The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Why Moi Refused to Endorse Kalonzo for Presidency

Retired President Moi refused to endorse Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka to succeed him in the 2002, we can now reveal. Moi rejected calls by Kalenjin elites who met at his Kabarnet Gardens home towards the eve of 2002 general elections just before Moi declared Uhuru Kenyatta his preferred successor.

During the one day meeting attended by then Kanu stalwarts from Rift Valley, Moi asked them their thoughts on the impending elections slated for December that year.

"Mzee asked us who we thought could succeed him as elections drew closer," said a senior civil servant who was in attendance of the whole day meeting.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and the late Professor George Saitoti's names were prominently mentioned by those who addressed the gathering. "No one ever thought of Uhuru," he said, "it was as if many people had settled on Musyoka."

The late Saitoti, according to him was assumed the apparent heir but cracks had shown when Moi refused to name him Vice President soon after the 1997 polls which Moi won in a landslide. He was the Vice President between May 1989 and December 1997 with a break between 1997 and 1999 and again between April 1999 and August 2002

Those interviewed said Moi kept his secret even from his close allies who included the then powerful cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott. When it was Moi's turn to speak, he started analysing the candidates presented to him one by one starting with Kalonzo.

"Moi started diluting them blow by blow," said a politician from Rift Valley who declined to be named because of his close association with the retired president. "We never knew Moi had already made up his mind."

Starting with Kalonzo who had served under Moi as a Cabinet minister and Kanu vice chairman, Moi said Kenya needed a hardworking leader who could deliver and who was ready to protect her people. "I was shocked because all indications showed that Kalonzo was out of Moi's mind," said the politician.

He says Moi described Kalonzo as indecisive and this became evident during the run up to the 2010 referendum where he was labelled as a watermelon who was neither supporting nor opposing the draft constitution.

On the late Saitoti, Moi only said Kenya did not need a leader who was mean. "Nani amesikia huyu makamu wa rais ameenda mchango siku ingine?" asked Moi.(have you heard the Vice President going to harambee?)

There was a long silence as Moi added no other word. Signs of his bad blood with Saitoti who was his political student became conspicuously visible when Moi failed to make him VP soon after the 1997 elections.

After the 1997 general elections, Saitoti was dropped as Vice President, although no replacement was made. Moi reappointed him in April 1999, through a roadside directive issued at Limuru, Kiambu. Between 2001 and 2002, Saitoti was moved to the Ministry for Home Affairs but still retained his post as VP.

On March 18, 2002, Saitoti made a clean break with Kanu when he was not only ousted as the party's vice chairman but was again sidelined by Moi who picked Uhuru Kenyatta as the person to succeed him. "There come a time when a nation is more important than an individual," he said at the time.

Less than six months later, on August 30, 2002 Moi sacked him as VP for disloyalty. Saitoti joined Kanu rebels who were opposed to Moi's choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor and eventually formed Narc with other opposition parties.

Of Nyachae and Mudavadi, Moi said so little, says the source who was a nominated MP in Moi's time. "Nyayo (Moi) said nothing much on Nyachae and Mudavadi. He said Mudavadi was still young and I don't recall what he said of Nyachae."

The former strong Kanu man says Moi shocked the crowd when he introduced Uhuru Kenyatta who was then a nominated MP as his preferred candidate. "Most of us where against the idea but Moi insisted that he had seen leadership qualities in Uhuru," he says.

Moi, he says, they later realized had preferred Uhuru and nothing was going to change his mind. Uhuru, who vied for Gatundu South parliamentary seat in 1997 and lost to Moses Mwihia was seen as inexperienced by many of those who had attended the gathering.

Moi seemed to have crafted Uhuru then for bigger things but Gatundu South people let him down. He was soon to be seen in most political rallies attended by Moi until in 1999 when he was appointed chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board where he worked close with then Keiyo South MP Nicholas Biwott who was one of Moi closest allies.

In October 2001, Moi nominated him to Parliament with Moi's 'Mr Fix it' Mark Too who was a nominated MP stepping down for him. He was later to be the Local Government minister before being elected as one of the four national vice-chairmen of Kanu.

On March 18, 2002 the merger of Kanu led by Moi and the National Development Party (NDP) led by Raila Odinga was approved by their delegates

According to one source, the two parties merged in an effort to increase their chances of winning the 2002 general elections since the "NDP was the second largest opposition party and commanded massive support among Odinga's ethnic Luo voters from Western Kenya, which made many believe Raila would be among those to be considered for the top job.

However, in July 2002, President Moi did not endorse Raila as the Kanu presidential candidate, which had reportedly been one of the preconditions for the Kanu-NDP merger, but instead endorsed Uhuru Kenyatta. In July 2002, Moi endorsed 41-year-old Uhuru Kenyatta at a political rally in Afraha Stadium in Nakuru igniting a wrangle within Kanu.

As the dispute escalated, Moi sacked defiant ministers. Others resigned and joined opposition groups to form an alliance that was came to be known as the National Rainbow Coalition.

They rallied behind 71-year-old Mwai Kibaki, who had unsuccessfully challenged Moi in the 1992 and 1997 elections. Kibaki won the 2002 election in a landslide.

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