- On the first Sunday after the August 1, 1982 military coup attempt, Moi came to Citam for a special service to thank God for saving Kenya.
- A few weeks before President Moi left office in December 2002, he came to Citam, Valley Road, to say goodbye.
In the spirit of transparency, I start with a disclosure.
I am a card-carrying member of the Citam Church. I have been attending service at the church for over three decades, and was in the group of 83 formally admitted members at Citam, Karen, on November 24, 2002, at a function presided over by then-senior pastor and now Presiding Bishop David Oginde.
In obedience to Christ’s teaching that “let the children come to me”, on November 17, 2011, I took my sons, Ngotho and Koigi, for dedication at the same church.
As a member of Citam, I try my best to keep on the straight and narrow, but unfortunately, most of the time the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. End of my testimony.
Today’s story is about a special friend of Citam, retired President Daniel arap Moi.
I say special friend because the former President is otherwise African Inland Church (AIC) damu. AIC, formerly the African Inland Mission (AIM), isn’t just a faith to Mzee Moi but his surrogate family.
At the age of 10, when he was known only as Kapkorios Toroitich, he walked to the AIM church in his home village of Kabartonjo, Baringo County, to be received by the couple of Erik and Arthur Barnet, for whom his home town, Kabarnet, is named. The church was his first contact with Western modernity.
The missionaries baptised him Daniel, a name he choose from a hymn they sang at the mission, “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone …” in praise of the biblical Daniel who was thrown into a den of starved lions but came out unscathed.
It was at the AIM centre that young Moi would pick up many of the habits that define his character to this day.
The Barnets loved boiled maize, millet, and traditional vegetables, which to this day remain valued items in the retired President’s menu, and partly explains why he has lived to be 95 and counting.
By the way, Moi’s elder brother, Paulo Tuitoek, lived to be 104 and his sister Rebecca Chelimo clocked 100 years. So, paired with his siblings, Moi is still a “young” man.
The missionaries also encouraged the future President to keep fit. His beloved sport was football and had been nicknamed “wheelbarrow” because of his strong legs, which either ran away with the ball or wreaked havoc on the ankles and toes of those he tackled on the field.
To cap it all, at the mission he met the girl who would be the mother of his children, Lena Bomett.
For some reason, even with all his deep roots in the AIC, President Moi developed a special liking for Citam.
Whenever the weekend found him in the city — most of the weekends he was in Nakuru — he would attend service at Citam on Valley Road, though the main AIC church in Milimani is not far from his private residence on Kabarnet Road.
On the days he came, his press service and other media would be there. But unknown by many, there are other times when he came incognito and quietly left without many in the congregation getting to know he had been there.
I knew it one day in 1997 when I pulled up in my ramshackle at the Valley Road Citam’s main entrance but was motioned to pull aside by two mean-looking men.
From their demeanour I could tell the pair had not come for worship and weren’t used to sharing a roof with the Holy Spirit.
Before I figured out who they were, a police car whizzed past, followed by a private registration Volkswagen Kombi and another police car.
My journalistic antennae now up, I quickly recognised the man in the front passenger seat of the Kombi to be the President.
At the parking I saw him escorted by just two bodyguards and enter through the rear door to a reserved seat at the front.
There was no mention at all that the President was in the house, and at the end of the preaching the presiding pastor quietly escorted him to his vehicle and off he was gone. Many congregants never got to know he had been there that Sunday.
But one President’s visit that surprised even the few who got to know about it came on a Wednesday evening in the second week of January 1987.
It began on the Sunday, January 11, when the President came for service at Citam, Valley Road.
That day the media was present and the Nation carried a photograph of him leaving the church. The speaker of the day was a visiting preacher from Canada, Rev David Forrest.
He gave a moving sermon about God’s miracles that surpass human understanding.