Moi worked actively for independence for Kenya, then still a British colony. He was also a forceful advocate for his Kalenjin ethnic minority, which led him to be a cofounder of the Kenya Africa Democratic Union (KADU) in 1960. KADU served as a political balance to the Kenya Africa National Union (KANU), led by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and popular among the Kikuyu majority.
Following Kenyan independence in 1964, KADU dissolved and joined the government headed by President Kenyatta. Moi served as minister of home affairs during 1964–1967. In 1967 he became vice president. He ran unopposed in the October 1978 elections that followed Kenyatta's death and thus became the nation's second president. Moi's platform called for support for Kenyatta's goal of forging a national Kenyan identity and an end to tribalism and ethnic rivalries. However, he gave important government positions to his fellow Kalenjins and used his office to consolidate power and divide the opposition, moving Kenya away from democracy and down the path of a one-party state. In 1982, Kenyan Air Force officers launched an abortive coup against Moi, leading him to outlaw all political parties except KANU. He went on to win two more unopposed elections, in 1983 and 1988, amid growing government corruption and increasingly autocratic rule.
Moi's government generally supported the United States during the Cold War. As with other African leaders, Moi avoided direct criticism over abuses of power by supporting U.S. policies in Africa. As the Cold War entered its final stages, however, pressure from internal prodemocracy advocates and Western governments forced him to gradually accept multiparty elections. Continuing to strategically divide the opposition parties, he managed to win two other elections in 1992 and 1997 with less than 50 percent of the vote. Constitutionally barred from seeking another term, Moi was succeeded by Mwai Kibaki on 29 December 2002 and resigned his KANU leadership post on 11 September 2003.
Morton, Andrew. Moi. London: Michael O'Mara Books, 1998.