Curtain falls on “gentleman” of Kenya’s turbulent politics

By James Wafula in Nairobi.

He died as quietly as he had lived most of his 91 years. He hailed from a poor. humble ¬background of a peasant family in Othaya, Nyeri county.

Emilio Mwai Kibaki, the man who loved his pilsner beer cold and played golf, was Kenya’s third President.

Given to humour and direct attacks at his rivals during his tenure, Kibaki who died aged 91 leaves behind a legacy of solid personal achievements in the country’s history.

From a lecturer job at Makerere university in Kampala where he read Economics graduating with Masters and later the London school of economics, Kibaki was the epitome of an urban, composed, slow spoken figure whose political star was on a constant high.

Kibaki quit his Makerere university job in 1963 and returned to Kenya where he was appointed Finance Minister by founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the father to current  President Uhuru Kenyatta.

At Treasury Kibaki had as part of his team of economists, the father to Barrack Obama whose son would later become the first black President  of the United States..

Indeed when Barrack visited Kenya in 2016 he remarked that Kibaki had been the boss of his late dad. Mr Obama’s father died in a car crash in Nairobi aged 45 then a senior economic planning analyst at Treasury.

Kibaki’s performance at the Treasury remained the hallmark of positive excellence that propelled East Africa’s largest economy into the power house of the region.

When Kenyatta senior died in 1978, President Daniel Arap Moi who succeeded him, appointed Mr Kibaki Vice President.

Kibaki held the position for 11 years studiously maintaining a self effacing public demeanour of never “outshining the master” according to the 48 laws of power.

When Moi dropped Kibaki in 1988, demoting him to Health Minister there are many who thought the Othaya MP would refuse the job.

Far from it, Kibaki quietly took up his new posting and performed without even a hint of disquiet. This earned him both fame and infamy. For many he was the “gentleman” of Kenya’s often muddy political waters. To others he was “kerugoya” a man who never saw a fence that he did not want to seat on.

Kibaki’s lowest moments were in the troubled 2007 Presidential elections in which his ally turned bitter foe Raila Odinga claimed he had won the elections and his victory stolen.

At least 1350 people died in horrendous post election massacres pitting Kibaki’s PNU supporters and Odinga’s ODM.

A truce brokered by the US and UN Secretary General Mr Koffi Annan saw Kibaki-Raila share power in a grand coalition government 2008-2012. Kibaki retired and handed power to Uhuru Kenyatta at Kasarani international sports complex.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni a close ally of Kibaki attended Kenya’s fourth peaceful transfer of power ■

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