Last week, Brian Kibet Bera grabbed national headlines after he attempted to break into State House – the official residence of the President of Kenya.
Daring thieves who sneaked into President Moi’s bedroom and stole his most prized possession
The incident remains a mystery, 20 years later
Bera’s attempt was futile as he was shot in the arm and quickly arrested.
However, the fifth-year university student was not the only one who caught the attention of Kenyasn with a daring attempt to break into a presidential residence.
A Golden cockerel sculpture was stolen from Mzee Moi's home in 1999
In 1999, unknown thieves managed to break into President Daniel arap Moi’s Kabarak home after which they sneaked into his bedroom and stole his most prized possession – a golden cockerel sculpture – alongside other valuables.
Although the then President was not at the home, it was one of the most guarded homes as it was guarded by elite members of the General Service Unit (GSU) – alongside his other home in Kabarnet Gardens, State House, and the respective State Lodges.
Speculative reports had indicated that the sculpture, that was made of 20 kg of pure gold, was worth Sh2 billion – although it was most likely an exaggeration given that such an amount of gold cost about Sh22 million in 1999 (the current market cost would be about Sh100 million).
Twenty years later, the cockerel is yet to be traced and the thieves remain at large.
The theft had occurred at a time when President Moi was feared and revered in equal measure.
The story became suspect of conspiracy theories and has been told in various speculative theories – including one claiming that the thieves had dug a tunnel leading to the bedroom’s toilet!
While truth on the incident remains a mystery, those aware with the workings of the Moi world saw the incident as an inside job meant to humiliate then head of Presidential Escort, Samson Cheramboss.
The head presidential guard was to later reveal that a window in Moi’s bedroom had been broken – the thieves most likely used it as the entry and exit point – although he denied that the President’s possessions were stolen.
Moi is reported to have reacted with anger after receiving news of the theft, and replaced Cheramboss four days after the incident.
David Kimaiyo, who would later serve as Police Inspector General, was chosen to head the presidential escort unit.
The incident was used by Moi’s political rivals, with then shadow Attorney General Kiraitu Murungi (now Meru Governor) telling Parliament that such an embarrassment required the President and his government to resign.
Murungi wondered where ordinary citizens could get solace if the government could not even protect the head of state’s property.
The cockerel incident had followed another break in 1997 where Moi's bodyguards broke into his house and stole millions meant for use during the general election.
The guards were later arrested but Moi did not punish them after they agreed to return the money.
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