Brilliant debater on matters of economy

Written by on 28 April 2022

Former President Mwai Kibaki is arguably one of the best debaters in the history of Kenya’s Parliament.

Kibaki stunned close friends and allies days before he retired in 2012 when he told them that he would not miss State House the way he misses Parliament.

Kibaki is quoted in a past interview that his most memorable time is debating in Parliament as an MP and Leader of Government business and later as Opposition Leader.

He is remembered the powerful policy debates with the likes of MPs Maina Wanjigi, Mwashengu wa Mwachofi, Marrin Shikuku, Abuya Abuya, James Orengo, Dalmas Otieno, Koigi wa Wamwere, George Anyona, JM Kariuki.

Full of praise

During the Opposition days, Kibaki would engage with the likes of Michael Kijana Wamalwa, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, James Orengo, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, Martha Karua, John Michuki, Henry Obwocha, Otieno Kajwang’, Gitobu Imanyara, Kiraitu Murungi, Paul Muite among others.

“We would all sit to listen to Kibaki especially when debating on matters economy, he was an authority on this and members were keen to learn from him,” says former Mbooni MP Joseph Munyao who went on to serve in Kibaki’s Cabinet as the minster for Agriculture.

Orengo whom Kibaki admired most as a seasoned politician was full of praise of Kibaki’s abilities both in parliament and outside.

“Kibaki was a master in matters legislation, he would not be engaged in rhetoric or sycophancy but serious matters to do with democratisation of the country and the economy in general,” said Orengo.  

Former Limuru MP George Nyanja who served as MP between 1992-2002 termed Kibaki as the best debater of all time.

“ I don’t think there is anyone who can rival Kibaki in terms of debating on serious matters. He was the best,” Nyanja said.

In the 1992-2002 Parliament when the likes of Orengo, Kituyi, Nyong’o and Kajwang used to light up sessions, Kibaki who was then the opposition leader would calm them down with words of wisdom.

“Their mastery of the Queen’s language was something else. Parliament sessions were a joy to listen to,” says a former parliamentary reporter Kamau Ngotho who has covered Kibaki for over two decades.

Once Daniel arap Moi took over as President in 1978 and constituted his Cabinet in October the same year, he retained Kibaki in the Finance docket and elevated him to the vice presidency.

In 1962 Kibaki was elected the Member of Parliament for Donholm constituency in Nairobi. It was later renamed Bahati and is now called Makadara. He was re-elected in Bahati in the 1963 and 1969 elections.

But pressure from the people of Othaya constituency in Nyeri District, where he hailed from, convinced him to move his political base from Nairobi in 1974.

He was overwhelmingly elected and re-elected to Parliament in subsequent polls: 1979, 1983, 1988, 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2007.

Kibaki was appointed an assistant minister for Finance and chairman of the Economic Planning Commission (1963), Minister for Commerce and Industry (1966) and the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning (1969) and doubled as Vice-President and Finance Minister in 1978 after Jomo Kenyatta’s death.

After the infamous mlolongo (queuing) method of elections of 1988, Kibaki was appointed Minister for Health and Josephat Karanja replaced him as Vice President.

Kibaki appeared to take his ‘demotion’ in his stride, performing his ministerial duties with the same professionalism he had the vice presidency.

The man who was routinely accused of ‘fence-sitting’ because of his non-confrontational brand of politics continued to be loyal to Moi.

An old friend of Kibaki, Mzee Ndung’u Njega narrated how Kibaki used to lit up the famous Leadership conferences in the 1970s and 1980s during the Jomo Kenyatta administration.

In Parliament, though among the youngest lawmakers then, Kibaki used to match the likes of Isaac Omolo Okero, Zachary Onyonka, Argwings Kodhek and Julius Kiano.

Reader's opinions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Current track