Tuesday January 26 2010

NRM DAY CELEBRATIONS: Moi, the only official guest

CHIEF GUEST: Mr Moi arrives at Malaba border

CHIEF GUEST: Mr Moi arrives at Malaba border post on Monday. PHOTO BY JARED NYATAYA 

By Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi


By choosing Daniel Arap Moi as his only key guest at today’s NRM Day celebrations, President Museveni, who starts the year that makes him surpass all previous leaders in the region as the longest serving President, opened room for a lot of comparisons.

Moi left power after an odd 24 years in December 2002, leaving with him the party he had led since inheriting the throne from Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta.
The Kenya Africa National Union has tumbled and now remains a distant player in a political field it ironically controlled for so long.

As leader of the National Resistance Movement since he came to power and without clear structures that could sustain the organization without its founder at the helm, many, admirers and critics alike say the NRM could suffer the same fate as Kanu did under Moi.

Mr Moi also appears to represent what many Ugandan political observers feel skeptical about, a possibility that the most unlikely candidate emerges as Museveni’s successor just like Moi emerged from a little known school teacher to take over from what was seen as an insurmountable position that Kenyatta had turned Kenyan Presidency into.

Born in September 1924 Mr Moi became President of Kenya from August 1978 until December 2002.

Democracy snatchers
Having fully inherited the Presidency and structures of his predecessor, Mr Moi, who came to be known among many Kenyans as Nyayo, a Swahili word for footsteps, over his early claim that he was following in the footsteps of Kenyatta, was able to consolidate his hold onto power in 1982 after a failed attempted coup.

The coup gave him opportunity to purge himself of many of the pro-Kenyatta people and bring his own closer.

He also consolidated what he started with Kenyatta; to root even deeper the one party state in Kenya but its free fall in 2002 immediately he left power left many admirers dumbfounded.

Mr Moi, like President Museveni, once a darling of western donor countries saw a reversal of fortunes as many moved to shun him the longer he stayed in power. For a large part of his presidency, Mr Moi had to run the country without donor support but largely succeeded in sustaining Kenya as the biggest and strongest economy in the region.

Today Mr Museveni starts the year that will take to a quarter century at the helm. With a party endorsement to be a candidate by the time NRM celebrates 25 years in power on January 26 2011, Mr Museveni is poised to be at the helm for at least 30 years if he wins next year’s election and will be firmly established among the longest serving leaders on the continent.