Nairobi Star - Pheroze Nowrojee: Moi Day Brings Grim Image of his Regime

It is a fiction that a day brought about by sycophants and used to advantage by a politician is a national occasion. Actually, on Moi Day we should all remember why we sought over so many years to bring that regime to a close. And what the cost was.

We have to reflect on why it is that too many of those who fought to liberate the country from such rule are now not safe, often disabled and in economic difficulty. And have not been protected against these indignities.

We have to reflect on why the children of those who brought about that change are not in good schools or at university; and why the cycle of cares and problematic earning is on them, and not instead on those who oppressed Kenya for so long. We must ponder also on why those who perpetrated those crimes have been able to buy or bargain or blackmail their way back to immunity, wealth, and even a cautious arrogance again.

No, we must not make mistakes about what the Moi regime stood for, nor about what it did. Its money, or its remnant power, or amnesia on our part, may yet bring about embellished revisionist accounts.

It is important therefore to place on record that the Moi regime was a grid of corruption, the enforced subservience of state institutions, distorted constitutional prescriptions, and 'leaders' who considered detention, torture and assassination as normal tools of governance.

Worst of all, Moi's regime generated a camp-following of ephemeral and frightened politicians in the grim shadow of unquestioning obedience to One-Man rule. They were praised when they stole from public resources. They were punished if they sought reform. They were made the political pool from which 'leadership' was offered to Kenyans for two decades.

Too many of our current 'leaders' are from that very same tainted pool. Some of them are now bringing Moi to their constituencies, calling him the father of the nation. They endanger Kenya.

Such fawning and alliances with him carry the real possibility of regression to Moi-regime-type politics. The Moi regime cannot teach anyone about reform or governance devoid of fear and protection money. It never knew anything about reform or governance based on law.

It is from this ignominious framework that we have been gradually extricating ourselves.

There is a further fiction that Moi Day commemorates some achievement. Implicit is that there is some legacy which the day preserves, that there is something to emulate. So I spent Moi Day examining the past, searching for that legacy.

I recalled Parliament making us a one-party state; those beaten mercilessly on every public occasion by the police that were used by the Moi regime as an army against his own people; a father who when he sought the truth about his daughter Julie, was told by Moi's regime that the animals were to blame; the removal of the tenure of judges; the political prisoners' mothers who shamed the man after whom this day is named — instead of being named for them; the banning and persecution of the editor of the internationally acclaimed publication, the Nairobi Law Monthly; the charred remains of a minister on a hill in Nyanza; the many, many false judgments in too many courts.

I remembered too: The torture chambers in Nyayo House, Nairobi's provincial headquarters; the many fine poets and writers in exile; Moi telling Amnesty International "to go to hell"; Bishop Muge driving into the road crash that was designed to get rid of him; the degeneration of our public services with the contamination of personal rule; the mlolongo destruction of the secret ballot and its reversed totals even after the public counting; the censorship of the press, and the monopoly of the state radio and TV; how 55 per cent of Kenyans were pushed below the poverty line.

I recalled also: The lawlessness of the provincial administration; those who died on Saba Saba Day; the fear that the Moi regime poured onto Kenyan society; one Jamhuri Day when the people refused to come to Nyayo Stadium; those who never looked for rewards but gave of their all against this oppression; the Attorney-General of Moi who said, "No one is above the law, except the President"; the detainee who was told about his wife's death after her burial; how the country's economy had declined to minus 0.2 per cent.

Twenty-four years of Moi, twenty-four memories. Out of the many, so many more. What a quaint legacy to celebrate with a national holiday.

Pheroze Nowrojee is a lawyer based in Nairobi.

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