This man Mwai KIbaki

President Mwai Kibaki was in his office at State House. It was early 2008 and he had a lot to mull over in his in-tray, not the least of which was the PEV that was raging in the Rift Valley and threatening to consume his presidency and destroy the country. Suddenly, the Comptroller of State House, Mr Hyslop Ipu, came barging in with a mobile phone in hand. Waiting to talk to him urgently on the other end of the line — 7,500 kilometres away in the UAE — was his Information minister, Mr Mutahi Kagwe.

All the way from Abu Dhabi, Mr Kagwe could hear the President tell Ipu to hand over the phone in his famous baritone, “Leta hiyo kitu.”

The journey to that phone call had begun at an insurance industry dinner two years earlier, in early 2006, at the Panari Hotel in Nairobi. Then, Mr Kagwe was the guest of honour. After his speech, a journalist had asked him to state the one thing he hoped to achieve at the ICT ministry. He told the journalist that he wanted Kenyans to communicate easily and cheaply with the world.

At the time it cost Sh35 per minute to make a phone call within the Safaricom network during peak hours and up to Sh50 per minute to other networks. These high costs made Kenyans wait until off-peak hours to make cheaper calls, which often clogged the Safaricom network in the evening, rendering it impossible for anyone to get through. This state of affairs led then Safaricom CEO Micheal joseph to accuse Kenyans of peculiar calling habits, causing a PR crisis for the company. Internet connections, on the other hand, were a nightmare.

The whole country relied on satellites to access the internet. Satellites, however, transmitted data at a glacial pace and were unreliable. To add salt to injury, the cost of a satellite link was exorbitant. For Mr Kagwe to make it possible for Kenyans to communicate easily and cheaply with the world, there was only one thing to do; abandon satellites and join the global fibre-optic network. This meant the country needed to lay fibre-optic cables under the sea, an expensive undertaking. So Kenya joined other African countries as a co-founder of South African fibre-optic cable EASSY.

Soon Kenya discovered that there was nothing easy about EASSY. The partner countries constantly bickered among themselves. And the South Africans, who had a controlling interest in the cable, had a condescending attitude towards everybody else. In their minds, the cable was a business; a cash cow that wealthy South African pension funds were keen to build, own, control and profit from. Kenya, on the other hand, viewed the cable as a development tool; a public utility much like a road, which would provide the foundation for its ICT sector to take off.

Tired of endless meetings and unwilling to put her economy at the mercy of the South African pension funds, Kenya made a decision to stay in EASSY but also build its own cable. Mr Kagwe called his fellow ICT ministers from Uganda and Tanzania and convinced them to join the plan. Determined to achieve digital independence, Mr Kagwe and his fellow EA ministers travelled to the US, Spain and finally the UAE in search of a way to build their own cable. In the US, they visited Tyco, one of the few companies in the world with capacity to build undersea fibre-optic cables.

On the bus back to the hotel from Tyco’s offices in Baltimore, Mr Kagwe suddenly swung his neck around and announced to his fellow ministers that he had just had a brainwave: they would call their cable #TEAMS The East African Marine System.

Because many cables from around the world terminated at Fujairah in the UAE, which was only 5,000 kilometres from Mombasa, it became clear to the East Africans that the UAE was the most ideal partner in building the cable.

Fujairah offered excellent backup options (redundancy) in case one connection failed; as opposed to the EASSY cable, which terminated in Djibouti where there was only one connection, meaning no backup in case of failure. When Mr Kagwe and his team arrived in Abu Dhabi to pursue the matter, they found, to their dismay, that the UAE government did not trust that Kenya and her partners had the capacity to do the project.

The frustrated minister tried for days to get them to sign a deal. But despite visiting all top officials in the country and sharing his dream about a cable called TEAMS, sceptical UAE officials just slammed doors in his face. But Mr Kagwe was no quitter,he played the last gambit of a desperate chess player and made a move for the Emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa. When Kenya’s ambassador to UAE heard of the idea, he advised that any correspondence to the Emir must come from President Kibaki himself.

Mr Kagwe did not waste any time. He dialled State House. The President is not a person you just call out of the blue, of course. So he called Mr Ipu instead. Mr Ipu immediately went to the President’s office, phone in hand. Mr Kagwe explained his predicament. Then the government’s top brass swung into action to prepare a letter to the Emir, signed by the President. The Emir responded in the affirmative. Suddenly the mood in the UAE changed. The Foreign Affairs minister invited Mr Kagwe to his office and informed him the Emir considered Kenya a strategic partner and had ordered his government to cooperate.

Their finance minister, who just days earlier had declined to approve TEAMS, now allowed the UAE government to acquire a 15% stake in the venture through Etisalat. The job of building the cable went to Alcatel-Lucent, a Franco-American company now owned by the Chinese.

All told, [COLOR=rgb(0, 0, 0)]#TEAMS cost $79M/Kes8.1B to build, fully funded by the Kenyan government and a consortium of Kenyan firms. The funding was raised by selling stakes in [COLOR=rgb(0, 0, 0)]safaricom and auctioning international gateway licences to investors. Previously, Telkom controlled the international gateway exclusively but its corrupt staff collaborated with crooks to control all international calls in return for a cut.

Hence the decision to open up the international gateway to the private sector unleashed a murderous rage in some quarters. Mr Kagwe and [COLOR=rgb(0, 0, 0)]Bitange Ndemo recall receiving death threats.

By @mmnjug

The End.

Someone posted this article yesterday

This is what a visionary leader does, thinking beyond self personal interests.
These developments were to happen during Nyayo era but they sabotaged the project and demanded a personal share.

Then you hear some historical revisionist try to compare Moi and Kibaki.

Omuteso, hauoni amegweka cretiti ya mmnugs?

This what a great leader does, appoint capable people instead of fellow drunks, propagandists, and family business insiders.

hii ghasia tuko nayo saa hii ni maziwa tu anauza and building his interests, hajui if he does not build a country for everyone ,very soon another mad guy may come and wipe out all his interests…

Can you imagine Kibaki ever hiring someone like Echesa?

I wonder what people will say of konyagi and that other thief

Even incredible that he achieved all these with the endless bickering of the other nusu mkate upuus. It’s even blessed that he ‘rigged’ and served his two terms

:smiley: Fred Gumo

Na before the mkate nusu nonsense kulikua na the very toxic referendum politics from 2005 which set the stage for the carnage in '07/08, for 8 years he worked in heated environment and delivered remarkable results

true, the man had a way of doing things, even though his politics was not that good, his ability to manage the government was good - he knew when to look the other way - siku hizi I see a government that is literary hounding business out, the likes of equity or mpesa would never have grown under this regime.

Long live Emilio.

Have you ever tried to talk to a rich illiterate thug…utatia akili. Rich families the so called ‘dynasties’ are very stupid. You steal and invest for who to consume? You have destroyed the economy and set yourself up as a target incase of a revolution or incase an unfavourable government wins elections…I wish this was 1700s…that family would’ve been hanged…France and Russia showed the way…Britain negotiated with the crown iwache upussss

Kibaki couldn’t and can’t stand even Njonjo ni Echesa??? Chokoraa ya mtu??!!

very true, becoming the only rich person in a country of struggling rich people is dangerous esp if your family has been in power

A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.
When all is said and done, your ability as a leader will not be judged by what you achieved personally or even by what your team accomplished during your tenure. You will be judged by how well your people and your organization did after you were gone. You will be gauged according to the Law of Legacy. Your lasting value will be measured by succession.


Huyu ndio Mzito wa wazito. The guy not only repaired the damage done by Moi’s misrule, but the economy grew exponentially on his watch. This macho nyanya that we woke up at night to vote for, he inherits an economy that was cruising smoothly along, and…ama wacha tu.

If there’s anyone who has claim about taking over his daddy’s legacy ni watu kama Jimmy and his siblings. But they don’t… that’s called integrity.