi did was to travel the country, visiting every tribal group. He introduced free milk programs for school children, released all political detainees, and abolished land-buying companies that had been gouging small land holders. Although his programs gained him much admiration from the general population, he was only able to gain political power by banning opposition parties and promoting his Kalenjin countrymen to positions of authority at the expense of the Kikuyu.

Official corruption and abuse of powers, plus a deteriorating economy, exploded in a 1982 coup attempt by Kenya air force officers, most of them Luos, dissatisfied with their people being excluded from power and access to the national treasury. The army remained loyal to Moi, however, and put down the coup. Moi then created a totally new air force. He also eliminated Kikuyu and Luo officers from the military and put in Kalenjin and non-ethnic challengers. Also in 1982, Moi pushed legislation through making Kenya a de jure (by right) one-party state, even though it had been a defacto (actual) one-party state since 1969, when the opposition was banned and KANU began overriding Parliament in decision-making matters.

Despite domestic opposition to his policies, Moi enjoyed a great relationship with Western nations through the Cold War years. That relationship became strained following the collapse of the eastern European bloc countries and the Soviet Union, however. Moi was induced to legalize opposition parties, and on December 29, 1992, he won the country’s first multiparty elections amid charges of electoral fraud. Riots and demonstrations marred the 1997 elections, and hundreds of Kenyans, mainly Kikuyu, were killed. Easily elected to his fifth term as president, Moi promised to end government corruption and implement democratic and economic reforms. In an effort to combat corruption, in 1999 he appointed anthropologist Richard Leakey the head of the Civil Service and permanent Secretary to the Cabinet.

Required by the constitution to resign in 2003, Moi backed Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Jomo Kenyatta, as the KANU candidate in the 2002 elections, but many feared that Kenyatta would be a puppet for Moi. KANU split over the choice, with dissidents joining the National Rainbow Coalition, whose candidate, Mwai Kibaki, succeeded Moi in December 2002.

Although he has been largely retired since leaving the presidency, Moi has not been totally silent. He spoke out against a proposal for a new constitution in 2005 because he said it was contrary to the aspirations of the Kenyan people. On July 25, 2007, President Kibaki appointed Moi as a special peace envoy to Sudan. On August 28, 2007, Moi announced that he would campaign for Kibaki's re-election.


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Jomo Kenyatta

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The Robinson Library >> Kenya

This page was last updated on 09/02/2018.