Serving The People

Prof. Ongeri’s tribute to Former President Moi on his demise

5 min read

I will say a few things about the great man we have lost as a country. A patriot and dedicated servant of his people.

My first encounter with President Moi was in 1963 when Kenya got it’s Independence from the Britons. At this time I was a student in India,by extension I was the President of Kenya Students Union in India and the Secretary General of Delhi African Students Association.

I was facilitated to host a reception for independent celebrations in Bombay to usher in the new Kenya. Later on I’ll travel to Kenya for a ceremony at the New Stanley Hotel,here no Africans were allowed to mingle with the colonial illites,however I was allowed in as a visitor of the state from India.

As a student leader I demanded to see President Kenyatta in Lowdar something that made the Britons profile myself and others as being ‘Communists’ and ‘bad boys’ from India thus making us to be under surveillance all the time.

When I came back from India I started working at the casuality section at Kenyatta National Hospital. In 1966,one evening President Moi brought his driver who had an accident and by knowing me,he instructed me to attend to the driver and be updating him directly on his progress.

Our good relationship continued to grow until I was seconded to Prisons department when he was minister for home affairs and he did encourage me to pursue my post graduate which he supported me in.

In May 1976 as the then Vice President,he came to my home to for house warming lunch and he did the same in 31 March 1989 when I held another friends luncheon but this time as President.

Before my joining of politics, President Moi appointed me as Director Refinery. In 1988 he made me the first Minister for Technical training and Applied technology then duped ‘Jua Kali’ and that’s how jua kali came to be where it’s today as the idea was conceptulized by President Moi and I actualized and operationalized the same.

As President in 1992 he appointed me as an Ambassador to UNEP for environment and that’s when I did many extensive trips on issues environment and I remember one of them was to United Kingdom organized by the then Prime Minister of UK Margaret Thatcher on Ozone layer and it’s effects on the world planet.

Subsequently,I became Minister for Local government and health.
Until 2002 when now President Uhuru Kenyatta went to elections,I stayed with President Moi to support Uhuru Kenyatta,we were left myself,Biwott and the late Ingeny in the quest to support President Moi’s agenda to make Uhuru Kenyatta President.

President Moi and Kisii Senator Prof Sam Ongeri who was his Minister then

President Moi engaged the small and mighty. He had a big deal of understanding the indebt of Mwananchi and he travelled to all corners to meet people of Kenya and listen to their needs. One time he even had to sleep in the residence of a DC just to meet the people around that area.

President Moi loved the environment and that led to his famously quote of ‘Ukikata mti mmoja,panda miwili’ he planted a lot of trees,his passion was to attain the recommended 10% forest cover as a country. He built gabbions in Ukambani and many other areas to prevent soil erosion.

Mzee had great passion for education, that’s why in his administration of good education he ordered for Mackay Commission to look on the need to have a second University in Kenya away from University of Nairobi giving to birth to Moi University and eventually the many we have.

His Hallmark was peace making. He was greatly involved in the gaining of Independence of Zimbabwe then was known as Southern Rhodesia. He was involved in Uganda when Museveni came to power,Rwanda and Burundi hence he was a great peace maker.

However with all this experiences with President Moi,one stood out.After he became President in 1978 his late Son Jonathan Moi had a bad accident that almost consumed his life in Nakuru. President Moi requested me to accompany Jonathan to the City of Wholm for extensive medication.

I was there from December on a bitter winter until March and all this time I was holding brief for him and updating him on a daily basis how Jonathan was doing till he recovered, became stable and we came back to the country.

Mzee recognized the right and freedom of worship for every believer. I recall that when the Seventh Day Adventist Church asked him for change of working hours from Monday to Friday unlike Monday to Saturday as it was,Mzee agreed and it came to effect till date.

He worked hard to ensure that all communities settle anywhere in the country.He was a lover of music and worked to promote and nurture talent through school festival music,this had a deeper connection with his outstanding passion for education coupled with the ‘Maziwa Ya Nyayo’ which it’s idea was to keep children in School.

During the clamour for Multi-Party democracy,Mzee pursuaded a KANU National delegates congregation at Kasarani to allow clause 2A of the Constitution to be repealed to allow for Multi-Party democracy which we are embracing to date.

President Moi was a man admired and loved by many by his ways and timely decisions.I have lost a friend and a great pillar. A person who saw me grow through and supported not only me but also many others in our community. It was an honor to work in his government and to get an opportunity to serve our people.

May Mzee Rest Well with the Angels.