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Kenya: Counting the massacres under former President Daniel arap Moi

Former President Daniel arap Moi’s death has divided opinion among Kenyans. Celebrated by many, but despited by others, Moi leaves behinds a contested and problematic legacy. Moi’s record of massacres, torture, and corruption remains a story that critics say should define how he will be remembered. What memory did the Moi years bring?



The death of former President of Kenya, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi elicited a mixed reaction in the country. For the younger generation, Moi was nothing than a dictator. For the older generation, he is being remembered as a strong man who kept the country in peace during his 24-year rule.

Unfortunately, when many African leaders die, their worst deeds seem to be buried with them and outright condemnation of their corruption and the killings of their compatriots is somehow not highlighted. Consider Moi who cracked down on Prof. Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement when they protested the construction of Times Tower, a 60-floor skyscraper in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park in 1989.

A statement by Amnesty International Kenya, on the death of Moi read, “Kenya under the 24-year-old presidency of Daniel arap Moi experienced some of the worst human rights abuses in its history.” Though the statement did not highlight the atrocities Moi committed, many Kenyans took to Twitter to highlight several massacres committed under Moi’s regime.

Moi came into power in 1978 after the death of former President Jomo Kenyatta. In 1980, the Kenyan government would be involved in what has come to be known as the Garissa Gubai massacre in 1980. At least 3,000 Somali’s in Garissa District in the north-eastern province died.


In what is now known as Mandera County, security forces killed and raped women. This was known as the 1982 Malka Mari massacre. Disabled people were killed and 336 people were killed.

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In Wajir County, formerly in north-eastern province, the Wagalla massacre remains a traumatic experience the region experienced. On the 10th of February 1984, more than 5000 ethnic Somali’s were butchered by Kenyan security forces under the Moi regime. The men had been rounded up and driven to the Wagalla Military airstrip where they were forced to strip and lay naked on the hot tarmac. They were tortured and any that attempted to run away were shot.


In 2008, Kenya set up The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya to address post-election violence. Ron Slye, one of the commissioners stated that the Wagalla massacre represented the worst human rights violation in Kenya.

As more people sift through the deceit of Moi’s goodness as president in Kenya, many more remember that the Moi rule was one of terror and torture in which many Kenyans disappeared.

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