How David Musila Twice Saved Mwai Kibaki’s Life

A few days before the Grand Coalition Government’s Cabinet line-up was unveiled in April 2008, then-President Mwai Kibaki invited his long-time friend David Musila for breakfast at State House Nairobi.

Mr. Musila, who had been re-elected in the December 2007 elections as MP for Mwingi South on an ODM Kenya party ticket, turned up for the breakfast meeting unaware of why the President wanted to see him.

The political tension that had been sparked by the violence that followed the controversial declaration of Mr. Kibaki as the winner of the 2007 presidential election was yet to dissipate.

“He explained that he wanted me to be part of his Cabinet, but the ministerial slots had to be shared with his rival turned partner in the unity government, Mr. Raila Odinga, and pleaded with me to accept the position of assistant minister,” Mr. Musila narrated yesterday in an interview.

Taken aback that the President was pleading with him, he accepted the appointment without hesitation, but another surprise was in store.

The President gave Mr. Musila the full list of Cabinet ministers to be unveiled and asked him to choose the docket where he would be comfortable.

Mwai Kibaki
Former President Daniel Arap Moi (left) and Mwai Kibaki during his swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi on December 30, 2002. Photo credit: Karel Prinsloo | AFP
“I chose the Ministry of Defence, which had been assigned to Yussuf Haji because I had worked with Mr. Haji before in the provincial administration. He was my District Commissioner in Kiambu while I served as Provincial Commissioner in Central province,” he recalled.

Mr. Musila revealed that his close ties with Kibaki dated back to his tenure as PC of then Central Province in the early years of Daniel Arap Moi’s tenure. Two critical events particularly cemented their friendship.

“As Vice-President, Mr. Kibaki was my boss and it was my duty as the PC in his home province to ensure he was well taken care of whenever he visited my jurisdiction. My office was in Nyeri town, his home district, so we used to interact a lot,” he said.

According to his memoirs, Seasons of Hope, Mr. Musila narrates how he twice saved Kibaki’s life, which could be the reason the now-departed President held him in such high esteem.

The first time was during the 1982 attempted coup when the former PC hurriedly arranged Kibaki’s evacuation from his Othaya home and shielded him from possible attacks by the coup plotters.

“I called him to find out if he was safe and informed him that I was sending a senior police officer whom he knew well to pick him up. It was important I sent someone he could trust so I sent a Mr. Samuel Wathome, the then Provincial Special Branch Officer,” he writes in his book.

Mr. Musila says that the first place he thought of hiding Kibaki was at the Nyeri Club. He found a tiny, stuffy, and somewhat unhygienic storeroom and felt it would be a good place to hide the VP. He reckoned that the coup plotters would not expect the VP to take refuge in such a dinghy place. There was, however, a nagging feeling that that was an undignified place to squeeze a man of Mwai Kibaki’s stature.

“We feared that there were soldiers in Nyeri town who could attack us or who could have been closing in from the Nanyuki Airforce base, where the coup was being plotted. When Kibaki arrived in Nyeri, I could see that he was shaken, after all, he was the Vice-President in the government that had just been toppled,” he narrates.

Heavy escort
A few hours later, Mr. Musila consulted his security team and they mobilized a large contingent of security personnel to move Kibaki to his own house near the Mount Kenya Hospital in Nyeri.

“I directed that he be guarded round the clock and that my wife Beatrice would be in charge of all his meals. She would make lunch and take it to the VP under very heavy escort. I gave firm instructions that no one outside the detailed personnel should come near that house,” the book reads.

After the coup was thwarted, Mr. Musila picked Kibaki from his hideout and brought him to his residence for dinner. Here the PC managed to place a call to President Moi through the hotline and briefed him on the situation in the province.

“Kibaki was curiously listening as I spoke to Moi on phone and before I hung up, he asked to speak to the President but when I told Moi that his VP wanted to speak to him, he retorted rather sharply that he didn’t want to talk to him” he recalls.

The former Kitui senator recalled how embarrassed he was. It was a really uncomfortable situation since Kibaki was standing right next to him and waiting to be handed the receiver.

Mr. Musila had to concoct a lie that Moi had declined to talk because he was tired. Kibaki calmly sat back without commenting.

The second life-threatening incident was the road accident that confined Kibaki to a wheelchair during the December 2002 presidential campaigns and his first months in office as President.

Kibaki, then the Narc presidential flagbearer, was campaigning in Mwingi and Kitui in the company of Musila and other leaders. After the final rally in Kitui town, Kibaki’s convoy left for Nairobi, followed by Musila and Raila Odinga ahead of them.

At the Machakos turnoff, Kibaki’s Range Rover plunged into a five-meter-deep ditch to avoid a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle. The ditch had resulted from excavation works for the construction of a petrol station.

Drove towards Nairobi
“I jumped out of my car and took control of the situation, with a crowd milling at the scene. We pulled him out but he was in so much pain that we couldn’t wait for an ambulance, so we put him in the back seat of my car and drove towards Nairobi,” he explained.

Mr. Musila recalls that Kibaki asked him to call his son Tony, whose number he knew off-head, and his personal physician, Dr. Dan Gikonyo, as they drove the injured Narc candidate to Nairobi hospital, where they found a team of doctors already assembled and ready to receive him.

Mr. Musila recalls that his transfer from Central Province by President Moi was because of his closeness to Kibaki, who fell out of political favor with top Kanu mandarins.

“After the 1982 coup, we met in Nyeri and Mr. Kibaki bitterly complained that some people were feeding President Moi with lies that he must have been aware of the military rebellion because the Air Force Commander, then General Kariuki, hailed from Nyeri as well,” he adds.

“The talk was that VP Kibaki must have been aware of the coup because General Kariuki was from Nyeri district. I was even accused of being too close to Kibaki by Kanu leaders who sought favors from Moi,” he recounted.

During Kibaki’s first term as President, Mr. Musila said he was easily elected as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly with the backing of the President, who convened a Narc parliamentary group and floated his name.

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