The role Raila Odinga played after Mwai Kibaki was involved in a road accident in 2002

Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga in past photo. [Courtesy]
"I Mwai Kibaki, swear that I will be faithful to Kenya and serve it with my whole heart..." Those are the words of Kenya's third President during his swearing-in ceremony on December 30, 2002.

Kenyans celebrated as Kibaki took office. He was in a wheelchair, his right leg in a cast after a nasty accident that almost cost him his life. The accident happened on December 3 at the Machakos turn-off on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. 16 years later, we tell you what actually happened on the day of the accident. 

In 2002, 13 opposition parties came together to form a political coalition, the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc).

The grouping was a marriage between National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK) made up mainly of Democratic Party, Michael Wamalwa's Ford Kenya and Charity Ngilu's National Party of Kenya (NPK) and renegade group Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

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Narc was challenging the ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu, who had been in power for 40 years.

The coalition settled on Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki to run against Kanu's Uhuru Kenyatta and three other candidates.

The backroom politics and manoeuvring that culminated to a compromised Narc candidate was not easy.

"It took quite a while to put the coalition together. When we nominated Kibaki, everyone wanted him to visit his constituency," former Kitui Senator David Musila says.

On December 1, Musila and Kalonzo Musyoka invited Kibaki to campaign in then Mwingi and Kitui districts.

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After the two-day heightened and well-oiled campaign, a disaster that shook the nation struck.

Then 71-year-old Mwai Kibaki was involved in a nasty road accident as he rushed to Nairobi for a 7pm appointment in Muthaiga.

Road Accident

"Kibaki's car was ahead followed by Raila Odinga and I was third," Musila says.

He adds that after Machakos junction on Nairobi-Mombasa highway, his car overtook Raila's.

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"At the junction, I saw two people by the roadside, a mangled matatu and a crowd milling in the area," Musila narrates.

His aide implored them to stop and find out what was happening amidst his incessant directive to proceed with the journey.

"He came (aide) running to me that Kibaki's car had been involved in an accident. I was shocked".

Former Kibaki's bodyguard Corporal David Wambugu says Kibaki had deviated from the norm and sat on the front seat so as to greet people on the road.

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"Three people were crossing the road when our Ranger Rover KAH 016G hit them before rolling, hitting an electricity pole and landing into a ditch," says Wambugu.

Two people – a passenger and a tout of a Matatu that had been involved in a previous accident died on the spot.

Wambugu adds that it was him and Mwai Kibaki who were seriously hurt out of the four occupants in the vehicle.

"From our training on VIP protection, we are not to wear have safety belts," Wambugu says as they are required to act swift in cases of emergencies.

"One of Kibaki's guards had to draw a gun to control the crowd. What I saw was very shocking, you could not recognise Kibaki," Musili says. "The numerous airbags had blown out and there was powder-like substance on his face".

With darkness setting in, Kibaki had been pulled from the wreckage and needed urgent medical attention.

"I placed Kibaki in the back seat of my car with one of the guards holding him. I called emergency services and needed an ambulance quickly. There was no adequate network and our call disconnected on numerous occasions," Musila narrated.

They (emergency services) told him they could not get to the scene within 30 minutes, prompting them to continue driving to Nairobi.

"They advised me to talk to him continuously and I assured him how we had done a lot of work and he was soon to be president," Musila notes.

At Nairobi Hospital, an entourage of Mr Kibaki's personal physician, Dr Dan Gikonyo and Raila Odinga was waiting for them.

Mwai Kibaki at Nairobi Hospital. [File, Standard]
Musila recalls how he did not know how Raila Odinga overtook their car as he thought they were behind.

"He has not suffered many injuries but had a fracture of the upper right arm and dislocation of the right ankle," Dr Gikonyo told the press on that fateful Tuesday night.

The Opposition was thrown into a panic mode.

Dr Dan Gikonyo, said they decided to take Kibaki to the UK for specialised treatment.

"The difficult bit was in boarding the plane. We did not have the control. I remember asking for some seats at Kenya Airways and they were not cooperative," Dr Gikonyo recalls.

The three seats allocated to them were at the back of the plane.

"Raila who was with us said they could not put their president at the back of the plane and must be put in the first class cabin," Gikonyo adds.

Raila would then pay for them to move to the first class cabin. Hitherto, a new problem present itself to them- moving the stretcher to the front of the plane as the aisle was not wide enough.

"I have a lot of respect for Raila. He came with about eight young men who carried the stretcher to the front seats on their knees," Gikonyo said with a smirk on his face.

The Opposition's problems would be compounded in England when the would be Vice-President Kijana Wamalwa was taken ill just two weeks to the General Election.

Wamalwa and Kibaki would be admitted in the same hospital in the UK.

Mwai Kibaki (right) with Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka when he returned from special treatment in London. [File, Standard]
Raila Odinga championed the remainder of the presidential campaign and on December 27, 2002 they won the election with a resounding 62 per cent of the votes.

Mwai Kibaki marking his ballot from his limousine at a polling station in Othaya Constituency. [File, Standard]
Kibaki was sworn into office while on a wheelchair with his right leg in a cast.

Mwai Kibaki during his swearing-in on December 30, 2002 at Uhuru Park, Nairobi [File, Standard]
Raila OdingaMwai KibakiKibaki AccidentKibaki Accident 2002