NAIROBI - Thousands of Kenyans, along with a number of African leaders, streamed into Nyayo National Stadium Tuesday to attend the funeral of Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second president, who died last Tuesday while undergoing treatment at a Nairobi Hospital. Kenyans remembered Moi in different ways in a ceremony that seemed to have brought the country together.
The youngest of Moi’s sons, Gideon Moi, led the nation in eulogizing his father.
“This was our father, an elephant time memory and a compassionate heart. Throughout his years of service, he taught us to have tough feet, but keep a soft heart. Our father was a forgiving man,” said the younger Moi.
Several heads of state present eulogized the former president as a Pan-Africanist, who contributed significantly to the unity of the continent.
Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia’s president, was among the regional leaders present.
“We will always remember the fundamental role he played in the formation of our regional organization IGAD back in 1986 but also the contribution he has made in the revitalization of IGAD in 1996 when he was heading the organization, the role he has played in Sudan, to bring peace between Sudan and South Sudan, and in Somalia are also big achievements this region has registered,” said the Ethiopian leader.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir talked about how Moi was instrumental in the birth of his country, by playing a significant role in the comprehensive peace agreement with Khartoum in 2005.
“As the president of the republic of South Sudan, South Sudan is the product of his work and will remain his legacy. My people respect and honor late president Daniel arap Moi,” said Kiir.
Daniel arap Moi took over Kenya’s presidency upon the death of the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, in 1978, and ruled until 2002.
Moi was accused of serious rights violations including torture and political killings. For this, he faced local and international criticism.
One of those tortured was Kenya’s former prime minister, Raila Odinga, who nevertheless eulogized Moi as a great leader.
“He also made some mistakes; I was for example one of the victims, but he was also forgiving like I am also forgiving, and we made our peace and we shook hands and we worked together to bring this country a new constitution. So we remember him for the good things that he did which we want to carry forward as we move to unite our country and bring it together,” Odinga said.
Herman Manyora, a political analyst based in Nairobi, said that the president led the country at a critical time, the Cold War era, when the push and pull between Western and Communist interests made other neighboring countries collapse.
“When you put the bad things people talk about, against the great things he did, I think you could give him 70 percent. You know he was president at a time when there was turmoil in Africa,” Manyora said.
Moi was 95. His burial is scheduled for Wednesday.