Fare thee well Mzee Kibaki, you did your part for Kenya

Former President Mwai Kibaki. [File, Standard]

As Kenyans mourn the death of the country’s third president, Emilio Mwai Kibaki, they should also take time to reflect on his legacy and the invaluable contribution to Kenya’s political history.

Kibaki is what many would call the gentleman of Kenyan politics. He was routinely accused of ‘fence-sitting’ because of his non-confrontational brand of politics. Even though his detractors interpreted his suave style to mean indifference, he inspired great confidence in those he worked with, whether in Opposition or in government.

Kibaki was highly respected in global economic and academic circles. World Bank President Robert MacNamara once described him as “one of the greatest economic brains to have emerged from Africa”.

In 1974, Time magazine nominated him among the top 100 people in the world who had the potential to lead. Although his second tenure was blotted by the post-election violence on 2007-2008, he will also be remembered for building a robust economy.

Barely days after he took the reins of power in his first term, he initiated free primary education. The move by the former Makerere University don was hailed by world leaders, including former US president Bill Clinton. The decision saw school enrolment increase dramatically, with classrooms across the country attracting thousands of pupils, among them the late Kimani Maruge who was then 84 years. All of those new entrants had been denied a chance at education in an era when it is the key to economic emancipation.

A lasting impression on many Kenyans will probably Kibaki the economist. He is credited with making the country an economic hub besides building a firm foundation for infrastructure development.

The Thika Superhighway is probably the most visible of his highly impactful infrastructure projects whose purpose was consistent with his vision.

Kenyan farmers will remember the ten-year period when debts were written off and incentives given in coffee, tea and sugarcane sub-sectors among others. As Kenyans prepare to elect new leaders, they should be guided by his vision and contribution and pick leaders who can emulate Kibaki at all levels of governance.

And this is what Kenyans should remember as they celebrate his life and legacy.

Fare thee well Mzee.