Critics: President Moi used praise songs to cover regime ‘sins’

Thursday, February 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Thomas Wesonga.

The late former President Moi’s 24-year rule was not a smooth ride, he had a fair share of challenges.  

He was chastised by his political competitors, Western countries, the Church and civil society on key issues among them single-party rule system, human rights violations and disregard for the rule of law.

Apart from hauling the likes of Raila Odinga, Katama Mkangi, Gitobu Imanyara, Kenneth Matiba and Willy Mutunga  (former Chief Justice) into detention, Moi used many other tactics to silence his critics and rally Kenyans behind him.

Being a master politician, he kept the country together until when he handed over the mantle to his successor Mwai Kibaki after the 2002 elections. 

Master of tricks

A political pundit says Moi had mastered tricks of rallying support for himself, his policies and to deal with his political enemies.  

A sift through the numerous tricks which Moi employed in his retention of loyalty of the citizenry over the years of his reign would not fail to get music as one of his powerful tool of communication. 

Dozens of infectious rhythms were composed by different musicians to praise Moi, his leadership and paint him as a nationalist.

Former Kisauni MP Anania Mwaboza, says through use of symbolical songs—most of them composed by Thomas Wesonga —Moi managed to bring Kenyans together and was able implement his development agenda and policies.

“Moi was a master politician, he used song to reach to the people. He knew the power of songs and through this he galvanised support for himself and castigated his competitors. He had the control of the KBC radio and he used it to his benefit.”

Public gatherings

He travelled across the country, addressing many public gatherings conceptualised within the “love, peace and unity” philosophy.  Many of the outstanding Moi-era musicians who composed his songs were invited to perform during these gatherings.

In return the musicians were awarded plum state jobs among other benefits.

These songs were played everyday by then government mouthpiece—Voice of Kenya (VoK) currently KBC—and in every presidential function, schools and public barazas. The songs earned Moi huge following as they became household lyrics that were sang even by children.

Critics say the songs were part of propaganda employed by Moi to demonise and gain political mileage over his competitors.  

Prof Hassan Mwakimako of Pwani University says the praise songs ignored the regime’s corruption, tribalism and rundown economy and sought to endorse Moi’s tyranny. 

He said so as to get a grip of the country, Moi had to make himself and his policies popular across the country.

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