For a man who rarely grants media interviews, Dr Karanja Kibicho has in the recent past dominated media headlines with numerous politicians making all manner of accusations against him.
Deputy President William Ruto, the country’s second-most powerful man, has reportedly been involved in two high profile confrontations with the Interior PS.
In one instance said to have happened at the JKIA airside, the DP allegedly went on a tirade against Kibicho – accusing him of ordering withdrawal of provincial administration bosses from Ruto’s campaign rallies around the country.
In the second instance, the DP is said to have made a complaint against Kibicho and several other Mt Kenya government officials for allegedly threatening his life.
In numerous other instances, politicians allied to the DP have made allegations against the Interior PS. Most recently, Kandara MP Alice Wahome claimed that her life and that of Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro were in danger after Kibicho allegedly hatched a plan to “finish them”.
Perhaps out of the frequency of accusations against him, Kibicho rarely bothers to reply through the media where most of these accusations are made - engineers are said to be men of few words who let their work talk for them.
Prior to 2010, the bespectacled PS was barely known outside lecture halls and in the engineering circles.
Department of Engineering JKUAT
His niche research area was in the use of rice and coffee husks to form biodegrable charcoal masses as an alternative fuel. Kibicho also chaired the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
In 2010, President Mwai Kibaki - in his characteristic soft spot for academics - picked Kibicho to become Industrialization PS.
Three years later, after the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013, the man from Kirinyaga was moved from his forte, industrialization, and thrown into the world of diplomacy as Foreign Affairs PS.
“I understand that nations do not work with each other out of romantic love, they do so to achieve shared interests,” he told Parliament while being vetted.
His speeches are often made with a smile, despite his no-nonsense approach to issues.
In one instance, shortly after moving to the Interior ministry, Kibicho was on a campaign to end illicit brews in the Mt Kenya region.
At one time, he addressed a public meeting where some of the chiefs whose areas had been affected by illicit brews were present.
“There are two chiefs here. One is Weston Ngiria and the other is Dickson Kimama, please return my uniform,” the PS said as the two chiefs publicly removed their official hats and shirts.
It was a rare show of Kibicho’s modus operandi – no time for games – but it was not the only one.
Uhuru sh40 bob debt to Nairobi hawker
Last year, Dennis Wachira, a hawker in Nairobi, went viral after he was captured saying President Kenyatta owed him Sh40 after selling chewing gums as the head of state was campaigning.
Kibicho invited the hawker to his office at Harambee House but Wachira could not believe his eyes after the PS gave him a Sh50 note and demanded for change – in the full glare of cameras.
President Kenyatta's Executive Number one of 2019, essentially made Kibicho a super PS as he now chairs the powerful National Development Implementation Technical Committee - which coordinates some of functions that had been previously left to the Office of the Deputy President.
Karanja Kibicho's Education
Despite their perceived differences, the PS and the DP have a lot in common. They are age mates and both joined the University of Nairobi in 1987 – Kibicho studied Mechanical Engineering while Ruto focused on botany and zoology.
They both obtained their master’s degree at the UoN at different times – 1996 for Kibicho and 2011 for Ruto.
They are both PhD holders and teetotalers – Ruto has abstained from alcohol throughout his life while Kibicho quit the bottle after becoming Interior PS.
“I used to take alcohol moderately. But when I was appointed to this post (Interior PS), I have never drunk because I know that I am required to be very alert and keen at all times," the PS said in a past interview.