Moi’s mysterious Rungu
Just like his predecessor, the late president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, president Moi too hands a mark of authority. He used to call it with him wherever he went. For Mzee, his mark of power was a fly–whisk. Mzee Moi, who passed on, on 4th February 2020, has the mark of authority was a ‘rungu.’ It was commonly known by name as ‘Fimbo ya Nyayo’ the mark represented.
“A small change in the presidential appearance of a man who had openly declared readiness to follow in the footsteps of his feared predecessor.”
The rungu was a decorated wooden baton. It was always on his right hand for the 24 years he was in power.
The History and Symbolism
We find Tugen community in Baringo county, and it is a sub-tribe of the Kalenjin used to implore the young men to carry with them an assortment of weapons. They would help in protecting themselves. Moi picked this habit, which he proceeded with it to the highest office of the land.
However, after he started school and converted to a Christian, in 1934, he was made to abandon much cultural practice. This did not take long since soon after he took office as the president in the year 1978, he went back for his rungu. According to his press secretary, the rungu used to symbolize the blessings for the nation he inherited from the colonial regime. He further said, at the age, he got into office, he was to be a fighter for Kenya. And that the rungu would fight for Kenya.
The Value of the ‘Rungu’
This Fimbo ya Nyayo many could not have given it value until an incident that occurred in 1981. This ivory baton fell off and broke into two different pieces. The president was in Los Angeles after a United Nations general assembly, which was in New York. To make it worse, it broke while getting ready to Los Angeles for Melbourne, where a commonwealth head of state meeting.
The president press statement secretary Mr. Lee Njiru was with the Mzee Moi during the incident. He says that calls were made immediately to the statehouse in Kenya to have a new rungu flown to Australia. Njiru further revealed that of the Moi’s aide, Mr. Peter Rotich got into action. He took flights connecting from Kenya to South East Asia through South Africa to deliver the rungu.
Mr. Rotech had to ensure he arrived there before Mzee. This was because Mzee would use the rungu to wave people while greeting them. And just like clockwork, the aide arrived in the plane and handed over the rungu to president Moi. Moi then landed from the plane, waving to people his trademark symbol of authority.
Praise and Criticism
The rungu played many roles during Moi’s rule as the president of Kenya. It attracted compliments and criticism equally. They composed a song of a Kariokor based church titled “Fimbo ya Nyayo,” which was praising the Moi’s rule.
It was also the flip side of the notes sh 20 and sh100 printed during the Moi era. It was also crucial in Nyayo’s monument put in place across the country. The most visible one is at Uhuru Park in Nairobi.
However, some myths had it it used to carry the mystical powers. Father believed that whoever tried to steal would not live long, and they used to died
Following the death of the maze Moi, the rungu might have to be taken to the national museum. The purpose of this will be for the future generation who will want to learn about ‘Fimbo la Nyayo.’