Kenya’s second and longest-serving President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi was laid to rest in his Kabarak home on Wednesday marking the end of an era for the country.
“When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground,” reads a popular African saying. One cannot think of truer words when they remember Moi. The life of the late president had a big impact, both positive and negative, in the direction this country took from independence. A fact that was echoed by MPs as they gave glowing tributes during the Parliament special sitting last week.
His demise has forced the country to reflect upon his contribution, his impact and the future of this country. While his 24-year reign elicits both feelings of admiration and bitterness, it also reminds Kenyans of heroes and heroines who shaped Kenyan politics within and outside his government. People who through their sacrifice and determination led the country to the democratization of the state that saw increased political space, freedom of speech and association and the clamour for a new constitutional dispensation.
This mourning period should then mark a defining moment for the future of Kenya. That in memory of Moi, Kenyans and their leaders should borrow lessons from his tenure and start drawing a blueprint to attain Kenya’s vision for the future.
Given the long journey, it took for the country to get to the 2010 Constitution, it should be a collective duty to uphold and promote the spirit of the Constitution. Leaders in all arms of government should stand guided by the principles and values of the Constitution that speak highly of integrity, accountability and patriotism. The law of the land remains the true north if ever we want to win the fight against the vices that ail our country.
Moi’s tenure also marks the reintroduction of multiparty democracy. This milestone was a great reminder that Kenyans regardless of the social or political class had a right of say in the political fate of the country. It set grounds to recognize that power emanates from the people and should therefore not be abused or used to the detriment of Wanjiku. If power belongs to Wanjiku, then it is upon the leaders to work every day to ensure that the law and government systems work to the benefit of the citizenry. It should never be lost on them that they work for the mwananchi.
It should also be remembered that during Moi’s era, the executive wielded more power. The current Constitution gives Parliament and the Judiciary the power to check the executive. This, therefore, means that the corruption that has thrived under the Executive for decades can be curbed with robust oversight. A strong, unbiased Parliament backed by a strong legal system equates a thriving government that works for the people.
Moi’s era was also tainted by gross violation of human rights. Even with the talks of correcting historical injustices through the BBI, the Parliament in its current form can do so through legislative processes. Parliament can prevent more violations of Wanjiku’s rights and freedoms and in turn grant her dignity through motions, statements, petitions and sponsoring bills that directly speak to the electorate’s needs.
It was during the post-Moi period that Kenya decentralized power from the national government to county governments. The transition from 8 provinces to 47 counties presented an opportune moment for services to be tailor-made to specialized needs covering all bases in the country. Parliament, particularly the Senate have a duty to protect and promote devolution. Ensuring that devolution works to the letter levels the playing for all Kenyans and makes inclusion and equality a not-so-far-fetched dream.
Moi’s life, leadership, lessons should not be in vain. Neither should the lives of those who sacrificed their lives and freedom under Moi. Beyond giving glowing tributes, leaders now have a duty to take leadership to a whole different level and leave a legacy of their own.