How former President Daniel Moi fought for life

Wednesday February 05 2020
moi age pic

Former President Daniel Arap Moi. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By John Kamau
By Elizabeth Merab

At 5.20am Tuesday, former President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, the man who bestrode Kenya’s politics for decades, died at Nairobi Hospital in the capital after ailing for several months.

The Nation has learnt that Mzee Moi had spent almost 112 days (about four months) at the hospital on life support.

Over the last three-and-a-half months, a team of doctors charged with the responsibility of managing him worked under the hawk-eyed supervision of intelligence security officers and his son, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who always sought to know what treatment, procedure, or medication was being administered.


“It was a stressful period for everyone at the hospital,” a doctor whose identity the Nation is not revealing for confidentiality reasons, said. “His health was handled in a very secretive way. There were a lot of National Intelligence Service operatives at the Intensive Care Unit.”

When he was first taken ill and admitted to Nairobi Hospital for what the family said was a routine check-up in October last year, the nation was thrown into speculation mode, even though the family insisted he was Ok.


Moi, who was in a critical condition, never left the Ksh60,000-a-night ($600) North Wing ward bed at the hospital.

The late President never underwent any procedure without the knowledge or authorisation of his primary physician, Dr David Silverstein, who was Moi’s personal doctor and confidante for more than 36 years.

On October 25, he was diagnosed with a left large pleural effusion — a lung condition characterised by fluid build-up outside the lungs — which worsened his already ill health. After prolonged intubation — a procedure used to place a flexible plastic tube into the trachea (windpipe) to maintain an open airway or serve as a conduit through which to administer certain drugs — Dr Silverstein called in an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon to perform a tracheostomy, to help Moi breathe after developing breathing complications.


A tracheostomy is a surgically created hole, also called a stoma, in the windpipe that provides an alternative airway for breathing. During this period, the former President’s health deteriorated so much that he had to be resuscitated multiple times.

In mid-December, still on life-support, Moi was diagnosed with what our source described as severe gastrointestinal bleeding, which led to multiple organ failure.

Our source further said that he was not being treated for any chronic condition, as there were no positive confirmations as to whether he had diabetes or hypertension, which present with some of the symptoms he showed.

For most of his life, Moi’s health was a closely-guarded secret. During his presidency, he was depicted as the man on the move, oozing vitality and verve. Moi was only officially taken ill once, when he flew to Israel for an eye check-up. He later castigated the opposition for suggesting that he had died.


But for the last four months in Nairobi Hospital’s North Wing, which has three presidential suites, President Moi battled with health problems that his family, and the State, kept secret. At best, they said that Mr Moi was in hospital for a “routine check-up”, while at worst, and of late, they opted for silence, avoiding to disclose the full extent of his condition.

Moi enjoyed relatively good health, for a man his age, and only started having health problems after he left the presidency. A man who surprised many with his agility, he started having health trouble as a result of a motor vehicle accident on July 30, 2006, when his Range Rover collided with a pick-up truck near Limuru’s Rukuma View Point.

While Moi underwent surgery on January 27, 2017 at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi to correct the knee problem, this became a constant bother, although he never agreed, at least in public, to use a walking aid.


In the last two weeks, President Moi’s health deteriorated, forcing family members and close allies to have a closed-door meeting with senior government officials, and later with President Uhuru Kenyatta, on how to handle the aftermath, the State funeral and the role of the military.

As the longest serving Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Moi’s burial will be conducted by the military. On Tuesday at Lee Funeral Home, Nairobi, military police took over as the mourning period started.

Early in the morning, State House sent a proclamation announcing the death and ordered national flags to be flown at half-mast, a 17th Century tradition that signifies grieving and death of an icon.

Later, at Harambee House, Interior minister Fred Matiang’i chaired a meeting with Chief of Defence Forces Gen Samson Mwathethe, Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma, Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, as it emerged that a State funeral committee will be chaired by the State House-based Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua.


The Harambee House meeting was also attended by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who has in the last decade emerged as the Moi family point man.

With President Kenyatta out of the country — he had travelled to the US to attend a breakfast prayer meeting — it was the central administration and the military which appeared to have taken over the planning of the funeral, with the Deputy President William Ruto playing second fiddle.

While the DP called a press conference at Harambee Annex, where he described the late President Moi as a reformer who submitted himself to presidential term limits, he was interestingly not flanked by any government officials or Moi family members. He later left for Lee Funeral Home where President Moi’s body is being preserved and then flew to Kakamega, where 14 schoolchildren had died following a stampede on Monday evening.

Later in the evening, the DP went to Kabarnet Gardens in teh Rift Valley, where Moi's son Gideon, his Rongai MP brother Raymond and former Chief of General Staff, Gen Lazarus Sumbeiywo, were holding a meeting. Gen Sumbeiywo and Gen Daudi Tonje have been entrusted by the Moi family as the linkmen with the military, which is spearheading the State funeral.

Whether or not succession politics is at play in the funeral arrangements is not clear — but, according to a tweet by the Interior ministry, the President had instructed Mr Kinyua to lead the funeral arrangements.


It has not been lost to observers that Dr Ruto and Gideon Moi are not the best of friends and when the former President was ailing, and after the death of his eldest son Jonathan in April last year, the DP sidestepped visiting Kabarak, the official residence of the Moi family — thanks to the supremacy wars between him and Gideon.

For the last three years, President Moi had started missing major public events — and when political figures went to see him at his Kabarak home, he would be photographed sitting down; at most with a distant look. He also had added some weight, which made him walk with difficulty.

Although Mr Moi had been flown to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel in March 2018 — aboard a chartered plane in the company Dr Silverstein and his son Gideon — it now appears that he had more problems than the knee complication.

Dr Silverstein said then that the Moi family was “eager to have a second opinion on the knee, which has been a source of discomfort to him (Moi)”.

Later, Gideon made the first admission that Moi was, indeed, unwell: “The old man is not feeling well. He will go for medical check-up (and) needs your prayers as he leaves the country.”


During the October 26, 2017 election, Moi did not leave his car at the Kabarak University polling station. Instead, he cast his vote from the car with the assistance of a polling clerk, which was a clear sign that the old man had a mobility problem.

On December 12, 2018, President Moi was again admitted at Nairobi Hospital with a “bout of flu” with Dr Silverstein saying the former Head of State would spend a couple of nights in the hospital to accord doctors ample time to carry out their analysis. Mr Moi left hospital on Monday December 17, 2018.

On September 2, 2018, Moi celebrated his 94th birthday at a private function at his Kabarak home, flanked by his children and grandchildren.

It was after the death of his eldest son, Jonathan, that Moi’s health status started to become a source of worry after he was unable to attend the open ceremony held at his home in Kabarak. Instead, he watched the burial ceremony from a screen.

Moi usually took photos with dignitaries who had gone to condole with him while seated on a wheelchair. The death of President Moi has left a legacy of a man whose health scares were little-known.