Born in Sancho, Baringo district, Rift Valley province, Daniel arap Moi was raised by his mother following the early death of his father. After completing his secondary education, he attended the Teacher Training College in Kapsabet. He worked as a teacher from 1946 until 1955.
Moi entered politics in 1955, when he was elected Member of the Legislative Council for Rift Valley. Together with Ronald Ngala, he founded the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) in 1960, to challenge the Kenya African National Union (KANU) led by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. KADU's aim was to defend the interests of the small minority tribes, such as the Kalenjin to which Moi belonged, against the dominance of the big Luo and Kikuyu tribes that comprised the majority of KANU's membership (Kenyatta himself being a Kikuyu). KADU pressed for a federal constitution, while KANU was in favour of centralism. The advantage lay with the numerically stronger KANU, and the British government was finally forced to remove all provisions of a federal nature from the constitution.
After Kenya's independence on December 12, 1963, convinced by Kenyatta of the necessity to unite forces in order to complete the decolonisation process, Moi accepted to merge KADU with KANU. Thus Kenya became a de facto one-party state, dominated by the Kikuyu. Kenyatta thanked Moi by promoting him, first to Minister for Home Affairs in 1964, and then to vice-president in 1967.
Having thus become Kenyatta's right hand, Moi smoothly stepped into his place when "the Father of Independence" died on August 22, 1978. Initially he was popular, but Kikuyu resentment against his elevation and economic recession gradually sapped his regime. After a failed coup attempt by a group of Air Force officers in August 1 1982, Moi changed the constitution to establish a de jure one-party state, and resorted to strong-arm rule, imprisonment without trial and torture. This led the United States to withhold aid in the late 1980s, whereupon he was forced to restore a multiparty system in December 1991. By exploiting ethnic tensions and dividing the opposition, he was nevertheless able to get re-elected in 1992 and 1997.
Over the years, Moi's regime became increasingly corrupt. Political violence damaged the tourism industry, and reform programmes imposed by the IMF and the World Bank did not succeed in lifting the country out of the economic quagmire.
Constitutionally barred from running in the 2002 presidential elections, Moi unsuccessfully promoted Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first President, as his successor. In what probably were the country's first free and fair elections, a rainbow coalition of opposition parties routed the ruling KANU party, and its leader, Mwai Kibaki, was elected President by a large majority which was confirmed on December 29, 2002.