Kibaki’s regional policy focused on economic growth and less on political intrigue

By AGGREY MUTAMBO

Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s third president, had several regional credentials.

Mr. Kibaki’s higher education was perfected in Uganda, at the prestigious Makerere University. He would teach at the university after completing his postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics.

He later spent 40 years in the Kenyan civil service, rising to the presidency in 2002.

On Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta praised Mr Kibaki as “a quintessential patriot whose legacy of civic responsibility will continue to inspire generations of Kenyans into the future.”

“As a leading figure in Kenya’s post-independence history, Mwai Kibaki has won the undying respect and affection of the people of this nation and other nations around the world.”

During his 10 years as president, Kibaki was the chairman of the EAC when Rwanda and Burundi were admitted, rebuilding the bloc into a community of five member states.

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At the time, Mr. Kibaki was in his first term as President of Kenya and the EAC had just been rebuilding itself after an earlier collapse in 1977. Mr. Kibaki’s predecessor, Daniel arap Moi, played a role major in the regrouping of the original EAC of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in 1999.

The integration

Mr. Kibaki then helped expand the bloc to open up trade.

This economic integration may have inspired Kenya’s focus areas in the bloc. On Friday, Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary General, said Mr Kibaki had “served with distinction as a member and chairman of the EAC Heads of State Summit”.

At a meeting of the East African Legislative Assembly in Kampala in 2012, Mr Kibaki appeared to disagree with host Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni over whether the bloc should focus on politics.

“The focus in this area should be to ensure compliance with the commitments agreed in the Protocol,” Kibaki said in 2012.

He was referring to the customs union and the common market, which he had championed.

These protocols continue to be divisive, with some countries reluctant to remove barriers that would allow the free movement of goods and labor. The EAC had the ambition of a common currency and a political federation, the latter championed by President Museveni.

On Friday, President Museveni called Mr. Kibaki “a great statesman.

“He has been active in deepening the roots of African unity and cooperation for peace, development and security,” he said. “As he rests from his earthly responsibilities, let the younger generation study his exemplary deeds and emulate this great son of Africa. He will be remembered for his faithful and excellent service to his homeland and to Africa.

Shortly after retiring, Kibaki told a rally at the University of Nairobi that his legacy of establishing critical infrastructure would do Kenya and the region a great boon.

However, the $1.2 trillion Lapsset project has been delayed as neighboring countries delay their commitment.

Politically, however, Mr. Kibaki’s regional appearances were largely opportunistic. When South Sudan began to secede from Sudan, mediation was initiated by Mr. Moi. But it was under Mr. Kibaki’s tenure that South Sudan signed an autonomy agreement with Sudan in 2005 in Naivasha. South Sudan would finally become independent in 2011.

Mr. Kibaki has also been unable to resolve the Migingo Island dispute with Uganda. A joint team has not submitted its investigation report, apparently because Uganda rejected its preliminary decision on who owns the island in Lake Victoria. The question remains undetermined to this day.

The former president was also unable to resolve a maritime border dispute with Somalia. The two countries had signed a memorandum which the Somali parliament later rejected. And after unsuccessful rounds of negotiations, Somalia decided to file a complaint with the International Court of Justice. While the case was filed during Uhuru Kenyatta’s tenure in 2014, court documents accused Mr Kibaki’s officials of refusing to honor invitations for talks.

“He contributed a lot to the building of his nation before he was elected president, and even during his tenure,” Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somalia’s former president, said in a message of condolence on Friday. “He has contributed greatly to the political problems of Kenya and neighboring countries.”

In security, Mr. Kibaki is remembered for launching Operation Linda Nchi, which pursued al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.

On Friday, Workneh Gebeyehu, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, described Mr Kibaki as an “iconic leader and a visionary statesman who has promoted peace and unity”.

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