The life and times of Daniel Arap Moi: Poor orphan who grew up to be President
Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, the man who would go on to rule Kenya had a simple start at life.
Born on the night of September 2, 1924 in Sacho, just 26 kilometers from Kabarnet town, Moi was the 5th born child to Mzee Kimoi Arap Chebii and Kabon Chebii.
His name Toroitich, which means welcome home the cattle, a name given to him owing to the many cattle his father owned. Toroi means “hug or embrace” while tich means “many cows.”
“Alikuwa akichunga mbuzi lakini saa zile alikuwa anapoteza ngombe akaambiwa aende masomo…,” said Mzee Joseph Moi – Nephew to Mzee Moi.
His inability to tend to cattle is probably what changed his course in life as it marked the beginning of his educational journey, one that he began after his father died in 1928.
The young Moi, orphaned after the death of his parents, was raised by his elder brother William Tuitoek.
Moi started his schooling at Tandui primary school which was then a mission school. He would later move to the Africa Inland Mission School Kabartonjo, in 1934 which was located in the now present AIC church, Kabartonjo before joining Kapsabet Government African School, the present day, Kapsabet Boys in 1942.
Joseph, who bears a striking resemblance with Moi, was just but a child when Moi began his schooling.
At 86 years of age, the nephew might not remember intricate details of the interaction he might have had with his uncle, but he is certain about Moi’s love for education…
“Alikuja kulala kwa ndugu yake Tuitoek, alikuwa analala chini, hatukuwa well off, sisi ilikuwa maskini, so anapewa ugali na asali, anaanza safari ya kuelekea shule Kapsabet…,” said Mzee Joseph Moi.
“Kilomita kama mia mbili alikuwa akitembea, akichoka analala kwa watu asubuhi anaamkia, na kulikuwa na shida. Wakati ingine alikuwa wanakaranga mahindi anaweka kwa mfuko, akifika mahali iko maji anatoa anakula…,” said Weldon Labat – Former Senior Chief- Sacho (1978-2002).
“Yeye mwenyewe aliniambia kuwa siku moja akiwa njiani akienda shule jamaa mmoja alimpa shilingi mbili, shilingi mbili ilikuwa pesa nyingi….sasa yeye alinunua bible na hiyo shilingi mbili akasema instead ya kukula acha asome bibilia…,” he continued.
It is with such determination that saw Moi finish his secondary education and later join a teacher’s training school in Kapsabet in 1945 where he also doubled as a student teacher.
Moi would later finish his teacher training, and head on to teach at Tambach Government African School, present day Tambach Boys High School, before becoming a head teacher At Kabarnet African Government School, present day Kabarnet Boys High School.
Later on, he became an assistant principal at Tambach Teachers Training College, which was situated on the land that Tambach Boys High School occupies today.
Tambach Teachers Training College was his last work station, before he was hand-picked as a member of the Legislative Council.
In October 1955 he made his first step to politics when he was among the eight people to be selected to fill the position of Joseph Oletemano who had resigned from the position of Rift Valley constituency, a position he won.
A year later, Moi submitted his first Bill to the members of the council of Legco and fought for the rights of the teachers especially for them to have their union.
This, he argued, was because the teachers were being subjected to harsh working conditions. This resulted to the formation of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) in 1957.
In 1960, Moi joined other leaders to participate in constitutional talks that were held in London.
Upon their return they formed Kenya Africa National Union KANU.
Moi and other minority tribal groups however broke away from KANU because it represented the interests of the dominant tribes, the Luo and the Kikuyu, and formed a multi-tribal coalition, the Kenyan African Democratic Union (KADU) as an alternative to KANU and he chaired the Union.
He would later rejoin KANU that steered him to the presidency for 24 years until he retired in 2002 largely thanks to the Rainbow Alliance wave.