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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Moi's legacy to Kenya
But behind the mask of gentility, say his critics, is a man who has ruled the East African nation with an iron fist - deceptively symbolised by the silver-topped ivory stick, known as 'rungu' in Swahili, which he sports everywhere he goes.
From a humble start, Daniel Torotich arap Moi has come to be seen as one of Africa's 'Big Men'.
He has been described as a master tactician: shrewd, manipulative and always one step ahead of his opponents.
To his credit, Kenya avoided the fate of many of its neighbours - genocide or economic collapse.
His supporters call him the "giraffe" - referring to what they call his far-sightedness - and "professor of politics"
They point out that he has kept the country united, ended the powerful Kikuyu domination of Kenya's politics and business, and put in place a multi-party system.
But, at the end of his presidency, his critics say Mr Moi leaves his country burdened with economic mismanagement, corruption, political repression and continuing ethnic tensions.
"In the last 15 years, Kenyans have become poorer and poorer," says Robert Shaw, a Nairobi economist and columnist.
"From the 1990s, economic growth and the standard of living have declined or stagnated.
"Moi's government promised many things but did very little - especially in the department of good governance."
Government statistics confirm the grim picture of last 20 years:
In the 1960s and 70s annual economic growth peaked at 8% , but by 2001 it had dropped sharply to -3%.
The majority of Kenyans live below the poverty level. Average annual income is some $1 a day.
Because of mass unemployment, there is rising crime - armed robbery and carjackings - in Nairobi and other major towns.
Basic infrastructure such as roads, telephones, railways and electricity have been in considerable disrepair.
It is estimated that it will need a billion dollars to get the nation's roads back into good working order again.
Between 1992 and 1998, infant mortality for under five-year-olds rose from 74 to 105 per 1,000.
Born in September 1924 in the remote hills of the Rift Valley, Mr Moi rose from tending herds among a small tribe in Kenya to be a mission school teacher and later replaced Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father, as the second president of independent Kenya.
Under the charismatic Kenyatta, Moi was a political nonentity as vice president.
His credentials as well as his bloodstock stood against him in Kenya's tribal politics.
His tribe, the Kalenjin, was much too small, his authority much too fragile.
But his time came when Kenyatta died in August 1978.
He took the motto Nyayo, Swahili for footsteps, indicating his wish to follow in Kenyatta's path.
Over the years, Moi consolidated his hold on power and surrounded himself with a sycophant male court.
Choristers sang his praises, and children hailed him as Kenya's guiding father.
"Moi has overseen the real entrenchment of a system of patronage in Kenya," says John Githongo, a political analyst who is also Kenya executive director of Transparency International (TI)
"He has overseen the systematic destruction of our institutions.
"He sees things the old way - and he has had no faith in western democracy.
"Regardless of what happens after Moi, the next government will be weaker than his because of the country's economic ruin.
During his 24-year presidency, President Moi survived a coup attempt, tribal unrest and economic upheaval.
He outlawed all other political parties except Kanu in June 1982. Two months later, he reorganised the armed forces after a coup attempt.
In 1986 and 1987 the Special Branch of the Kenya police was busy rounding up all suspected enemies of Moi.
Most of them say they were tortured, jailed or detained without trial.
By the early 1990s Kenya had lost its reputation as one of Africa's most stable and prosperous countries.
Pressure from foreign donors forced Mr Moi to hold multi-party elections in 1992.
The IMF and the World Bank cut off financial aid to the country to force him to carry out more economic reforms.
The two institutions maintain that his regime did little to improve its record of corruption, ethnic favouritism, and human rights abuses.
Before and after the 1997 elections, strongholds of the opposition plunged into ethnic fighting, leaving hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters displaced.
The unsolved murder of his foreign minister, Dr Robert Ouko, in 1990, is destined to haunt his presidency to the end.
On the economic front, the multi-million dollar Goldenberg bank scandal - implicating him and those close to him - is still pending in court.
"Goldenberg and all the related scams gravely undermined Kenya's economy," says Robert Shaw.
"One of the major fallouts of Goldenberg was its devastating effect on the domestic debt.
"Kenyans are still servicing the debt."
As he enters the evening of his political life, the question of Moi's successor is yet to be resolved.
For years, any discussion on political succession in Kenya was strictly regarded as taboo and painfully avoided by Moi's supporters and opponents.
Mr Moi now says he wants Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of founding president Jomo Kenyatta, to succeed him.
But at least three other candidates from his ruling party Kanu have declared their interest to run for president against his preferred successor.
In an attempt to put behind a decade of disunity, six opposition parties recently launched an umbrella party.
They have not settled yet on a single candidate, but they have pledged to rally behind one figure.
But President Moi will be determined to ensure that his successor blocks any potential court actions against him - so his energetic campaigning looks set to be a major feature of this election.
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