An Open Letter To H.E. Retd. President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, C.G.H.
I am absolutely sure you do not remember this, but you and I have had occasion to meet twice in our life-time, albeit mine being a fraction of yours.
The first time was in June 1982 when I was in High School.
I was walking along State House Road, having alighted from a bus at Uhuru Highway and headed to my brother’s residence nearby where I was spending the holidays that year.
As your limo cruised by me, and I squeezed myself tight to the edge of the road to avoid being run-over by your motorcade, your limo slowed down, you rolled down the window and waved at me and I confusedly waved back in disbelief that you took the time to roll down the window, smile and wave at me.
It didn’t matter how many times you had done this, namely, slowing down your limo to wave at a lone roadside walker on that road or elsewhere but, for a high school chap that only saw you on TV or read about you in the papers, having such a close encounter was thrilling enough.
My brother I was visiting and staying with that summer worked in your administration as a senior Foreign Service official and is now retired.
The next time Your Excellency and I had occasion to meet was in September 2000, in New York City, where you had come to attend the UN Millennium Summit.
Before your coming to New York, one of your handlers or one of their friends (not sure which) contacted me and asked if I could come to New York to attend a meeting of Kenyans to be addressed by you.
I initially declined the invitation for a number of reasons, including scheduling conflicts but agreed to attend the meeting after the individual insisted that I do.
On arrival in New York, I was told that the organizers of the meeting had preselected a handful of individuals, including myself to ask Your Excellency questions during the Q&A session at the meeting for Kenyans.
I told the organizers I could only agree to be used as such only if I decided what questions to ask and not to be spoon-fed what to ask but they insisted on pre-approving the question so I relented and after going through some questions, it was agreed that I ask a question about the large amount of money Kenyans in the Diaspora were remitting home and what Your Excellency intended to do to minimize corruption so that some of these money can be invested in ways that were otherwise impossible due to corruption.
Prior to the meeting getting started, those who were to speak or ask questions at the meeting were ushered to meet you in your hotel suite.
The room was so crowded with people, I could barely reach over for a handshake and when I attempted to say something, I quickly gave up because of the many ears tuned in and up-close to hear even a whisper.
It was clear your handlers did not want us to say anything they did not approve, which is always baffling: Shouldn’t our leader be required to hear the good and the bad about anything affecting our country? What are these handlers always afraid of; that our leader would be told the truth? Isn’t truth better than living in denial?
I know what I had started saying to Your Excellency was asking you whether you had seen a news piece about you in that morning’s New York Times newspaper but I couldn’t even finish asking you that question, due to the over-eager ears leaning over and near shoving atmosphere in the crowded suit so I just abandoned the idea of trying to engage you in any meaningful chat, which was never to be, given that environment.
Anyway, at the end of that brief encounter, we headed to the meeting venue, where I asked the pre-approved question and as soon as I finished posing the question, we all saw you saying something almost frantically to some minister sitting next to you (can’t remember the name) but whatever you told him, which you indicated you had asked him to look into it, in your response, nothing ever come of my question.
Other than these encounters, and perhaps in spite of the first one, I was a very strong supporter of Your Excellency in the early years of your administration and have letters of commendation to that effect from our then Ambassador to the US.
It is with this background in mind that I write to you now more than 10 years since that last meeting in New York.
I am not writing to offer a comment about you or your presidency in particular, other than to say what I have said above and will say below in order to provide context for a request I am about to ask of Your Excellency.
I am writing to you in particular, to urge Your Excellency to support the presidential aspirations of the Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga, who obviously needs no introduction to you.
I have noted this letter is not really about Your Excellency’s presidency, per se, but, to put my request in perspective, however, I must note three historical facts of relevance:
First, Raila, as he is popularly known, or just Awambo, spent a good part of his life in detention at your behest, where he was not spared the humiliation, pain and torture reserved for detainees like him.
Second, his life having surprisingly been spared, and after his release and unsuccessful presidential run in 1997, Raila surprised many and annoyed some, by deciding to join your administration as a cabinet minister.
Third, when you attempted to install the then young and inexperienced Uhuru Kenyatta as your successor, Raila became instrumental in making sure you did not succeed, which you did not and instead a candidate Raila backed and campaigned for, Mwai Kibaki, was elected as president largely due to Raila’s endorsement of him with his declaration “Kibaki Tosha,” followed by euphoria across the country with the election of a new president to succeed you.
One can therefore say, yours and Raila’s has been a peculiar personal and political relationship, to say the least, and certainly, one can assume setting aside the 1990s, you cannot be happy with Raila and his successful efforts to defeat your Uhuru Project, let alone in his successful efforts along with President Kibaki to repel your opposition to the passage of the new Constitution.
However, everything considered, you still owe Raila and the nation, one, Your Excellency.
Some would say you owe Raila a public apology for having him detained all those years and for whatever else happened to him then.
Given your age, your stature and our history, however, I highly doubt this is even an appropriate expectation Your Excellency.
Your Excellency, can, however, do something history will favorably record and that is, even in spite of all what has happened in the past between you and Raila, Your Excellency, you can bring everything full circle by supporting Raila for president.
I and others believe and have stated elsewhere, including in communication to President Kibaki himself that the Kikuyus and Kalenjins must lead the nation in ending tribalism and negative ethnicity in Kenya by not voting as a bloc, in the case of the Kalenjin and by voting for someone other than “their own” and not voting as bloc, too, in the case of Kikuyus.
Your Exellency, the ugly animal of tribalism will be slain with no resurrection possible, were this to happen in 2012.
Unfortunately, Your Exellency, your former protégé, the Hon. William Ruto, is going around the Rift Valley, spreading lies about how bad Raila is for the region and that Kalenjins should not vote for him.
This is not only a malicious campaign, if successful, it would only serve to entrench tribalism, which we all must reject.
It would certainly do nothing to advance the interests of the Kelenjin people, Your Excellency, and more so the reason you should thwart these efforts.
You can thwart Ruto’s efforts by preaching the message of peace and unity for the country via the election of Raila.
There are four ways Your Exellency can offer your support for Raila:
First, as suggested above, you can simply do what you can to thwart Rutos tribalistic antics in the Rift Valley.
Second, you can actively campaign for the election of Raila.
Third, you can simply do your own version of “Raila Tosha” either by express and direct endorsement of Raila or some form of endorsement.
Fourth, if you can’t bring yourself to do any of the above, Your Excellency, then you should at least quietly offer your support for Raila or at least not publicly or privately seek to “block” Raila as the likes of Ruto have sworn to do as their sole mission in line in this electoral political circle.
Mzee, you do any of these, you can be assured Kenyans will ultimately be thankful and the gesture of good will for this purpose alone will go a long way in painting your legacy more favorably than otherwise would be the case and the simple act alone will certainly cast in a more positive light, the history as it relates to you, Raila and other political detainees.
Of course, I can only urge you do so.
The ultimate decision is yours.
But I am confident the president I saw slow down, roll down the window and wave with a smile at this young chap walking along State House Road more than 29 years ago, surely would have the compassion and enough temerity to honor the request.
It is my prayer that you do so and that whatever decision you reach, if you do, it is the right decision for the good of the country for I am sure you’ll agree our country should and must come first.
Samuel N. Omwenga, Esq.