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Friday, November 08, 2013

The first lady Kenya never knew

She has to be one of the most fascinating characters in Kenyan politics and yet Kenyans know virtually nothing about her. Lena Moi is the only woman to have ever called former President Daniel arap Moi "my husband." The two got married in 1950 (7 years before Moi entered active politics). She is pictured here with her husband in an extremely rare photograph taken in the early 70s by the Vice Presidential press unit at Tree Tops in Nyeri. The couple were on some kind of bonding retreat away from all the rough and tumble of Kenyan politics.

During the Kenyatta administration Lena was sometimes seen at big public occasions at her husbands' side. That was until an incident at the 1974 New year's state ball at State House Nakuru. At that function all hell broke loose and Lena was right in the middle of it. Details cannot be given here because of the sensitivity of what went down but can be found in my book Dark Secrets of the Kenyan Presidency and also in back issues of my raw notes. However in brief Lena confronted a certain woman who was dancing with her husband and even efforts by President Jomo Kenyatta to diffuse the situation by asking Lena to dance with him (it is not every day that the President of the Republic of Kenya asks for a dance) did not work.

It was shortly after this that Lena "disappeared" and was to spend the rest of her life well away from public limelight. The official word that came out years later was that the two were divorced in 1974, the very year the said Nakuru incident happened. The former president however supported her upkeep until her death.

Born Helena Bommett in 1930, the first lady who never was is said to have been a typical Kalenjin woman. Simple, down to earth and very religious. She also had such a serious temper which in modern times would have made her the ideal candidate for anger management counseling. Analysts believe that it was this part of her character more than anything else that put a huge strain on her marriage. After all political wives will tell you that it is not easy and one needs to be very cool and wise to keep the family together more so in Kenyan politics.

Anger aside Lena was a very generous kind-hearted woman whose concern for others often went to extremes. At the time of her death she is said to have had a mind boggling list of benefactors who totally relied and depended on her.

Lena passed on 22nd July 2004 at the Mercy Hospital Eldama Ravine after an undisclosed illness. By then her husband had left the presidency. It is ironic that in death Lena helped her husband's political cause considerably more than she ever did when she was alive. At the time of her death relationships between Moi and Kibaki were strained with the former president even telling the press that he was being followed around by NSIS agents and pleading to be left alone to enjoy his retirement. Kibaki and Moi's meeting at the funeral broke the ice and marked the beginning of a new tight relationship between the two men that culminated in Moi's strong support for Kibaki's re-election in 2007.

At the funeral Moi recalled the last moments with Lena, saying they had had a very good family conversation with the deceased and two of their daughters earlier on the fateful day before she passed on.

The Kumekucha post everybody is talking about: Wetangula propaganda wars

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Anonymous said...

Great post. Vintage Kumekucha.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Lena Moi was faced with four choices, namely, to storm out of the function, look the other way, head out for the nearest women's powder room, or confront the intruder who had zero respect, regard, and honour for her marriage or way of life.

So, she decided to confront the other women and let her how she felt about her dirty habit of stealing or using other women's husbands because the vice-president may not have been the busy body in her life, that is if she was property of the state house as was the case with several women employed in various official capacities at the time.

It is one thing to be known as "the other woman" but it is quite another to always show up at exclusive political functions only to insult the official wife of a high ranking politician as was the case involving the vice president and his wife?

What became of the other woman that wrecked the marriage of the former vice president but failed destroy whatever remained of the household of the late Mrs. Lena Moi?

Rumour had it at one point that the other women was a captain in the women's military corp and later promoted to the rank of major before she was slowly eased out by her handlers in high places during the mid-seventies.

Did the couple seen enjoying the best days of their life at Tree Tops really end up getting divorced in a British style or was it an amicable cultural separation with a lifelong commitment and personal intentions of raising up their children for as long as life allowed them at the time?

Mrs. Lena Moi may have created a scene that ended her close association with her husband at the time, but she seems to have moved on in life with her honour, dignity and self-respect intact, and better known as "the no nonsense women from the Rift Valley."

May she RIP.

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective here

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