Kibaki lonely at the top
Posted Saturday, June 30 2012 at 23:30
When Amason Kingi was a fourth year law student at the University of Nairobi in 1998, Mr Mwai Kibaki had served as an MP for 35 years, 10 of them as vice-president.
The Othaya MP had contested the presidency twice and was serving as Opposition leader.
So huge is the age difference and political experience between the two. When Mr Kibaki was being sacked as vice-president in 1988, Mr Kingi was in primary school.
Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa was barely 19. When Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba was born in 1975, Mr Kibaki had served as Cabinet minister for 10 years, mostly in the critical Finance and Strategic Planning docket.
The economist was appointed vice-president in the Moi government in 1978 after the death of founding President Jomo Kenyatta.
Today, Mr Kingi and Mr Wamalwa, politicians young enough to be President Kibaki’s sons, are ministers in his cabinet while Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who has distinguished himself as a Kibaki right hand man, is 30 years younger than the President.
A review of the membership of the Kibaki Cabinet returns a picture of a lonely man in the twilight of his otherwise long and checkered political career.
The Commander-in-Chief is spending the last years of his political journey without the comfort of men and women of his generation, some having fallen out of the way due to the vagaries of Kenyan politics, retired or by natural attrition.
With the recent deaths of his age mates Njenga Karume and John Michuki and the exit from the political stage of former Vice-President Moody Awori and former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae, President Kibaki, 81, has been forced to work with much younger politicians. (READ: Painful experience for Kibaki)
This is unlike former presidents Kenyatta and Moi who spent their last years at the helm with considerably experienced members of the so-called kitchen cabinets.
President Kenyatta was surrounded by the likes of his brother-law Mbiyu Koinange, James Gichuru, Dr Njoroge Mungai and Charles Njonjo while President Moi had Nicholas Biwott, Shariff Nassir and William ole Ntimama.
Today, at 82, Mr Ntimama is the oldest member of the Kibaki Cabinet. While celebrating the President’s life in politics, Mr Ntimama describes the Head of State’s current position as “uncomfortable”.
“Though he remains intellectually alert and physically strong, he lacks the benefit of the presence and wisdom of his age mates,” Mr Ntimama says.
The Heritage minister fears that the absence of the President’s old comrades leaves him surrounded by younger, restless and ambitious politicians who could misadvise or mislead him.
“The young politicians share no history with him. They are greedy for power and work for tribal interests at the expense of the country,” he said.
The situation also limits his level of interaction. “There is a gap because some age groups in Africa find it difficult to intermingle,” the minister added.
A former Cabinet minister in the Kibaki administration who spoke on condition of anonymity helped to illustrate President Kibaki’s situation.
“He is a man with a strong sense of self-confidence. He is like a sage. He listens to the young politicians whenever they approach him but he always gives the final word,” the former minister said.