Magazine article The Spectator

L'etat C'est Moi

Magazine article The Spectator

L'etat C'est Moi

Article excerpt

Moi: The Making of an African Statesman will bring little credit to its author and not a great deal more to its subject. Anyone who has even a reasonable knowledge of Kenya's recent history will detect that Morton has attempted to rewrite and redefine important moments in the young nation's post-independence development. In my view, the book has failed to offer either a credible history or a useful biography of Mr Daniel Arap Moi, the current President of Kenya. The words that come to mind after reading these pages are humbug, pure humbug!

Mr Moi has been an elected representative for 44 years and can legitimately claim to be the longest serving member of the Kenyan legislature. For the past 20 years he has been the country's president, having succeeded the late Jomo Kenyatta. I was hoping that Morton would have brought out the complex character of his subject and perhaps offered the reader some insights into Moi's inner thinking on both the national and regional level. It was not to be and the author seems to have been used, probably not by Moi himself but by the State House spin-doctors who desperately need history to be rewritten. There are rumours that the advance for the book may have been paid from Nairobi.

Andrew Morton may yet prove to be an expert at writing about young women in the public eye (his last book concerned Princess Diana, his next is about Monica Lewinsky) but he demonstrates distinct limitations when writing about an older man from an entirely different culture. I have the impression that he has rarely met his subject and has therefore had to depend upon what he has been told. A recent reviewer in the Kenyan press aptly remarked, `In twisting facts to suit a promotional outcome, Morton unwittingly does more harm to the man he sets out to portray as worthy.'

As a historical revisionist, Morton gets high marks for effort and gall. He proposes that whilst corruption in the civil service and public life was rife under Kenyatta, all is now better and the problem has been successfully dealt with to the people's satisfaction. He suggests that the infamous Goldenberg scandal of the early 1990s, when close to 600 million dollars of public money was cleverly stolen, was simply an aberration. There is hardly any comment on the extraordinary levels of corruption in Kenya today and his avoidance of the subject makes his book suspect. …

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