The day Uhuru risked jail by going against Moi’s government

If any other person had made the statement, he would have gone straight to jail

The day President Uhuru Kenyatta risked jail by going against Daniel arap Moi’s government

Former President Daniel arap Moi had a close personal and political relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta whom he had picked as his preferred successor in 2002.

However, the political relationship had not always been rosy as many have come to imagine.

Due to his family’s close relationship with many of the figures in Kenya’s political circles, Uhuru’s decision to work with Moi had not been as easy as it was for Moi who felt obliged to return the favor extended to him by founding President Jomo Kenyatta.

At one time, during the dark days of the Kanu dictatorship, Uhuru risked jail when he mobilized some of his friends from his privileged circle of friends to challenge the Moi government to observe human rights and allow multiparty politics.

29-year old Uhuru had called other sons of prominent Kenyans to make the statement - just three weeks after several leaders had been arrested for advocating for multiparty politics.

It was on the afternoon of July 31, 1990 – when the “St Mary’s gang” made their move at a press conference held at the KICC.

Jomo’s son had with him Alfred Getonga (son to former Nairobi Clerk Simeon Getonga), Argwings Ceaser Kodhek (son to former Gem MP Arwings Kodhek), Peter Mboya (son to former Cabinet Minister Tom Mboya), and Francis Michuki (son to John Michuki who had previously served as CEO of KCB).

Such a statement coming from any other quarter would have led to an arrest but the St Mary’s gang was spared from arrest - perhaps out of respect for their surnames or simply because Moi believed that they were merely excited young chaps who would best be dealt by a warning from his political lieutenants.

These sons of prominent Kenyans have chosen to abuse their privileged position in society to undermine Moi’s government,” Cabinet Minister Elijah Mwangale said in response to the press conference.

In the same month, Moi had already arrested Ken Matiba, Charles Rubia, and Raila Odinga who had been planning the Saba Saba rally as a platform to reinforce their call for multiparty democracy.

The saba saba rally turned into the Saba Saba riots where scores were killed by Moi’s security forces.

Matiba’s arrest had pricked the political animal in Uhuru given that he was closer to the former Cabinet Minister than to Moi.

It was Matiba who had inspired the current President to career in politics although Moi would later have more influence in grooming him for realpolitik.

He (Matiba) would call us for a game of squash and after that he would challenge us to get into public service,” President Kenyatta said while mourning Matiba in 2018.

In the 1992 elections, Uhuru was part of Matiba’s campaign team but the man from Murang’a ultimately lost under controversial circumstances.

Matiba’s stint in hospital had also affected his health which ruled him out of what would have been a promising career in politics.

After the 1992 elections, Uhuru quietly defected to Kanu where Moi is said to have been impressed by his interest in politics and was keen to groom him as his preferred successor.

After well-choreographed political manoeuvres, Moi ultimately chose Uhuru to succeed him in 2001 although the son of Jomo suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of President Mwai Kibaki.

Interestingly, when Uhuru ultimately became President in 2013, his so called political grandfather, Moi had backed Musalia Mudavadi - another of political proteges.


Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: