The Late President Moi’s legacy is a complicated one, split between the good, the bad and the ugly. On one hand you have a man who attended church religiously, openly loved children, gave them free school milk, built schools and universities and did much more recognizable good. On the other hand, you have a man whose government had a torture chamber, who exiled people, enriched his associates through corruption and land grabbing and more that I might not know about.
There are different levels of Interactions with Moi. There are those who suffered or benefited directly because of his actions. There are those who suffered or benefited courtesy of their family members’ good or bad experience with Moi. And then there is the rest of us, who were affected positively or negatively by his policies and whose perception of Moi was mainly carved by the media and other people’s experiences of him.
Clearly his presidency and personality had many faces.
And what are we supposed to say when such a man dies? How are we supposed to eulogise such a man?
Should we close our eyes to all the good things he has done and focus on the bad? Should we, like typical Africans only talk about his good side because it is wrong to talk ill of the dead? Should we castigate him, belittle his achievements and tell him to go to hell?
Should we pursue a balanced legacy? If anything like that exists?
One moment that stands out in Moi’s life, which became known to many people in the recent past, is his public apology delivered in his last Jamhuri day speech as a president. In his own words, he forgave all those who had wronged him and asked for forgiveness to anyone he had wronged.
That is a moment in Moi’s life that cannot be ignored, whether you like him or not. It bears colossal significance to the man’s legacy. But it comes with many questions.
Did that come from a man who realized the wrong he had done? Was it from the heart or was he trying to get on our good side? Did he mean it?
And if he did, should he have been more specific to the people or events he was sorry for?
Sometimes I wonder how long Moi contemplated offering that apology. How much struggle he could have gone through choosing how he would do it and which words he would use. Could he have shared it with anyone, like a clergyman? It would be amazing to know the story behind that moment.
Was it planned or impromptu? Was it a moment of divine interference as he stood on that stage giving his final Jamhuri day speech?
Because of such questions, most of us don’t know what to do with Moi’s legacy.
But if you carefully think about it, you realize that it was a unique moment. It is rare for a national leader of such stature, from that class of African leaders, to apologize publicly. Maybe he had more to say but doing so could be him be confessing to things which could be used against him later.
Can you expect our leaders today to apologize for their wrongs? It tells a lot of Moi’s state of the heart as he was about to transition to private life.
If his faith is anything to go by, and if he truly repented, not just on that stage but also in his heart, then we all know that God’s forgiveness was available for him.
That would not sit well with many people, especially those who suffered directly under him.
But it is the reality.
If we want the opposite to be true, that Moi is paying severely for his sins somewhere out there, we should also be ready to accept that he could have made up with his maker and is enjoying time with him.
Either could be true, because those are the complications of public apologies, nobody really knows except Moi himself and God.
One thing is for sure, Moi’s choices and actions, as dark as they may have seemed, were redeemable. I just hope he realized that and sought his redeemer.
The same applies to our actions, choices and attitudes.
A great lesson for us in times like these is not to interfere with people who are mourning, especially when we don’t like the person who passed away. Always allow people to go through grief the way they know how to. Calling them names and castigating them is not only insensitive but also classless.
Your choice not to eulogise Moi doesn’t take away the right of others to do so.
Everyone had their own encounters with Moi, and they are bound to interpret them differently.
Perhaps our biggest reflection of Moi’s demise should be on our current choices and actions.
Are they worth changing or will they lead us to painstaking spoken or unspoken apology when there is nothing much we can do about the consequences?
And what about those who were hurt by Moi? Should they be forced to forgive the man who hurt them and their families? Should they move on now that Moi is gone?
I think that forgiveness is a choice all of us have and it is a personal journey that is only valid if undergone organically. You cannot manufacture forgiveness. You can coerce people into it. Otherwise it will not be forgiveness but something else.
But I also believe that forgiveness is a choice that can be exercised even when healing has not been achieved. You can forgive someone and still suffer the consequences of what the did to you because mostly, healing takes longer.
Sometimes it is important to separate the two to better deal with the situation.
Some of Moi’s victims may still be hurting today but some of them may have chosen long ago to forgive him. Forgiveness unloads the heart of many burdens; it makes healing easier and emotional wellbeing attainable even during suffering.
Another unpleasant truth is that failure by the victim to forgive does not deny the perpetrator access to forgiveness. You do not hold your enemy refuge by not forgiving them. If the enemy genuinely repents, they will be forgiven. I hope those who haven’t forgiven Moi will consider it, because it is good for them, but also because it doesn’t change Moi’s fate.
That is the ‘unfairness’ of God’s mercy. It is available in equal measure to everyone every day.
It was available to Moi as it is available to you and me today.