Kenya’s longest-serving leader, Daniel arap Moi, who brought stability after independence, has died aged 95.
Current president Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that “our nation and our continent were immensely blessed” by Mr Moi’s dedication and service.
He said he had spent “almost his entire adult life serving Kenya and Africa”.
The ex-president died peacefully in hospital at 5.20 am on Tuesday surrounded by his family, said his son Gideon Moi.
A cattle herder’s son and former headmaster from a small tribe, he ruled the East African nation from 1978 to 2002.
While he brought stability that was the envy of many other countries emerging from colonialism, he failed to tackle rampant corruption and widespread poverty.
He worked for regional peace and eventually introduced political pluralism, but his time also saw the country descend towards dictatorship and alleged political killings.
Usually pictured carrying an ivory baton, Mr Moi succeeded independence leader Jomo Kenyatta, having served as his vice president.
He exploited tribal political rivalries to maintain control over the volatile nation.
Diplomats said a failed coup attempt four years into his time in office changed him from a cautious, insecure leader into a tough autocrat who set up torture chambers in the capital Nairobi.
Thousands of activists, students and academics were held without charge in the underground cells, some of them filled with water.
Prisoners were sometimes denied food and water, rights groups say.
Moi was often underestimated by less canny opponents but his reputation was damaged by two major corruption scandals, “Anglo Leasing” and “Goldenberg,” which cost the country billions of dollars.
The economy nosedived in the late 1990s as tea and coffee prices slid.
He sanctioned one-party rule by his KANU party in the wake of the failed 1982 coup and made scores of prominent business and political appointments from his ethnic group, the small Kalenjin tribe.
He barely survived demands for his resignation over the 1990 murder of foreign minister and leading opponent, Robert Ouko, who was later found to have been murdered in one of Mr Moi’s official residences.
In 2002, he surprised all observers by allowing free elections that dealt his youthful protege and current president Uhuru Kenyatta a crushing defeat.
Forced into retirement that year, he lived quietly for years on his sprawling estate in the Rift Valley.