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Former Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi dies aged 95

Mr Moi ruled Kenya for 24 years during a long and controversial time in office.

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Former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, who has died aged 95 (Sayyid Azim/AP)

Former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, who has died aged 95 (Sayyid Azim/AP)

Former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, who has died aged 95 (Sayyid Azim/AP)

Daniel arap Moi, a former schoolteacher who became Kenya’s longest-serving president and presided over years of repression and economic turmoil fuelled by runaway corruption, has died. He was 95.

Mr Moi’s death was announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement on the state broadcaster on Tuesday.

Mr Moi, who ruled Kenya for 24 years, had been in hospital for more than a month.

Despite being called a dictator by critics, Mr Moi enjoyed strong support from many Kenyans and was seen as a uniting figure when he took power after founding President Jomo Kenyatta died in office in 1978.

Kenya Obit arap Moi
Daniel arap Moi, seen here when vice-president in 1968 (AP File Photo)

Some allies of the ailing Mr Kenyatta, however, tried to change the constitution to prevent Mr Moi, then the vice president, from automatically taking power on Mr Kenyatta’s death.

So wary was Mr Moi of any threat during that uncertain period that he fled his Rift Valley home when he heard of Mr Kenyatta’s death, returning only after receiving assurances of his safety.

In 1982, Mr Moi’s government pushed through parliament a constitutional amendment that made Kenya effectively a one-party state.

Later that year the army quelled a coup attempt plotted by opposition members and some air force officers. At least 159 people were killed.

Mr Moi’s government then became more repressive in dealing with dissent, according to a report by the government’s Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission that assessed his rule.

Political activists and others who dared oppose Mr Moi’s rule were routinely detained and tortured, the report said, noting unlawful detentions and assassinations, including the killing of a foreign affairs minister, Robert Ouko.

“The judiciary became an accomplice in the perpetuation of violations, while parliament was transformed into a puppet controlled by the heavy hand of the executive,” the report said.

Corruption, especially the illegal allocation of land, became institutionalised, the report said, while economic power was centralised in the hands of a few.

Parliament was transformed into a puppet controlled by the heavy hand of the executive

In 1991, Mr Moi yielded to demands for a multi-party state due to internal pressure – including a 1991 demonstration in which police killed more than 20 people – and external pressure from the West.

Multi-party elections in 1992 and 1997 were marred by political and ethnic violence that critics asserted were caused by the state.

By the time Mr Moi left power in 2002, corruption had left Kenya’s economy, the most developed in East Africa, with negative growth.

Mr Moi often blamed the West for bad publicity and the economic hardships many Kenyans had to endure during his rule.

PA