At the state funeral and requiem mass at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on Friday, visiting leaders described him as a great statesman who helped stabilise both his country and the region. African leaders have paid their tributes to Kenya’s former president Mwai Kibaki who will be buried this Saturday.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africans admired Kibaki’s leadership qualities, equating it to the reforms under Nelson Mandela after apartheid.
“We are collectively here to celebrate the life of a great statesman,” saying he hoped Kenyans “remember president Kibaki for what he stood for.”
“We drew a lot of lessons for the way he led the people of Kenya.”
President Ramaphosa, who took over from Thabo Mbeki in 2018, was one of top African political leaders who attended the ceremony. Others were South Sudan’s Salva Kiir and Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work Zewde.
In his speech, President Ramaphosa said he will continue strengthening ties between his country and Kenya.
In 2008 however, President Ramaphosa, then a businessman, was rejected by Kibaki’s camp when he offered to mediate in the post-election conflict between Kibaki and his then opponent Raila Odinga. Ramaphosa was rejected for allegedly being close friends with Raila, and not expected to be impartial.
Ramaphosa pulled out of the talks which were later mediated by former UN Secretary General and now the late, Kofi Annan, leading to a power-sharing agreement between Kibaki and Raila.
Mr Odinga described Kibaki as a tolerant leader and a perfectionist.
Regional leaders said he has left an indelible mark on regional peace efforts.
“As we gather here to pay our last respects to the late Mwai Kibaki, it should not be to mourn, but to celebrate a life dedicated to serving his nation,” said Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work, who paid tribute to Kibaki’s influence in founding the Lamu Port South Sudan Transport corridor, which includes the Lamu Port, as well as the Nairobi-Moyale highway, meant to help connect the countries.
Although an economist, Kibaki was praised for his peace building efforts, especially in South Sudan and Somalia. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, in a speech read by his minister for Cabinet Affairs, Martin Elia Lomuro, said his country “owes Kibaki a great deal of gratitude for giving our country freedom and independence.”
Kibaki hosted peace talks in Naivasha between then southern Sudan rebels and the government of Sudan in 2005. It birthed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which gave southern Sudan region autonomy, and later independence in 2011 as the youngest democracy in the world, South Sudan.
“The late Mwai Kibaki, had an incredible gift of tolerance. He had the ability to take in pressure and pain without showing distress,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
Praised all round
“We honour and salute the late Mwai Kibaki today, for his toil to our nation's independence and most notably as amongst the leading architect of the modern Kenyan state,” he added.
Kibaki was president between 2002 and 2013. He died on April 22 aged 90. He served as minister for Finance, vice president and opposition leader before winning the presidency in 2003.
Most of Kenya’ neighbours sent senior government representatives and in Tanzania, President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced two days of national mourning and ordered flags to fly at half-mast across its territory and abroad at its diplomatic missions until Kibaki is buried.
She conveyed her “heartfelt condolences to the people of Kenya” and urged Tanzanians to join in solidarity with their neighbours during “this difficult” time, according to a statement by the Director of Presidential Communications Zuhura Yunus.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) the umbrella body of local and foreign business associations, described the late Kibaki as a hero whose economic reforms saw the country’s economy expand from negative into growth figures.
“Kepsa owes its formation, in early 2003, to the late president's vision of collaborating with a more united and representative private sector,” said Kepsa chief executive officer Carol Kariuki.
“Kenya's economy expanded from a negative 2.1 percent in 2002 to a positive 7.0 percent in 2007 thanks to the collaboration with President Kibaki's administration.”
- Additional reporting by Luke Anami and Mohamed Issa