How I remember President Mwai Kibaki and the day he asked Tourism leaders to join him at the high table for lunch

How I remember President Mwai Kibaki and the day he asked Tourism leaders to join him at the high table for lunch Tamarind Mombasa .

It was a great honour to sit on the same table with H.E The President when he came to Mombasa pushing for Tourism revival

I am late to post my condolences  message for departed retired President  Mwai Kibaki though I was one of the first to mourn him on my other platform Twitter. A one liner was not befitting on hence I took my time.

Mzee Kibaki was a true gentleman and as hotelier in my younger days I had the privilege to host many VIPs in the hotels that I managed and Mzee Kibaki with his wife were always a guest one time or the other in one of my hotels.

For the young ones who may not know,  Kibaki was Vice President  from 1978 until he was dropped in 1988 and soon after multi party was allowed and Kibaki opted to leave goverment and form his own party , Democratic Party DP and a fist thrust in the air was the sign. I was still in college and I recall joining DP then what they  called Young Democrats.

He was not  a man to hit the streets to picket  but one day he did make it to Uhuru  park and intolerant KANU regime dispersed them and Kibaki was photographed choking in tear gas. While he was not confrontational he was laid back but always rose to the occasion.

His two attempts to become president did not work mainly due to a divided opposition. Can you imagine for once if Kibaki took over in 1992?

In 1999 he joined us for new years eve at Nyali Beach Hotel Mombasa where I was the F&B Manager and he was happy to sit amongst  other guests . I still recall walking towards him and I said to him ” God willing you will be our next President despite failing twice ” he just smiled …tutaona ( will see )  he quipped . Three years later “Kibaki Tosha” moment happened thanks to Raila Odinga  and Mzee Kibaki became our 3rd President  and CIC. Kenya was voted the most optimistic  nation on earth, the mood  was electric and for once we all looked at a very bright future and truly Kibaki did make us dream and dream big we did.

Kibaki was no nonsense man , and suddenly I never saw multitude  of people hanging around state house Mombasa when he was in town. He was a man who did not entertain patronage and anyone trying to use his name to earn favours. His mantra : Fanyeni Kazi  Mtie Bidii ” he was true to it.

I met him on many occasions but the special  one was when he came visiting Mombasa and Tourism was just recovering from the infamous PEV of 2007/8.

While I was invited as Chairman  of Kenya Coast Tourist Association – KCTA to the lunch meet   I never expected that I was going to be asked to join H.E at the high table. Minister Najib Balala told me H.E wants to sit and hear from Tourism players here at the coast so you will sit with him and I was joined by my other departed mentor Mzee Sondhi of Reef Hotel.

It was a hard one , where do I start?  Once we broke ice we went into real business and I did share this story sometimes back and I will share it again.

We managed to tell him the importance  of Tourism to Kenya coast and our economy. He is an Economist  but he was a good listener and he simply said we were preaching to the converted and he urged us on.

What did we ask ? and I personally asked for the following:

1. Open skies policy for Mombasa . We then started to get Ethiopian airlines.  Turkish  and even Qatar later who started to fly into Mombasa.  Sadly as I write  this after Covid mess Turkish have been denied the right to fly daily  to Mombasa, while KLM were equally denied and they are still pushing  to be allowed to come to Mombasa . Ethiopian are yet to get a chance to fly twice daily if allowed, they currently have daily flight and they wnat to up to two flights. Under Kibaki that was no brainer, you see if you can’t  find your way to a destination your hotels will empty. Kibaki understood that.

2. Airport acess road to Moi International  Airport  and he said there are plans and efforts to fix it. I recall raising it again at a private sector lunch meeting with H.E Uhuru Kenyatta and that was the day I was told about Trademark  and UK government  partnership with GOK to fix our airport  road and true to their words both Presidents kept the promise and today it is a breeze . It is only fair I salute President  Uhuru State House Kenya     for this and even more is happening Kibarani and Makupa bridge

3. Southern Bypass to Diani, again Mzee Kibaki said it is top on his agenda and to be fair to Jubilee  they picked from where  he left and in few months time we will have the beautiful  bypass to Kwale and South coast and by extension Tanzania.  We are looking forward to President  Uhuru  coming over to commission it.

Mzee Kibaki was a man of few words but he strongly believed in infrastructure and he planted the first seeds to help us understand what it means to have good motorbale roads. Ignore those who keep asking ” Tutakula  Barabara” , I dare ask them ” Ukijenga  Jikoni , Utakula  jikoni ? It’s an enabler to a good meal. He gave us Thika Superhighway  which has become some benchmark  in Sub Saharan  Africa.

He gave us Voi Taveta road and Emali Loitoktok  road while in my home area he gave us Isiolo Marsabit Moyale highway, again to be fair to Uhuru he made sure these projects were all completed since they are part of our Vision 2030. Continued is key. A rogue successor would have tossed the said projects out of the window like what most MPs have done with unfinished CDF projects.

Lest your forget it was under his tenure that Mpesa was born  and allowed to be . Were it not for him and CBK Governor then Ndungu and Hon Michuki banks would have had their way. Top banks executives  went to see CBK governor  then and it was close to 6 CEOs against Michael  Joseph CEO Safaricom  who said I am not targeting your clients if anything we will compliment your work, he was targeting what he called ” The Unbankable ” in the eyes of the banks. Rest as they say is history. If Mpesa was to be banned I am sure banks would be the first to say , how dare you.

One key thing Mzee Kibaki did was to avoid borrowing locally leaving banks to serve Wanjiku. You recall banks setting up tents at all corners  in town begging you to open an account with them , well sadly all that went into thin air. Wanjiku was left at the mercy of digital lenders and we became a Fuliza Nation. This is one tragedy we must undo. It is also one thing  that saddens  MJ the man behind Mpesa.

Please join me to mourn one very special Kenyan Mzee Kibaki , I hope and pray that our next President rekindles the mojo displayed by Mwai Kibaki.  

Fare the well Mzee , May Your Soul Rest In Peace .

Mohammed Hersi


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