Sunday, August 16, 2009



By Kenfrey Kiberenge

Mr Jimmy Kibaki, the President’s eldest son, has for the first time spoken at length about his father and gives insights on the kind of person the Head of State is.

He says his father does not prop anyone, not even his children. And Jimmy speaks from experience.

Speaking to ‘The Standard on Sunday’ at his Westlands office in Nairobi last week, Jimmy disclosed how he once approached his father for a loan to start a business. The response from Kibaki was startling.

President Kibaki at a function.

"He told me: ‘I am not a director in that business and I am not a shareholder, so go get a loan from the bank’," Jimmy recalls.

He thus took a bank loan to set up a company. His parents — the President and First Lady Lucy Kibaki — only helped him furnish the office.

And this appears to be characteristic of the man. Shortly after Kibaki became President in 2003, he visited his Nyeri turf and some leaders sought his help in matters financial. He told them to borrow money from banks.

Jimmy set up his company but 18 months later, the business was in trouble. He again went to his father who, instead of bailing him out, advised him to go into employment "to get the right experience on running a business".

Jimmy confesses that this worked: "I was in the insurance sector for five years, and went back to business. It has never been the same again."

On claims that the President is grooming Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor, Jimmy said the allegations are baseless. He said Uhuru has had a personal relationship with Kibaki since he (Uhuru) was born in 1961. It is Kibaki who chose the name ‘Uhuru’ for Kenyatta’s son because he was born two years before independence.

Jimmy says Kibaki has no succession plan and adds: "As far as the President is concerned, when it comes to politics you are on your own."

Vantage position

But analysts say the President has strategically placed Uhuru at a vantage position to take over the central Kenya mantle once he retires in 2012.

When the Grand Coalition Government was formed, Kibaki picked Uhuru as a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. But when Parliament hounded out Mr Amos Kimunya from the Finance docket, the President gave it to Uhuru. These are key dockets. At Treasury, Uhuru wields a lot of power and influence.

In President Kibaki’s seven years at the helm, he has left friends and foes confused over his management style.

Here is a president who speaks little and has allowed Cabinet ministers and Government officials a lot of leeway, something that has often been criticised as creating near anarchy.

But Jimmy says Kibaki does not "waste time" supervising juniors.

"The President does not like acting like a headmaster. He has always been like that," he said.

The Head of State has on several occasions come under criticism for his style of doing things. Some ministers clash in public and criticise Government decisions, while others take on Kibaki in the media.

This is not the way ministers behaved during the reigns of former presidents Moi and Kenyatta. Moi has himself been unhappy with the conduct of ministers. Commenting on their public outbursts recently, he said his management style was misconstrued as dictatorship, but he said he instilled discipline in the Cabinet.

But Kibaki’s son said once his father assigns you a job, he expects you to do it professionally.


"The President likes people to fulfill their potential. If he gives you a task and you feel you can’t do it, he expects you to tell him so," said Jimmy.

He added that the Head of State rewards good work when he is impressed. "The more you achieve, the closer you get to him," he said.

Jimmy is the force behind a new initiative, Simama Kenya, targeting the youth. It was launched on Tuesday. Political pundits see it as part of the Kibaki succession plan. Jimmy confirmed that he had talked to Kibaki about the initiative and the President supports it.

Central Kenya MPs have expressed fear Jimmy could be privy to Kibaki’s plans and many are reluctant to comment on Simama Kenya.

They think criticising it could put them at loggerheads with the First Family, and put their political careers at risk. But Jimmy says the fears are unfounded.

On claims that Kibaki is surrounded by a powerful group, a kitchen Cabinet, that controls the levers of the State, Jimmy rubbished the allegations.

Kibaki’s friends

He, however, added that there are people — some of them ministers — who have been Kibaki’s friends for decades and their friendship could not have ended just because he became President.

But he was quick to add that Kibaki "has no time for gossip".

"He does not have a kitchen Cabinet. And if you go to State House and tell him that so and so has done this or that, he will tell you off characteristically: ‘Wewe kijana sitaki maneno yako’," said Jimmy.

He added that his father is a "stickler for protocol and order in Government".

He described his mother, Lucy, as the pillar of the family, adding she has played a pivotal role in Kibaki’s political career.

The boy daddy spared the rod
President Kibaki and First Lady Lucy Kibaki have never caned their eldest son, Jimmy.

The 46-year-old businessman made the confession last week, adding that teachers at Nairobi’s St Mary’s School where he did his A-levels did that on their behalf. And when he reported to his father (then Vice-President) that he had been spanked, Kibaki did not look shocked or annoyed. Instead, he sided with the teachers, much to Jimmy’s chagrin.

He says with his siblings, David Kagai, Tony Githinji and Judy Wanjiku, they were brought up in a strict Catholic way.

As such, they did not misbehave at home and thought that school was a better place to open up. They were in for a rude shock.

"I was caned thoroughly at St Mary’s," he said.

Jimmy, the man behind Simama Kenya, the organisation that is causing jitters in the political scene, was born on June 30, 1963.

York University

He completed his A-levels at St Mary’s School in 1981, and later went to York University, Canada, for three years.

He then joined Salve Regina University in the United States for a year. He studied political science and business administration and returned to Kenya in 1988, to start a business.

Now a businessman in property development, Jimmy is married to Sheryl and they have a son, Mwai Kibaki Jnr.

A teetotaler, he quit drinking six years ago. Jimmy’s hobbies include reading, playing golf and farming.

Speculation is rife that Simama Kenya, which has been registered as a trust, will be transformed into a political party ahead of the 2012 General Election.

Independent canditates

Jimmy is non-committal whether he will join politics: "If Simama Kenya succeeds, then we don’t need to go into politics."

Jimmy said he would root for the provision of independent candidates in the new constitution.

He said businessmen who felt politicians were dividing the country floated the initiative in February.

Simama Kenya would ensure that the Cabinet comprises people of about 35 years old, like it was in the 1960s.

It is supported by MPs Kambi Kazungu (Kaloleni), Kiema Kilonzo (Mutito), Joshua Kutuny (Cherang’any) and Hassan Abdirahman (Wajir South) and businessmen and professionals.

A rare meeting with Raila Odinga

Jimmy Kibaki has revealed the message he delivered to Prime Minister Raila Odinga on March 14, last year.

It was 14 days after President Kibaki and Raila signed a peace agreement that ended the worst violence to have rocked post-independent Kenya.

"I told him: ‘Now that you are coming to Government, you need to work harmoniously with the President’," said Kibaki’s son.

The meeting of the two soon after an acrimonious election campaign and post-election violence left Kenyans guessing.

The meeting at the Pentagon House came at a time Raila constantly stated that he felt nothing but contempt for Kibaki, claiming that the President had stolen his victory.

At the time, Raila was the PM-designate since Parliament had not passed the National Accord, which was to bring him and ODM party to Government, into law.

Although the violence had subsided, tension was still high but had been masked thanks to an unrelenting international community, which had played a pivotal role in threatening sanctions against anyone who was perceived to sabotage the accord.

In an interview with The Standard on Sunday, Jimmy revealed he had not been sent by Kibaki, but met Raila out of his own volition.

He said he had met the PM at the Karen Golf Club three days prior to the meeting and requested they "have tea together".

"I had never had a one-on-one with him before. I had only met him informally at several functions, but this was the first formal meeting," Jimmy disclosed.