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Leaders heap praise on Kibaki on farewell day

Kenya Defence Force soldiers pay their last respects to former President Mwai Kibaki as his body is lowered to the grave. [PSCU]

Kenya’s top politicians led the nation in the final sendoff for the third president Mwai Kibaki in Othaya, Nyeri County yesterday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance leader Raila Odinga joined thousands at the burial of a man who ruled for 10 years and breathed life into the economy.

Other than Ruto’s last-minute call that he hoped for a peaceful election that would not necessitate a handshake, the event was largely without politics as per the wishes of the late president’s family. 

And they all paid a glowing tribute to the veteran politician, underlining his numerous achievements. According to Uhuru, Kenyans should not just praise the deeds of the departed leader through words but must follow it up with deeds and thoughts.

“We thank Othaya and Nyeri County for giving us a son who set a precedent for the whole country, for Africa and for the world,” said Uhuru in one of the shortest speeches at the final requiem mass.

Raila gave a historical perspective of Kibaki’s life, saying the departed president’s story was Kenya’s political story. He recalled his links with the politician, including the famous ‘Kibaki Tosha’ call that is widely credited for ending the Kanu rule in 2002.

“I said this (Kibaki Tosha) because I realised the complexity of where we were and when I got home (from the Uhuru Park rally), my wife had received many calls from people saying I had messed up big time. But I resolved we were not going back,” Raila said.

He praised Kibaki for his humility and for accepting dialogue in the wake of the disputed 2007 presidential elections and subsequent violence that claimed the lives of more than a thousand Kenyans.

“When we were in a crisis, we negotiated with Mwai Kibaki and agreed that Kenya was bigger than all of us. We formed government with Kibaki as President and yours truly as Prime Minister,” recalled Raila.

He recalled that he was the Roads and Public Works minister under the Kibaki government formed in early 2003 and undertook the task of demolishing structures on road reserves. “I thank Kibaki for standing with me.”

Reduced backlog

Ruto eulogised Kibaki as a transformative leader who guided him when he served in government. “When I was the Agriculture minister, I approached him together with the Principal Secretary over fertiliser issues and for the first time, he reduced the prices to Sh2,500,” he said.

The DP added: “When I in the Ministry of Higher Education, he guided me on how to reduce backlog in universities and we had a double intake.” 

“He is the best demonstration of the bottom up since he moved from a little known family to the country and the globe,” Ruto said while calling for a peaceful election that will not necessitate a handshake. According to Ruto, Kibaki played a role of a father figure when he and Uhuru faced crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court. Also giving a powerful tribute was Kibaki’s long-serving Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura who termed him the “father of modern Kenya.

“Muthaura touched on the successes of the Kibaki government, including raising the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from Sh1.4 trillion to Sh6 trillion in 10 years. “Today, nobody can take our country lightly. We are among Africa’s largest economies and we are still marching on,” said Muthaura. He said Kibaki was a good planner, a president who would make follow-ups. He said the Kibaki government’s initial steps were guided by the Economic Recovery and Employment Creation Strategy Paper whose success surprised the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that had previously slapped Kenya with Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs).

“We surpassed all the targets and the World Bank sent a delegation surprised that the country was suddenly improving just three years after it had been pinned down by the SAPs,” said Muthaura.

Muthuara said there was no planned project they did not implement under Kibaki, recalling how the late president pushed his technocrats to design the Lamu Port, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia Transport Corridor.