Kibaki’s love for urban life was so evident

Written by on 30 April 2022

Two years before former President Mwai Kibaki left office in March 2013, the government embarked on putting up an Sh400 affluent retirement home for him in his Nyeri backyard in Mweiga, about 15 kilometres from Nyeri town. 

The mini-State House sitting on a 100-acre piece of land along the Nyeri—Nyahururu highway was meant to give the departed Head of State a restful retirement, away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. 

It was expected that after handing over power to his successor, President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kibaki would be airlifted or driven to the already complete multi-million residence. Instead, the ardent gold shocked Government officials and his friends when he chose to retire to his personal home in a super swanky Muthaiga suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi. 

That Kibaki loved and enjoyed urban life was aptly captured by his long-time friend, the late powerful minister Njenga Karume, who, in his book “Beyond Expectations: From Charcoal to Gold” said during their youthful years, they would sometimes enjoy drinking sprees in bars in the city as well as in Kiambu where the former Kiambaa MP lived. 

Kibaki on the other hand lived in Nairobi West.

“I became closer to Kibaki when he graduated from Makerere and was now a lecturer, earning a good salary. Since Kanu was looking for an Executive Officer, Kibaki opted to quit his position and manage Kanu,” Karume said.

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He added: “That time he was still a bachelor and lived in one bedroomed house in Nairobi West.” Karume also said he knew Lucy Kibaki when she was still a teacher at Kambui Secondary School (Githunguri) but she had not yet met Kibaki.

Those days, the only person who had a car was my business partner, Charles Kigwe, and he would give the two a lift whenever they wanted to go somewhere.

“We would drop Kibaki in Nairobi West after a drinking session,”  the late minister said of Kibaki’s early life as captured in the latter’s journal dubbed “Mwai Kibaki 50 years of national service” that was released on Wednesday.

Karume says Kibaki did not earn a salary in Kanu. I remember one time when we dropped him home, he said: “I do not know what will happen at night because I do not have money for my electricity bill.”

The bill was Sh6.50 cents and Kibaki could not afford it. Luckily, Kigwe decided to pay the bill and that night we drank till late.”

Whenever they wanted to have serious conversations they did it over a beer. Karume needed to talk to Kibaki about a job offer at the East African Breweries Limited, which he rejected.

When they decided to register Democratic Party, they conversed it while celebrating a Christmas party in Mombasa “when Kibaki called a journalist and told her to go and announce his resignation from the government”.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, who was a long time friend, and who also served in his Cabinet, said after the evening farewell party at State House on the day he handed power, they had expected that the late President would be driven to Mweiga, only for the motorcade to go to Muthaiga.

His longtime friend Joseph Munyao, who served as the Democratic Party Secretary-General when Kibaki was the party leader, said the deceased was a fun-loving person who enjoyed socialising in high-end hotels.

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