Peacemaker, gracious host: How leader’s relations with others in region stayed firm

Saturday February 08 2020

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, as chairman of the regional seven-nation Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, mediating Sudanese peace talks, meets Salva Kiir in 2002. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Throughout his rule, former president Daniel arap Moi always carried himself as a statesman in East Africa.

He reached out to his counterparts in the region and initiated and pushed various peace processes and especially through Inter-governmental Authority on development (Igad), to incorporate peace building and deal with issues related to drought and desertification in the Horn Africa.

Moi was also instrumental in the revival of the East African Community that had collapsed in 1977, and together with Tanzania’s then president Benjamin Mkapa and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, they signed it back to life.


Mr Moi reached out to then interim leader, Godfrey Binaisa for talks on the revival of the EAC but when Dr Milton Obote returned to power in 1980, Moi kept off, because he blamed Obote for instigating the Kenyan military, led by Maj Gen Joel Ndolo to revolt against Jomo Kenyatta in a coup plot by Ndolo unearthed in June 1971.

Unfortunately for Obote, six months after he was ousted by Idi Amin, he escaped to Kenya by road, but Moi refused to give him asylum, forcing him to take refuge in Zambia. But if Moi found Obote untrustworthy, he was apprehensive when the revolutionary Museveni took power in 1986 by blasting his way into Kampala.


And Moi had good reason to be apprehensive. As Museveni was leading the rebel war in 1985, Moi convened peace negotiations in Nairobi in 1985 between then Ugandan leader Gen Tito Okello and Museveni.

The latter showed up and signed a peace accord but on the ground his National Resistance Movement was marching on Kampala. The peace deal collapsed and Moi felt betrayed and humiliated.

After the collapse of the EAC in 1977, Tanzanian leaders were wary of Kenya, which they blamed for the collapse.

According to Nicodemus Minde, a Tanzanian political commentator, there was great suspicion and distrust among the original three EAC member states.

Hassan Mwinyi re-established relations with Kenya, but Moi’s relations with Tanzania only improved with the ascendency of Benjamin Mkapa to power in 1995.

Harold Acemah, a retired First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the UN, said that Moi established and maintained cordial relations with Uganda and Tanzania, despite the suspicions over the break-up of the EAC.

“One of the lessons Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have learnt is that we are better off with an EAC than without it,” said Mr Acemah.


Moi was a close friend of the late Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana, who was killed when his plane was shot down in 1994.

While Moi worked with President Paul Kagame’s predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, during the peace talks on the DR Congo, Kenya and Rwanda did not hit it off diplomatically given that a number of Rwandan Hutus who were suspected to have engineered the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, had allegedly taken refuge in Kenya.

The most infamous to date is Félicien Kabuga, whose whereabouts remain unknown, but which the Rwanda government believed were in Kenya under the protection of Moi’s government.
Relations between Kenya and Rwanda deteriorated when a former Rwandan Interior Minister, Seth Sendashonga and his driver were killed in May 1998 along Limuru-Forest Road (now Wangari Maathai Way) junction in Parklands, Nairobi.

South Sudan

On July 9, 2011 when South Sudan was attaining independence, a loud cheer broke out at the Dr John Garang Mausoleum grounds when the name of former president Moi, who was present, was mentioned as one of the people who helped the country break from the Arab north.

The Kenyans in attendance, like this writer, realised how the ordinary South Sudanese owed a lot gratitude to Kenya’s role in helping them gain independence.

The best evidence is the South Sudanese flag, which is a replica of Kenya’s except the blue triangle.

South Sudanese have always felt at home in Kenya because the Moi government welcomed them.

Kenya remains a major player in the ongoing South Sudan peace process between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader, Dr Riek Machar.