NAIROBI — Former Kenyan President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi was a patriot, loved the East African Community and was a conciliatory figure, President Museveni has said.
The three qualities are what President Museveni pointed out about Moi, at a state funeral at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, where several regional leaders and thousands of Kenyans congregated to celebrate the life of Kenya’s second president.
President Moi died last Tuesday aged 95. He was Kenya’s President from 1978 to 2002, having assumed power following the death of founding president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Introducing President Museveni to the audience, President Uhuru Kenyatta described him as the “elder of the region”, attracting loud cheers and ululations from the excited crowd.
President Museveni, who delivered his eulogy in Kiswahili, peppered with some English, and which was severally interjected by a cheering audience, celebrated Moi and Jomo Kenyatta, saying they were like doctors who properly diagnosed Kenya’s problems and administered the right medication.
“In Africa, leaders are like doctors. You must properly diagnose what ails your country lest it stays in perpetual trouble,” said President Museveni.
“Kenya has been a peaceful country since independence,” said President Museveni. “For us who saw state breakdown in Uganda, we know the exact value of peace. This means your leaders, Kenyatta and Moi, made the right diagnosis and prescribed the right medicine.”
He said the correct diagnosis was evident in the fact that in 1964, Moi, who was leader of the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), dissolved his party and joined the Kenya African National Union (KANU) led by Kenyatta.
“This was patriotism and this unity enabled Kenya to be stable for all these years,” he added.
President Museveni said the second quality to be celebrated about Moi was his love for East Africa.
“He loved East Africa and wanted the federation. He encouraged us to unite,” said President Museveni. “Not just politically, he was also emotionally attached to East Africa. Many times he asked me to let him come to Tororo and Mbale in Eastern Uganda. Once, he asked that I escort him to Arua (North West of Uganda) to visit the African Inland Church, which had a branch there.”
The other virtue about Moi, according to President Museveni, was his forgiving and conciliatory nature.
Citing a case in 1987, when President Moi closed the Kenya border to Uganda, after being “misled by troublemakers”, Museveni said the two principals later sat in Teso, Kenya and the matter was resolved.
“I did not just hear about his ability to reconcile, I saw and felt it,” said President Museveni, who prayed that the former leader rests in peace.
Today’s state funeral was a climax of days of mourning that saw the late leader’s body lie in state at the Kenyan Parliament for three days and viewed by thousands of Kenyans.
Before the cortege made its way to Nyayo Stadium today morning, it left the Lee Funeral Home and made a detour through State House, Nairobi before the hearse, draped in the Kenyan flag, was guided to the stadium, about five kilometers away.
A combined company of soldiers drawn from the Kenyan infantry, airforce and marines, gracefully marched alongside the hearse as a band played alongside the cortege as it snaked to the stadium.
In the stadium, President Uhuru Kenyatta received the hearse, which was closely followed by members of the Moi family led by his sons Gideon, Raymond and Phillip.
Shortly after, inter-denominational prayers led by the African Inland Church commenced, with most celebrants highlighting the former leader’s love for the church.
The service, characterised by popular church hymns like “It is Well with My Soul”, “How Great Thou Art” and “Forever With the Lord”, saw the preacher base the sermon on Moi’s spiritual life.
Raymond Moi, who is Rongai MP and Gideon Moi, the Baringo County Senator, led the family in celebrating their father’s life, with the latter highlighting his father’s humourous nature, religious commitment and statesman character.
He amused the mourners when he revealed his father’s love for beef even when the doctors advised against its consumption, one time telling his son he could eat the meat since no doctor was watching.
Gideon singled out Presidents Museveni and Salva Kiir for special recognition, saying they had found time to visit his ailing father in hospital, adding that President Museveni had been in constant touch with the family, inquiring about the health of the former president.
President Kenyatta, who led Kenyan leaders in mourning, chronicled Moi’s political life from a boy orphaned at four to a leader at the helm of the country for 24 years.
He pointed out Moi’s contribution to Kenya’s stability, regional peace and integration and commended him for overseeing the country’s transition to a multi-party political dispensation that saw his KANU political party lose power to the opposition NARC coalition led by Mwai Kibaki in 2002.
For Kenyatta, who was the KANU candidate in 2002 fronted by Moi, he also mourned the death of a mentor and father figure.
Outspoken Kenyan politician Raila Odinga, who was a political detainee under Moi, said he made peace with the former president and said the country had lost a towering political figure.
Deputy President William Ruto, who was politically nurtured by Moi, said most contemporary Kenyan politicians were students of the “Professor of Politics” and products of his Nyayo mantra, “peace, love and unity”.
Other leaders present who eulogised Moi were Rwanda President Paul Kagame, Djibouti leader Ismail Omar, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir and former Tanzania leaders Jakaya Kikwete and Benjamin Mkapa–the latter reading President John Pombe Magufuli’s condolence message.
Also present was Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde and Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Moi will be laid to rest tomorrow (Wednesday) at his vast Kabarak home in Nakuru, in accordance with his wishes.