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We would have jailed Moi if Kibaki had not intervened, Kiraitu says

Were it not for former President Mwai Kibaki who died last week, his predecessor, President Daniel arap Moi, would have been jailed.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has revealed that when Mr Kibaki took over in 2002, there was a lot of pressure from the civil society to have President Moi pay for the atrocities committed during his 24-year rule.

It was during Moi’s reign that Kenya sunk to its lowest economically and politically as he cracked down on dissidents after the August 1, 1982 abortive coup. Special chambers were established at Nyayo House in Nairobi where suspected dissidents were held and tortured by the dreaded Special Branch officers.

Mr Murungi was a victim of the crackdown, forcing him to flee into exile to the United States in July 1990.

One incident stood out for Mr Murungi as a true reflection of how dictatorial the late President was: the clobbering of Rev Timothy Njoya by police outside Parliament buildings during Saba Saba protests in July 1997.

“That incident was the epitome of the cruelty meted out on citizens by the Moi regime and people across the world condemned it. When we came to power, there was push by members of the civil society, most of whom were my friends, that Moi should pay for it,” the governor said in an interview on Monday.

Mr Murungi said he was ready to receive charges against Moi, and as the Constitutional Affairs minister, take them through relevant government agencies and have the former President rot in jail.

“The civil society believed that Moi should be arrested without delay. Lawyer Paul Muite had also drafted some charges that I, however, did not get a chance to see. We were burning with rage and ready to run with it …” he said.

However, Mr Kibaki stopped them in their tracks, saying he did not wish to revenge and that he wished to unite the nation.

“For Kibaki, stabilising the country was more important than revenge. It was because of our respect for the former President that we cooled down and Moi and his men were spared,” Mr Murungi said.

On the disputed 2007 presidential election that resulted in the post-election violence that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people and displaced more than 500,000, the governor maintained that Mr Kibaki won, but added that there was “too much confusion” in the counting and tallying of votes.

He blamed then Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman Samuel Kivuitu for being “reckless” with his statements, which “added fuel to the fire”.

“There must have been sabotage within the system. The election was too close and we projected Kibaki was going to win by a small margin,” he said.

“A helicopter was dispatched to collect some ballot boxes from Kisii but even before they were delivered, there was mayhem at the tallying centre. The exercise was halted as Kivuitu was secured by the GSU,” Mr Murungi recalled.

According to the governor, Mr Kibaki’s hands-off style was to blame for the political upheavals that bedevilled his rule. He said the former President was not interested in politics but focused on the economy.

“Kibaki was not a hands on president and did not want to micro manage those he appointed in his administration. I don’t recall him calling at any time to give me unofficial directives,” he said.

However, he said, when Kibaki formed the Democratic Party, they were not convinced he would be a reformist, having held senior positions in the Jomo Kenyatta and Moi governments. They branded DP an extension of Kanu. It was after the death of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga – the Ford-Kenya leader – that he joined Kibaki.

“After the 1997 elections that Moi won, we started working on how to get a single candidate to face Moi because we realised that so long as there were many opposition candidates, he would always win. That was how the Rainbow Coalition was born,” he said.

The governor defended Mr Kibaki over accusations that he had favoured the Meru region by appointing key officials in his government, saying the people in the region deserved the appointments because “we had travelled the journey in the opposition with him”.