Today marked one of the saddest days in our country’s history as we lost the 3rd president of the Republic of Kenya, his excellency Emilio Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki died this morning aged 90 years. He was undoubtedly a pillar and a great leader whose impact on this country will be forever remembered.

A lot has been and will be said about Kibaki the man who brought free education to this country. I am by all means part of the products of the free education that Mzee flagged once he took the oath of office in the year 2002.

Besides the free education, he massively opened this country in terms of economic as well as infrastructural development. A road passes near my rural home that had remained in a very bad shape for as long as I can remember but one which was carpeted during Kibaki’s first tenure in office.

There are a lot of things I can say about Mwai Kibaki, but today I take this opportunity to look at Kibaki the man. What was he like? Did he have any principles by which he lived? Was he soft in private as he looked before the republic?

I didn’t have the opportunity to interact with him closely but I have had an opportunity to interact with those who interacted with him closely. I only remember seeing him one time from a distance yet through those who worked with him, I have had an opportunity to see him closely.

Prof. Bitange Ndemo worked under the Kibaki presidency as the permanent secretary in the ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT). He once told me about the Kibaki he knew. He described him as a man who was result-oriented and empowered those who worked closely to ensure that they delivered on the tasks bestowed upon them.

He, Bitange, went to see him once with a proposal about a foreign investor who was intending to invest in the country. Once in his office, Mzee, as they referred him enthusiastically supported the move very quickly and went ahead to ensure the ICT ministry received support from allied ministries of interest to make the investment successful.

This made me realize that Kibaki was a development-oriented person. Another source hinted to me about a minister who was relieved of his duties because he went soliciting kickbacks from an investor who was eyeing the Kenyan market.

The frustrated Kibaki called the minister and expressed his disappointment and to ensure the point was at home went ahead to ensure he was fired. He was so keen on ensuring that barriers to trade and investment in the country were ironed out.

I confirmed that he was soft-spoken in private as he looked in public. And that softness seems to have been his greatest weapon. A cabinet minister who served in his government hinted to a close confidant of mine about how the man could walk into a meeting and end up speaking the last.

He was a keen listener. He would take time to listen to all the views and ensure that the directive he gave at the end of the day was in the best interest of the nation. That came with mixed reactions especially negative ones from those who felt their views were not considered in some of those decisions.

My confidant also told of Kibaki the disciplined man. As was reported some time ago, he was very disciplined with matters of money. He was a man of his word where money was involved. If he went with you to the bar for two bottles of beer and you ended up drinking three, he would pay for the two he promised to buy you and you went ahead to foot the bill for the third one.

Judging him by these acts, one may be tempted to think of him as stingy. Yet as he advocated for, discipline in all areas is what he believed in fondly. From advocating for family planning badala ya kutengeneza watoto bila pango to advocating for responsible drinking, to ensuring that people worked to earn their bread.

When he took the batons of power in 2002, he rallied the people to work. He wasn’t left behind. The man worked and he is perhaps the man who worked for the nation from Harambee house the most. State house was a home for him and Harambee house was the office.

The man loved golf a lot. In his earlier days, he played golf and not just for fun but out of love for the game. Despite coming out to make things straight that he was married to one wife, golf would qualify as his second “wife.” I look forward to starting playing golf as well.

We will gladly remember Emilio Mwai Kibaki without a lie. He is the president we would have loved to have had earlier enough. Nevertheless, we are grateful for the time we had with him. We all have our shortcomings and Kibaki was no exception, but for this day, I chose to celebrate him.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Politics, Policy, Technology, Current Affairs, Opinion, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Entrepreneurship, Governance, International Emerging Issues, Society, and culture. For featuring, promotions or support write to us at
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