THOUSANDS of Kenyans gathered at an open air stadium yesterday for the state funeral of Daniel Arap Moi, the country’s longest serving president, who died last week aged 95.

Moi’s coffin, draped in the Kenyan flag, was carried from the State House on the 5km route to the Nairobi stadium.

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Army, air force and navy soldiers marched into the stadium, where choirs sang gospel songs awaiting the procession of the man critics said was a virtual dictator.

But his friend Silas Yego, retired bishop of the Africa Inland Church where Moi worshipped, told mourners: “Anybody who knew him knows he was a humble man.

“President Moi never bragged about any success. He attributed it to God. Moi believed if you want to succeed, never tell a lie.”

Moi came to power in 1978 while serving as vice-president and remained in power until 2002.

He held power for longer than any other leader since independence but left a legacy of corruption that still haunts his nation.

During his rule, thousands of activists, students and academics were held without charge in underground cells.

He succeeded in keeping Kenya stable, compared to its neighbours, but failed badly at the economy, as poverty and corruption deepened.

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A 2004 report accused Moi and his circle of stealing $2 billion (about R26 billion) of state funds.

He won elections in 1992 and 1997, but was booed into retirement in 2002 and lived quietly for years on his estate in Rift Valley.

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni joined President Uhuru Kenyatta and mourners at the service. – REUTERS