Kenya’s deputy president pledged to unite the country in honour of Daniel Arap Moi, its longest ruling president, who was buried at his sprawling estate in the Rift Valley on Wednesday.
Moi, who died last week aged 95, won praise for keeping Kenya mostly stable during his 24-year rule but was criticised for a legacy of corruption still haunting the East African nation.
His coffin was flown by military helicopter to the estate, north-west of Nairobi, before it was transferred by a gun carriage into a marquee for a religious service and speeches by politicians.
Deputy President William Ruto told mourners Moi worked to ensure the vast Rift Valley region was home to all Kenya’s 45 ethnic communities, periodically riven by divisions over land and politics.
“Rift Valley will continue to be the valley of peace and from the valley we will build so it is the fountain of politics uniting Kenya and all communities in our country,” said Ruto, who is from the region.
“Moi taught us hate is big burden to carry and told us tribalism is stupidity; let us not give stupidity a chance. That is why we are going to be steadfast and firm in ensuring our great country shall continue to be knit together.”
The Rift Valley, rich with fertile land to produce tea and other commodities, was the epicentre of election violence.
Tribal clashes broke out there during the 1992 and 1997 elections, as Moi’s Kalenjin tribe sought to kick out opposition supporters perceived as outsiders because they had settled after independence from Britain in 1963.
Violence flared again during the 2007 presidential election campaign and Ruto was accused of being behind it. He was charged at the International Criminal Court at The Hague before the court dropped the charges.
Moi came to power in 1978 when he was serving as vice-president, after the nation’s first leader President Jomo Kenyatta died.
During his rule thousands of activists, students and academics were held without charge in underground cells. Prisoners were allegedly denied food and water.
Poverty deepened on his watch and corruption flourished. A 2004 report by corporate investigations firm group Kroll accused Moi and his inner circle of stealing $2 billion in state funds, an accusation government at the time dismissed.
Officers from the Kenyan navy fired a 19-gun salute in tribute to Moi before his body was lowered into a grave next to his wife who died in 2004.