Kenya’s Longest-Serving Ruler Divides in Death, as in Life

Kenya’s Longest-Serving Ruler Divides in Death, as in Life


Instead, what emerged was a one-party state with Mr. Moi at its center who demanded blind loyalty from government officials by asking them “to sing like parrots” after his own tune.

During his reign, freedom of speech was curtailed, ethnic violence proliferated and dissent was crushed, with many opposition figures detained and tortured in the much-dreaded Nyayo House torture chambers.

Mr. Moi’s body laid in state for three days less than a kilometer away from that building.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, son of the prominent Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, said there’s no reason Kenya shouldn’t have become a nation “where resources work for the citizenry, and reserves of wealth invested for future generations.”

Mr. Ngugi, the author, was among thousands who ran afoul of Mr. Moi for criticizing his government. He was imprisoned and then forced into exile. But for years, before leaving Kenya, the family received death threats, said his son, Mr. Mukoma. Their home was raided, and his siblings couldn’t find jobs or get passports to leave the country. Effigies of his father were burned on television, he said.

Even though the author and his family have since traveled freely back to Kenya, “I deeply miss the me, the Mukoma that would have grown up in Kenya,” said Mr. Mukoma, who is now an associate professor of English at Cornell University, writing in an email. “In a way now, we are always absent from that other life.”

For some, Mr. Moi’s passing brought back the roiling emotions linked to growing up under his rule.

A 2013 report from Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission noted that, under Mr. Moi’s rule, security forces killed hundreds of people — possibly thousands — in various massacres in the region with the stated goal of disarming the population and combating cattle rustling.

Abdikader Ore Ahmed, a former lawmaker, said he and his family were affected during the 1984 Wagalla Massacre, which targeted ethnic Somalis in northeastern Kenya.



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