There were lots of light moments to savour at the Kabarak home of departed second president of Kenya Daniel arap Moi where President Uhuru Kenyatta led mourners in celebrating the deceased’s life.
The political class, business magnates, musicians and members of the public flocked the former Head of State’s home to pay tribute to the political titan who strode the country like a colossus.
Moi, who died at dawn on February 5 after a long battle with illness, was later buried at a private ceremony attended by only close family members, friends and selected senior government officers.
The former Assistant Minister and Lang’ata Member of Parliament, Phillip Leakey jolted mourners on Wednesday into laughter when he recalled how his elder brother Richard Leakey put him ‘in an awkward’ position with Moi when the latter formed an opposition party Safina.
“I have been an assistant Minister and Member of Parliament on KANU ticket. I am still a devout member of the party. It was the height of mischief for my elder brother who is better known as a paleontologist to team up with likeminded politicians in a bid to oust my party leader from the presidency,” he joked.
He told mourners that even when he lost his parliamentary seat in the 1992 first multi-party elections to Ford Kenya’s Raila Odinga, he remained ‘a very close’ friend and ‘life member’ of the former ruling party.
The man who ended Leakey’s political career was later to become official leader of Opposition, before merging his National Development Party (NDP) with KANU.
He later bolted out of the independence Party and teamed up with Mwai Kibaki’s National Rainbow Alliance Coalition (NARC) which walloped KANU out of power.
After the disputed 2007 general elections that were characterized by bloody skirmishes, he was named Prime Minister and is currently spearheading the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) after his famous handshake with President Kenyatta.
“In 1995, when Safina was formed, I was shocked to learn that my brother was a key cog in the think tank behind the party. Moi summoned me and told me that he was not angry with me because of my brother,” said the former Assistant Minister.
The MP who served an uninterrupted tenure from 1979 until he was ousted tickled mourners’ funny bone when he said that Moi promised to ‘deploy his skills as a professor of politics to ‘deflate’ elder Leakey’s political moves.
“Moi told me that he does not hate people but hates what people do. He assured me that he had no ill feelings against my brother and his friends in Safina” he said.
The former Assistant Minister further recounted retired President Moi’s magnanimous attitude when he appointed the elder Leakey as head of public service and secretary to the cabinet in 1999. Leakey’s second stint in the civil service lasted two years.
The elder Leakey was also served as Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service Board during President Moi’s tenure.
The Nakuru County Governor, Lee Kinyanjui said Moi’s activities within the devolved unit altered its social economic status.
He said many Kenyans remember how the whole country would flock to grace New Year eves which Moi hosted at State House Nakuru and how the country’s fourth largest town repositioned itself as the hotbed of Kenya’s politics.
“When he finally took over as Head of State, it wasn’t just during New Year bash, that President Moi’s presence jolted Nakuru but all weekends throughout the year.
As a result, every bed space in the town would be bought and reserved a week or two in advance, and anybody asking for a room on the eve of the day would find it a herculean task to find accommodation,” said Kinyanjui.
By Anne Mwale