In the mid-1970s, George Mwicigi — who died last Friday — did two things in Kandara Constituency: Through harambee, he started a multimillion-shilling water project that became a national showpiece and he gave small-scale farmers grade cattle to boost milk production.
So successful was the water project that the then President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, spoke about it and many politicians trooped to Kandara, hoping to replicate it in their home areas.
Mwicigi also rolled out a Sh10 million grade cows scheme that was to see a third of the households in his constituency receive dairy animals to improve their livelihoods.
But there was only one problem with some of the cows — they had been stolen from Chebororwa Farmers’ Training Farm in the Rift Valley.
That accusation in Parliament would politically haunt Mwicigi for several years and efforts in July 1978 by then Agriculture minister Jeremiah Nyagah to protect his assistant minister failed.
Mwicigi faced a parliamentary select committee picked to investigate how the cows left a government farm and why he never paid for them.
He told the team that he was not invoiced but that he later paid for them.
But he was lucky. Just before the report was tabled in Parliament, President Kenyatta died and Parliament was dissolved before it could receive the report.
Later attempts by then Eldoret South MP Charles Murgor, who chaired the Select Committee on Chebororwa Cattle, to introduce the report failed.
At the time, Mwicigi read mischief in the accusations and saw it as witch-hunt led by Murang’a politicians, among them, Water minister Julius Gikonyo Kiano.
He said his critics were envious of his development record.
Interestingly, it was William Murgor, the assistant minister for Water, who had introduced the matter in Parliament, alleging that Mwicigi had taken the cattle without paying for them.
However, the accusations did not dim his popularity among Kandara women voters and when he was going through the Chebororwa crisis, he invited Wangari Maathai, an activist, and Eddah Gachukia, then the chairperson of National Council of Women, to a political rally on his home turf.
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
At the rally, he said the accusations against him were being orchestrated by a senior Murang’a politician whom he described as a “jealous idler”.
At the time, Dr Kiano was the senior most politician from the region.
“If I had stolen the cows, how come they were not reported to the police?” he asked the crowd.
In the end, the rally passed a vote of confidence in Mwicigi’s two projects.
Many years later, Kandara still remains one of the few rural constituencies where many homes have piped water — thanks to Mwicigi.
Mwicigi was elected to Parliament in 1979 to lead a constituency previously dominated by one of the Kapenguria-Six — Bildad Kaggia. Among the heavyweights Mwicigi had to contend with were Makuyu MP Mwangi Gachago (who was later jailed for stealing coffee), Dr Kiano and Kaggia.
In 1983, Mwicigi was re-elected, but lost in 1988 and ventured into horticulture.
His widow, Rebecca, is an MCA in Murang’a County.