Mwai Kibaki, the man who epitomised Kenya’s tragedy | Opinions


The demise of Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s third president, has predictably elicited numerous commentaries. There have been the same old hagiographic tributes from politicians and newsmen, extolling him as “the gentleman of Kenyan politics”, praising his custodianship of the nation’s financial system each as finance minister and president, in addition to his supposed integrity. However, and that is considerably uncommon, the protection has not been overwhelmingly cloying. Among the many gushing memorials, there have been different outstanding items laying out his file of cowardice, deception and betrayal, his lust for energy that just about destroyed the nation and his self-enrichment and tolerance for corruption.

For me, Mwai Kibaki epitomised Kenya’s tragedy. There is no such thing as a doubting his brilliance – a person who got here from the humblest of beginnings, excelled in class and grew to be thought of one of the influential and promising Africans of his technology. However when it got here right down to it, he was incapable of extricating himself from and confronting the colonial system that had opened doorways for him however saved them closed for thus a lot of his countrymen.

“Will the elite, which has inherited energy from the colonialists, use that energy to deliver in regards to the vital social and financial modifications, or will they succumb to the lure of wealth, consolation and standing and thereby develop into a part of the Outdated Institution?” he requested in 1964, months after Kenya had secured its independence from Britain. Kibaki, who was in authorities from the very begin, as a everlasting secretary of the treasury, and ultimately as minister of finance, was a type of elites, and as historical past reveals, they fortunately ensconced themselves within the colonial state and continued its thieving and brutal methods.

With Kibaki operating the financial system between 1969 and 1982, Kenya did expertise an preliminary interval of relative prosperity. Nonetheless, the shine rapidly wore off as development fell, which a minimum of one examine has blamed on “the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 compounded by poor macroeconomic administration, breaking the custom of fiscal accountability and prudent financial coverage adopted throughout the early years of independence”.

All alongside, the Kenyan elite engaged in a spree of self-enrichment. Amongst them, Kibaki clearly “succumbed to the lure of and wealth, consolation and standing” and was completely satisfied to serve within the oppressive and kleptocratic administrations of his predecessors, Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi. Regardless of spending virtually his complete working life in public workplace, he died one of many wealthiest males within the land. And whilst he left workplace in 2013, he engineered an exorbitant and immoral “retirement bundle” for himself, forcing Kenyans to shell out $2.5 million gratuity fee along with tens of 1000’s extra in month-to-month pension funds and advantages later declared unconstitutional.

Although he confirmed flashes of braveness, equivalent to when distinguished himself by being the only cupboard minister to attend the funeral of JM Kariuki, a populist politician whom the Jomo Kenyatta regime murdered in 1975, for a lot of his profession it was mentioned that he by no means noticed a fence he didn’t want to sit on. He held the doubtful honour of getting moved the 1982 constitutional modification that made Kenya legally a single-party state. Undoing that will develop into the main target of political reform efforts later within the decade, which Kibaki would ridicule as attempting to chop down a tree with a razor blade. However as soon as these efforts succeeded in 1991, he was among the many first to piggyback on them, abandoning the ruling celebration, KANU, to type his personal outfit.

In 2002, he once more benefitted from the reform efforts when he was elected president by a landslide, with an awesome mandate to overthrow the colonial system and the corruption it bred. As an alternative, he bastardised the constitutional assessment course of, main Kenyans to reject it in a referendum in 2005. He presided over an orgy of corrupt looting that in 2004 was described by the UK ambassador as gluttonous consuming. By the top of his first time period, he was completely satisfied to tear up the “gentleman’s settlement” that 5 years earlier had allowed opposition events to appoint members of the election fee, paving the way in which for his 2002 win. That set the stage for the disputed 2007 elections, which many, together with me, imagine he stole, and the violence that adopted that claimed a minimum of 1,300 lives, displaced a whole bunch of 1000’s, and introduced the nation to the brink of anarchy. Lots of these deaths had been by the hands of the police he managed and a murderous gang that the Worldwide Legal Courtroom prosecutor claimed had met with him at State Home.

Kenyans are inclined to look again on the Kibaki years with rose-tinted glasses as a kind of financial “golden age” and, regardless of all of the theft and criminality of his regime, Kibaki himself as competent and distinctive. I’ve my doubts. Whenever you put collectively the middling financial system; the gluttonous consuming; the numerous scandals and state violence, together with assaults on the press; and the watering down of the structure, his tenure actually doesn’t appear very distinctive.

In the long run, he proved to be true to the system that made him. It’s the identical system that made Kenya and that the nation has for 60 years been attempting to extricate itself from. Cometh the hour, cometh the person, goes the saying. Sadly, when Kenya’s second got here, Kibaki turned out to not be the person.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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