I was surprised when Mwai Kibaki appointed me as minister, says Jebii Kilimo

Linah Jebii Kilimo. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

When the late President Mwai Kibaki took over power in 2002, he re-wrote the history of a patriarchal Rift Valley community after appointing Linah Jebii Kilimo as a Cabinet Minister.

Mrs Kilimo who surprisingly won the Marakwet East parliamentary seat in 2002 was unexpectedly appointed a Minister in the Office of the Vice President and Home Affairs, a move that propelled a little-known female MP to the top echelons of power.

Kibaki’s appointment made Mrs Kilimo the first Cabinet minister from the Kalenjin community. She was the first elected female MP from Marakwet.

The 2002 parliamentary win did not only earn Mrs Kilimo fame but a life-changing recognition by the late President Kibaki.

Mrs Kilimo won the Marakwet East MP seat on a Mwai Kibaki-led NARC ticket at a time when the region elected MPs who vied on KANU tickets.

"I will forever remain grateful because he made me the first female Cabinet Minister from the Kalenjin community," she eulogised.

Before she was elected, her constituency (Marakwet East), had been nicknamed 'Othaya ndogo' (a small Othaya) because Kibaki garnered 4,000 votes in 1992. 

Yesterday, just hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta broke the news of the passing on of Kibaki, Mrs Kilimo remembered him as a man who stood for justice for all.

Mrs Kilimo, who spoke to The Standard from South Sudan where she is representing the Ministry of Gender on official duty, the CAS said she was surprised by the 2003 appointment as minister.

"I had never met Kibaki before I was elected MP in 2003 and I was surprised when he appointed me to the Cabinet. I only met him during my swearing-in as Cabinet minister. It was humbling because he later informed me that he learnt about me through the media," Mrs Kilimo remembered.

She claimed Kibaki's administration tamed the banditry menace in Kerio Valley for ten years.

"It is a sad day for our country because we have lost an icon. We had peace in Marakwet for 10 years during Kibaki's tenure. He also compensated forest evictees," Mrs Kilimo who served as MP until 2013, recalled.

Mrs Kilimo described the late Kibaki as a President who listened to the views of every leader regardless of political affiliation.

“At State House, I told him the story and the poor road networks in Marakwet and he sympathised with us. The late President Kibaki then sent his Finance Minister, the late David Mwiraria to Marakwet to confirm what I told him. After the tour, money for the first tarmacked road was allocated,” she said.

To Mrs Kilimo, the 2003 ministerial opportunity opened the door for several government appointments for her.