Kenya: former Pdt’s Daniel Arap Moi Obituary

Professor. Marc Lavergne is a Senior Fellow Researcher (Emeritus) on the Geopolitics and Geostrategy of the Contemporary Middle East and Horn of Africa at the French National Center for Scientific Research.

Yesterday’s announcement of the death of former Kenyan President Daniel Ara Moi arouse some ancient personal memories which I think worth of sharing.

1st August 1982. I had just arrived in Kenya, on my way to Tanzania for a report on “African Socialism”. I was waken up by laud cries and military music in the street. Venturing outside my small hotel in Naivasha, I narrowly escaped the fire shots of roaming soldiers : Pdt Arap Moi, in power since 1978, had been seized and imprisoned by Kenya Air Force officers…While thousands of students took to the Nairobi streets to rejoice, and looters ramped the capital’s shops run by the Indian community, forces faithful to the President took over. They killed hundreds of demonstrators, and chased the Luo community, the second in the country. Trying to escape the massacre, all borders closed, I ended up in the remote city of Garissa, in the heartland of Kenyan Somali land. The place was surrounded by Somali “shifta”, rebels and bandits altogether, and I was stuck there before a small plane delivering the local drug, the “miraa”, in Somalia, rescued me.

Daniel Arap Moi having escaped its raptors, ran the country again for the next 20 years. That year 2002, I was invited to attend a conference on Crime in Africa, in the same Naivasha town.  I tried to present an explanation to the strange fact that Cairo and Khartoum, albeit hosting a majority of poor and even destitute peoples, where the safest cities in Africa, while the affluent cities of Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi faced the highest crime rate

In fact, while Nairobi is being home to major international institutions such as UN-habitat and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and hosting a large expatriate business community, it is a city where walking at night is unthinkable, where private homes are surrounded by barbed wires and defended by private guards and dogs. On the outskirts of Nairobi sides Kibera, the larger slum in the world, where are piling up destitute farmers and herders from all sides of the country, while Dadaab, at the border of Somalia, is the largest refugee camp with around 500 000 inhabitants… The unique environment, which attracted millions of tourists to the most amazing sceneries and wildlife, is shrinking through unchecked encroachment.

History is the best judge, and will tell what the lasting legacy of this long reign is, between stability and development, but also environmental wrecking, ethnic rivalries and human despair…