Kenya recently lost one of its best presidents and we look back on who he was and his journey: remembering H.E Mwai Kibaki – Kenya’s 3rd president. Former President Mwai Kibaki died on 21st April 2022 aged 90. He was born on 15th November 1931 in Gatuya-ini village in Othaya.
A Man of Charisma and Character
Mwai Kibaki was nothing short of charismatic. Every public address he gave was humorous while at the same time urging for peace and reconciliation. He lost his cool a few times but remained charismatic and full of humor. He was a president who truly felt and acted like a father of the nation and he backed up his words with action.
A Personable and Friendly Man
On a personal level, Mwai Kibaki was very personable and friendly. He kept his friends close and rarely had any enemies. He disliked phones and was quite difficult to find over the phone for a phone call. The story goes that you had to call someone who would go to him and give him the phone and if you’re not close to him, you had to call someone who called someone who gave him the phone.
A Rare Man for an Audience
Mwai Kibaki knew how to protect his personal space and energy. He was rarely too available and was always hard to reach for any time-wasting or unimportant activities. He spent most of his time leading the country and taking hold of the management of his numerous businesses and estate.
A President Who Did Right by the People
Mwai Kibaki, first a minister for finance, Vice President, and then President, always did right by his people. He was a fair leader who, above everything valued development. He never gave any ministerial posts to anyone just because they were friends; instead, he ensured he had capable people on each docket who would deliver.
A best case in point was the late former transport minister, John Michuki. Michuki was ruthless in his laws and ensured that Kenyan roads were safe and that the madness in transportation was brought to a halt. Another good example was the former minister for water, Martha Karua. Kibaki was fervently dissuaded from giving her the docket but he saw her hard work and determination and went against all odds to appoint her minister for water and she didn’t disappoint.
Recognizing and Rewarding Success
When Kibaki’s ministers did well, he was sure to privately and publicly applaud them. When they did wrong, he would reprimand them but in a way that was respectful and did not belittle them at all. That was the kind of man he was.
A Man of the People and a Patriot
Mwai Kibaki was dedicated to his work. He navigated through deputizing the tough leadership of late president Daniel Arap Moi and held base to later become president. When ascending to power, he was in a wheelchair after being in an accident but still held strong and took over leadership of the country. That was the kind of dedication he had. On becoming president, he didn’t stamp his authority by mirroring the previous administration and ensured he only associated himself with good politics. Instead, he invited all parties to talks and negotiations and factored in everyone’s point of view. Such was the case with the grand coalition government. Kibaki was also patriotic and led Kenya in the fight against terrorism.
A Man of Peace and Reconciliation
The grand coalition government came after the 2007 post-election violence (PEV) where one party felt that the election had been stolen from them, leading the country into chaos. It is said that Mwai Kibaki even got to a point where he was willing to relinquish power to see the country go back to peace but was persuaded by his closest appointees to stay on. Therefore, he invited the opposition to form a coalition government, and together, they formulated and finalized the making of the 2010 Kenyan constitution which they later passed into law. The 2010 constitution was signed to law by Kibaki and remains one of his greatest legacies.
A Family Man
As a family man, Kibaki kept his family tight-knit. He always stood by his late wife Mama Lucy Kibaki. She was a handful and would even beat up journalists if she felt she was wronged but Kibaki stood by her. He held his base and brought up a wonderful family that to this day remains closely held together. He was a family man and nothing short of a great husband, father, and grandfather. Even in his last days, Kibaki always wanted to spend time with his family and get to know how they are and what they have been up to.
Service Provision at Home and Beyond
To the people of Othaya in Nyeri, his hometown and constituency, Mwai Kibaki was the best leader they ever had. He built them beautiful roads that to this day are some of the best in the country. He brought them a branch of the Kenyatta National Hospital which is today a level-6 hospital and built schools. He was the best leader Othaya has ever had and the people of Othaya are distraught by his demise.
The Legacy of Infrastructure
Kibaki didn’t just build roads for the people of Othaya but the whole country. In just the ten years he was in power, more roads in Kenya were built than had ever been built in the last 50 years prior. His most iconic road was the humongous Thika Super Highway. Mwai Kibaki insisted that the Thika Super Highway was overdue, very much needed, and had to be brought to life. He invested heavily in seeing the project come to fruition and just like that, opened up Nairobi and the Kenyan economy in a way that had not been done before. To this day, the Thika Super Highway is the best of Kenyan roads and highways and it’s quite a pity that no other road or highway of such stature has been built since.
An Economist that Kenya was Lucky to Have
In terms of the economy, Mwai Kibaki was an economist; a man who knew the economy like the back of his hand. His prowess in matters economic showed and he turned around Kenya’s economy to the best it has ever been ever since. To this day, there hasn’t been a time when Kenyans have had the opportunity and facilitation to improve their economic well-being as the time Mwai Kibaki was in power. He brought Kenya’s inflation to an all-time low and invited foreign investors to invest in the country. Even today, we see the fruits of his work in the numerous foreign companies and entities investing in the country. Kenya has become the hub for technology and innovation in Africa and that’s mostly thanks to his leadership and bolstering of the economy when he was in power.
Mwai Kibaki formulated Vision 2030 which was a plan to develop the country strategically with goals that were set to be achieved by 2030. Even as sad as it is that he did not live to see the 2030s, Kibaki lay the foundation for the development of Kenya in a way that was both visionary and innovative. His Vision 2030, which he got all the best minds to work on, lay the foundation for Kenya’s development in tech and innovation, and all other sectors including health, infrastructure, education, communications, etc.
The Father of Free Primary Education
Mwai Kibaki introduced free primary education in Kenya, his greatest legacy. I, for one, I’m a product of that system having gone through free primary education in the country for most of my primary school years. Kibaki did something very crucial by introducing free primary education in Kenya; he opened up all schools and gave access to all children to have an education regardless of their parent’s financial ability. What this meant and still means today is that any child who is old enough to go to school does not have to pay anything to be enrolled in a public primary school anywhere in the country.
A Committed Educator
Mwai Kibaki was committed to education and to cement this commitment, he introduced programs to ensure that children who did not go to school would be fetched and brought to school as part of his free education program. He literally had people go to every home where there was a child that would not otherwise get an education, to ensure that the child is taken to school. If the child needed a uniform, he/she would be bought a uniform and even in some cases, schools would be asked to have special considerations for really underprivileged children. To ensure that the schools were accessible and that there were no issues of transportation, Kibaki built schools near the people to ensure that every constituency in the country had enough schools so that all children would be afforded a free education. Kenya’s education system is today as robust as it is thanks to his programs and commitment to education. Mwai Kibaki was also philanthropic and led the Abstain, Be Faithful, Use a Condom (ABC) campaign against the spread of HIV-AIDS.
Farewell Mr. President
May the soul of His Excellency Mwai Kibaki Rest in Eternal Peace. May God comfort his family, friends, and the country at large, and may his memory be a blessing. Kibaki has been touted as the best president Kenya has ever had and nothing is more true. He gave all that could be given to leading this country and his legacy stands as one of the greatest for any leader that has ever held the element of power in Kenya.
Farewell Mzee. We will miss you and your leadership and may the Good Lord grant you peace and a place to rest in grace in heaven. Amen. H.E Mwai Kibaki will be buried in his Othaya home on Saturday, 30th April.