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February 23, 2019

Kibaki did not at all deserve the Mo Ibrahim leadership award

Former President Mwai Kibaki leaves the African Union (AU) building in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2012. Photo/REUTERS
Former President Mwai Kibaki leaves the African Union (AU) building in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2012. Photo/REUTERS

I was surprised to learn that Kenya’s retired President Mwai Kibaki had been nominated for the MO award for promoting democracy and good governance in Kenya.

Before I explain why, let me join others who are convinced that the best way of thanking good leadership in Africa, is not giving former Presidents a Sh460 million and another $200,000 every year until they die.

Certainly, the award money can be put to better use of fighting poverty. Our leaders do not need that money since their governments have already pampered them with millions every year while the award money is more urgently needed elsewhere. Moreover, African leaders don’t do their people a favour when they promote democracy and govern. It is precisely what they are elected to do.

Giving an award of so much money to African leaders is to spoil them when what Africa needs are not former Presidents who swim in oceans of money, but former leaders who have decided and know how to live simply like late President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, late President Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, recently retired President Jose Pepe Mujica of Uruguay, retired President Fidel Castro of Cuba and President Pohamba of Namibia who beat Kibaki to the award.

Encouraging African Presidents and Prime Ministers to live, retire and die in luxury does not decrease but increase appetite of African leaders to be corrupt. It makes even the good leaders bad by forcing so much money on them and denies them entry into heaven about which we are told by the Bible that it will be easier for a camel to pass through the hole of a needle than for a rich man to enter.

As for reasons why Kibaki does not qualify to earn the Mo Ibrahim African Leadership Award for promoting democracy and good governance, I cite the following from his long history as a leader.

First, Kibaki did not promote democracy when he served for 12 years as Kenya’s Vice President, assisting in the construction and maintenance of one-party dictatorship that wreaked havoc to Kenyans for many years. And when Kenyans started to clamour for multiparty democracy, Kibaki accused them of being mad men of the market who were trying to cut a fig tree with razor blade. Anyone who may ignore Kibaki’s disqualification as champion of promoting democracy is either ignorant or very hypocritical. By supporting dictatorship, Kibaki never promoted democracy.

Second, while touted as the best economist Kenya ever had, the truth is that Kibaki’s economic policies as Minister for Finance and adviser to both President Kenyatta and President Moi, are key reasons why Kenya was left behind economically when countries like Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea were developing into First World. Today, Kenya is rated as sixth poorest country in Africa –18 million of her citizens languish below poverty line and has little chance of eliminating poverty by 2030. By advocating capitalist policies, Kibaki helped to keep Kenya in poverty for more than 50 years, which is hardly good governance.

Third, under Kibaki’s rule, negative ethnicity grew by leaps and bounds as ideology of all politics and sparked post-election violence that led to more than 1,300 deaths. For the first time under Kibaki and Raila Odinga, Kenyans appeared at the ICC in The Hague charged with crimes against humanity, a blemish that will forever embarrass Kenyans. While he was the only one with the means to protect every Kenyan, Kibaki stood back and watched Kenyans slaughter one another.

Fourth, as President of the government of national unity and co-principal of the same with Raila Odinga, corruption was casually and officially shared between the two partners of the coalition as a means of sharing the booty of political conquest. Shared ethnic corruption was not only promoted among principal communities of the coalition, but also defended as a right of leadership.

Fifth, during Kibaki’s reign, more than a thousand Kenyans, mainly youths of the Mungiki sect died from extrajudicial executions for which nobody has ever been prosecuted. While Kenyans have been afraid to condemn and criticise Kibaki for these executions, it is hardly democracy or good governance for Kibaki to claim credit and Mo award for these executions.

The best Kibaki can do is quietly disappear into his retirement rather than force Kenyans to start taking stock of his political life, because it is not that pretty.

Sixth, if Kibaki will get an award for democracy, freedom and good governance, he should show any sacrifice he made fighting for democracy, freedom or justice. That Kenyans elected Kibaki President does not mean that he or anybody else should claim for him credit for things he never did. People who have been with Kibaki know his genius lies not in championing people’s causes like democracy, human rights or justice, but in lying low until a political storm passes, accepting offers to lead others that have done all the fighting for him, or simply and quietly accepting credit he does not deserve. Without prejudice, Kibaki does not measure up when compared to Presidents like Mandela, Pohamba or Mujica who were jailed for freedom and democracy.

Sorry, but anyone who knows Kibaki and wants to be politically and intellectually honest must admit it would have been a tragedy for Kibaki to win the MO award. Had he won the MO award, it would have lost its capacity to inspire better leadership in future.


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