How Nairobi lawyer saved Mwai Kibaki's life in CBD

Difficult moment

Apart from the ten years he served in the opposition, Kibaki had a largely easy life in government.

Between 1992 and 2002, the now retired President found himself in unfamiliar waters as he sought to challenge the Moi government that was known for its allergy to criticism.

Civil society activist Njonjo Mue recalls witnessing the first time that Kibaki was teargassed – at the age of 66.

The incident took place on May 31 1997 when civil society groups were joined by Opposition politicians at a huge rally at Uhuru Park where had planned to push for constitutional reforms ahead of that year’s general election.

The activist recalls Kibaki, who was the official leader of the opposition, attended the rally in the company of Martin Shikuku, Kiraitu Murungi, Kennedy Kiliku and James Orengo.

However, the police soon disrupted the rally with teargas cannisters that initiated Kibaki to the world of activism.

“I remember Mwai Kibaki, who had never been on the battlefield before, choking and in tears looking completely lost. We gave him some water because we thought he would collapse and as he recovered, he said memorably in Kikuyu, “Kai ikoragwo i nduru atia? Uguo niguo muiguaga? Kweri mukiri omiriria.” (You mean it burns this much? Is this what you guys experience? You must be truly brave!),” Mue recalls the then Othaya MP complaining.

Moi eventually allowed some of the reforms pushed by the Opposition, but Kibaki avoided any confrontations with the brutal state machinery.

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