The final journey to his Othaya home for retired President Mwai Kibaki was something of a grand home-coming that evoked memories of the good things he has been eulogised for doing.
From the Lee Funeral Home where Kibaki’s body was loaded into the Jaguar hearse for the 125 kilometre journey to Othaya, the military procession bringing him to rest at the place of his birth passed through some of the hallmarks of the development record that forms the bigger part of his eulogy.
Everything has been said, written and broadcast about Kenya’s third President since he passed away on April 22, but no words can recreate the wistful nostalgia of his era than the slow military convoy passing through the heart of central Kenya, taking him home for the last time.
From Nairobi, the funeral convoy joined the 50-kilometre Thika Super Highway that has variously been ticked as Kibaki’s highlight of road infrastructure during his 10-year term. Hundreds of Kenyans had gathered since dawn at the inter-change on the GSU headquarters that stretches as the new Outering Road from the superhighway for 12-kilometre, another of Kibaki’s projects, to wave goodbye to the former leader.
At Ruiru, another crowd braved a morning chill and drizzle to see Kibaki go home. They gathered atop the Eastern Bypass interchange that is part of over hundred-kilometre ring road around the city. The four Nairobi by-passes have become traffic breathers for the last 20 years, with the name of Kibaki mentioned every time they are referred to.
Down at the Makutano junction, the convoy joined the Kenol-Marua road, bound to be the longest dual-carriage in central Kenya. Although constructed in the Uhuru Kenyatta term, the blueprints for the road date back to the Kibaki era.
Several other tarmac roads spread into the interior of all counties in the region, their high-quality construction attributable to the beginning of the Kibaki reign when he kicked out so-called ‘çow-boy’ contractors and replaced them with quality companies, most of them Chinese and European.
Apart from what was seen on the road, most of what Kibaki will be remembered for was echoed differently by broadcast commentators as they enumerated what the former had done for Kenya.
Most of the development projects, which have continued seamlessly into the Uhuru terms are anchored on the Vision 2030 started by Kibaki’s economy technocrats.
Kenya’s arguably biggest infrastructural mega project, the Standard Gauge Railway, was a Kibaki blueprint, completed by his successor.
The ease on the economy that afforded the government foreign loans to fund infrastructure was started at home through a vibrant re-invigoration of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) that doubled revenue collection within one year and was still counting by the time Kibaki left office in 2013.
Growth in government revenue went alongside growth in private business and personal improvement of financial status of the employed and business people through lowering of interest rates and offering of bank unsecured loans. The latter were made possible by government shunning of local bank loans.
The Kibaki policy of facing East, mostly to China for infrastructural projects, is hailed as one of the best policies to spur development. Traditional Kenya’s donor partners that had shackled the previous government with conditional loans and grants were overlooked during Kibaki time as rapid, unfettered sources of funding became available.
On social improvement, Kibaki’s most acclaimed policy of free primary education drew accolades internationally. This was followed by an unprecedented fund for the elderly and people with disability, made affordable domestically by growth in KRA collection.
As the funeral convoy moved slowly closer home to Othaya, it was easy to spot along the way installations for electricity, agriculture, healthcare, Tvet, Water and other things that date back to Kibaki’s sound development policies.
From a sloping hill near Othaya Approved School, where Kibaki’s body was received by Church and Military personnel, one could see yonder rolling hills laden with lush tea bushes, the agricultural hallmark of this region.
Before Kibaki came to power, the tea and coffee industry had ground almost to a halt. By the time he left, and extending to today, the cash crops of central Kenya have returned to the profitability known in the 1970s, thanks to sound agricultural policies by two subsequent governments.
For funeral speakers seeking the words to praise Kibaki, the quote from Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, as he praised Caesar in a eulogy, may suffice to be paraphrased for Kibaki: “Here was a Kibaki, when commeth such another!?”
The Writer is the Chairman, Media Council of Kenya (MCK)