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Kibaki's classmate, 94, recalls friendship dating back to 1941

Ferninda Wangui at her home in Karima Village in Othaya. Wangui was Mwai Kibaki's classmate at Karima Mission School between 1941 and 1943. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Sitting outside her house in Karima location, Othaya, in Nyeri County, Ferninda Wangui gazes up at the sky, deep in thought.

It takes her some time to compose herself for the interview.

Ms Wangui said she was lost for words upon learning of the death of her former classmate President Mwai Kibaki, whom they knew as Emilio Mwaro.

Their relationship dates backs to 1941 when they met at Karima Mission School, presently Karima High school.

“Death has robbed me of a close friend who was always available for me and who cherished the moments we shared every time we met in Othaya,” she said.

Displaying the pictures she took with the former head of state, the last one being on February 10, 2013, two months before Kibaki handed power to President Uhuru Kenyatta in April 2013, Ms Wangui said the news of Kibaki’s death shocked her.

“When I first got the news from a friend, I thought it was a bad joke. But when I switched on the TV I confirmed that indeed it was true. I haven’t slept the whole night,” Wangui told The Standard.

Ms Wangui recalled her first encounter with Kibaki whom she described as an extraordinary and intelligent student. He was always challenging an Italian missionary sister known as Tioflada who headed the school.

“We were only three girls in the entire school and more than 20 boys. One day Kibaki came to where we were seated during break time. He greeted us, smiled and promised to keep in touch before leaving,” Ms Wangui explained.

She said since then Emilio Mwaro, as Kibaki was known then, has been a friend.

Former President Mwai Kibaki greets Ferninda Wangui at Karima Village in Othaya during a past event. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Ms Wangui said Kibaki got the name Mwaro from his father who was a tobacco seller in Othaya.

“His intelligence even at that young age baffled the teachers. He was so knowledgeable and there were no competitors his age,” she observed.

Wangui said Sister Tioflada also recognised that Kibaki was exceptionally intelligent and would say that he would one day make a great leader. Kibaki was extremely good in mathematics, according to Ms Wangui.

“Sister Tioflada used to tell us that Mwaro (Kibaki) will one day be a leader. At his age he is very intelligent,” she explained.

Kibaki, she noted, enrolled in the school in 1941 until 1944 when he left to join Mathari Mission School, presently Nyeri High.  

After leaving Karima, she said the two parted ways and as fate would have it met again in 1974 when over 100 residents prevailed upon Kibaki to change his political base from Nairobi to Othaya.

“We sent a delegation to him to try and convince him to relocate after we promised him we would elect him as our MP,” she added.

She said immediately after he was elected MP for Othaya in 1974, Kibaki asked members of Karima Catholic Church what they wanted him to buy for the church.

“We told him we wanted a public address system (PA). He asked us how much we had saved. We told him we had Sh30. He gave us money for the PA, which the church uses to date,” Wangui stated.