Former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi, who kept his country on a relatively stable footing during his tenure but was less successful at reining in poverty and corruption, has died, the office of the president said on Tuesday. He was 95.
There was no immediate information on the cause of Moi’s death but he had been in and out of hospital with breathing problems in recent months.
“Our nation and our continent were immensely blessed by the dedication and service of the Late Mzee Moi; who spent almost his entire adult life serving Kenya and Africa,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement.
Moi came to power in 1978, upon the death of President Jomo Kenyatta, having been vice-president until then.
Diplomats said an attempted coup four years later transformed him into a tough autocrat from a cautious, insecure leader.
He succeeded in keeping Kenya relatively stable compared with many of its troubled neighbors at the time, working for regional peace.
But he floundered badly on the economy, which regressed under his watch, and he failed to tackle deepening poverty and rampant corruption.
After the 1982 coup attempt, the only one in Kenya, Moi rewrote the constitution to legalize de-facto one-party rule by his KANU, which remained in place until 1991, when he caved in to international pressure to reintroduce multi-party politics.
But his critics, including rights groups, say he will be remembered for allowing interrogation chambers to be set up in the basement of Nyayo House, a government building in central Nairobi that now houses the immigration department.
Thousands of activists, students and academics were held without charge in the underground cells, some of them partly filled with water.
Prisoners were subjected to harsh treatment amounting to torture, rights group say, and were sometimes denied food and water.
Kenyatta said he had ordered flags to be flown at half-mast until the day of Moi’s state funeral.
“Daniel Toroitich arap Moi ran a good race, kept the faith, and now he is enjoying his reward in heaven,” Kenyatta said.