Overview

Daniel arap Moi served as the third Vice President of Kenya from 1967 until he assumed the office of the president upon the death of President Jomo Kenyatta in 1978.  He remained President until his retirement in 2002.  While relations between Kenya and the United States were generally strong, Moi’s administration experienced several major corruption scandals in the 24 years he was in office.

Excerpts

“That first meeting with Moi was friendly but very stiff.  He had an absolute need to appear presidential.  I explained that his good friends in Washington, including influential members of the United States Congress, were becoming nervous about the detention of prominent Kenyan intellectuals merely because they were making public declarations calling for multiparty democracy.  They were responding to growing pressure from human rights groups.  There was no African nation that was better known in the United States than Kenya.

Moi reflected on my statement for a while and then said forcefully, ‘OK, I will release all of them.  They are not worth the food that we feed them.’ However, he did not say that he would move to change the constitution to allow for multiparty democracy." (Page 47)

“Arap Moi’s 24 years in power were a period when the culturally and economically dominant Kikuyu ethnic group was out of power. In view of their major struggle against British colonialism and the fact that Kikuyu hero Jomo Kenyatta was the founding father, they felt that they were the natural rulers of Kenya. But after Kenyatta’s death in 1978, Moi’s Kalenjin ethnic group said, “Now it’s our turn to eat.”  The bulk of the fruits of political patronage went to Moi’s close associates. … Ethnicity remains an extremely volatile issue in Kenyan politics and violence continues to be endemic. Moi had the power to do something about ethnic violence, but he did not see the issue as one of his priorities.” (Page 51)

Moi's Background

  • Born in 1924 as a member of the Kalenjin ethnic group.
  • Worked as a teacher from 1946-1955.
  • Founded the Kenya African Democratic Union in 1960 to challenge the Kenya African National Union, which was led by Jomo Kenyatta.
  • Kenya gained independence in 1963.  Shortly after, Kenyatta convinced Moi to merge their political parties.  Kenyatta was elected president in 1964 and appointed Moi Minister of home affairs.  He appointed Moi vice president in 1967.
  • In 1978, Kenyatta died of natural causes and Moi became president.
  • Moi resisted pressure to reform the political system and amend constitution to support a multiparty system until 1991 when the US threatened to withdraw support because of the detention of political activists.
  • Moi continued to win reelection until his retirement in 2002.