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Tributes paid as Kenya’s First Lady is laid to rest

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Glowing tributes were paid to former First Lady Lucy Kibaki, with speeches by a number of leaders and family members, which offered Kenyans a peep into the extensive influence she wielded behind the scenes.

Deputy President William Ruto told how during ceremonies to mark the endorsement of the Constitution in 2010, Mrs Kibaki called him aside and asked him to work with the then Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

During the 2010 referendum, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were on opposite sides. While Mr Kenyatta was backing the “Yes” or “Green” team that supported the new supreme law, Mr Ruto had joined hands with religious leaders who were opposing the new Constitution under the “No” team. The “Yes” team won.

“During the party, she asked an aide to call me. At first, I was very afraid because I did not know why Mama Taifa (the mother of the nation) was calling me and whether I was about to face her wrath. But when we met, she asked me to work with Uhuru ahead of 2013 elections and we talked at length. And that is how our friendship with Uhuru developed into a partnership,” said Mr Ruto.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto went on to form TNA and URP respectively and then united the two under the Jubilee coalition and clinched power in 2013. “Power brokers and lazy people had a rough time due to Lucy,” said Mr Ruto.

President Kenyatta also spoke about how Mama Lucy helped him when he was in trouble.

“She stood by me riria mang’auro mathiururukiirie (when vultures and scorpions surrounded me),” he said in Gikuyu.

That could have referred to when the President was named as an ICC suspect after the 2007 elections. The President has previously described it as one of most difficult moments of his presidency.

When former prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo released his name alongside five others, pressure mounted on him to resign as both Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minister.

He quit the ministerial post but remained Deputy Prime Minister. The case was eventually dropped.

“Many successful men have made it due to the strong women behind them. She was one of them,” he said.

But a confession by Jimmy Kibaki, Lucy’s son, demonstrated the power struggles that characterised President Kibaki’s first years in power. It was 2003 and the President was recovering from an accident that took place two months before elections. The accident had rendered him immobile and he could not move around. To see him, his family had to visit State House.

VISITED STATE HOUSE

But when Jimmy Kibaki tried to visit him, a State House official barred him. He wanted any member of the family to make an appointment. Jimmy agreed to the arrangement and casually mentioned the incident to his mother.

The First Lady called a meeting of State House officials and gave them a tongue lashing. The next time the family visited State House, they were treated like royalty.

“The official never denied us access again,” said Jimmy, drawing laughter. During Kibaki’s time in office, several State House operatives were kicked out in rapid succession after falling out with the First Lady.

The First Lady also dissuaded Jimmy from vying for the Othaya seat. Kibaki’s son had launched an initiative dubbed Simama Kenya which he claimed was to encourage youth to enter leadership. He even attended multiple harambees in Othaya and other parts of the country and launched several youth projects. It was widely expected that he would vie in the 2013 elections to succeed his father as Othaya MP. But the former First Lady dissuaded him.

“She told me that the political climate then was not good for ‘a person of my values’. She thus encouraged me to serve the people in other ways,” recalled Jimmy.

That decision changed Othaya politics. For the Kibaki family ended up backing Gichuki Mugambi for the seat in an attempt to stop the current MP, Mary Wambui.

Ms Wambui was even at some point denied the TNA ticket which she had won. The party rescinded the decision after protests. But she triumphed in the 2013 General Election and won the subsequent court cases challenging her election. If Jimmy had not backed out after his mother’s advice, Othaya voters would have had to make a choice.

[Source: All Africa]
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