The news struck the country sweltering in 2002 presidential election campaign heat like a thunderbolt. The road crash barely three weeks to the General Election that would give Kenya its third president, claimed two lives and left the man who would be the next commander-in-chief literally hanging on the tenterhooks.
That was President Kibaki, the National Rainbow Coalition’s presidential candidate, who would in a month take over the reins of power after what came to be called the ’Narc Dream’ whitewashed Kanu’s 40-year rule.
Seven years later, having won a controversial second and final term, and after countless sessions with doctors, President Kibaki still carries the scars of the accident. His walking gait and hand movement changed.
The physical pain and the torment of the heart, discernible from his face as he was rushed to Nairobi Hospital — on the evening of December 3, 2002, would forever remain the lingering memory of the country’s lowest moment — especially as conspiracy theorists stepped in with their spin.
But as the nation consumed the news of Kibaki’s troubled road to recovery including being sworn-in on a wheel chair, and with the slurred speech and symptomatic repetitive talk that is now history, one side of the story was forgotten.
It is the sad tale of the families of Mutungi Musau, who was a matatu tout, and Mutuku Muia, a metal welder, who were killed in the crash at Machakos junction of the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway.
The families say images of the President, whom they have not heard from, though fate and destiny let his life cross paths with their loved ones, albeit for a fleeting but irreversible moment, rekindles memories of the black December.
It stirs the well of tears shed as Narc danced to electoral victory as Kenya strode into a new chapter in history. Today, they just speak of how much they would wish they could reach Kibaki’s ear, if not for the Government’s support, just a word of consolation. In him they see a privileged person whom the cruel hand of fate brought so close to them, yet so far.
For now, as they grapple with their pain and loss, as well as the life of want and squalor, the man they would love to meet remains just an image on television screen, and the pages of newspapers.
Wipe away tears
The language of insurance and liability remains a hollow legal jargon — all they know is that Kibaki is in a position to change their lives. To them, this is not because he was responsible for the accident, for he, too, almost died. But they counted on him to wipe away their tears in solidarity.
That is why Musau’s uncle, 74-year-old retired driver Timothy Makovo, simply marvelled: "As the Head of State he has the powers to ask that they be compensated. His silence is not good."
"I was told Musau had been run over by a vehicle belonging to Kibaki and rushed to the scene to ascertain whether it was true … when I see the President talk on television I remember my brother. "He should personally be touched by our plight and talk to us," says the late Musau’s elder brother, Anthony Ndambuki.
Musau’s mother, Mama Kalondu Mutungi, 56, said: The Government only provided a coffin and a Land Rover to ferry the body from the mortuary in Machakos town to our home during the funeral… I feel we have been ignored since nobody cared for us after the loss. It is even more distressing that Kibaki is now the President. I wish I could have an opportunity to meet him and share my agony."
She added: "No amount of material or monetary help can replace a lost son, but at least the President should have shown some concern to the bereaved families. His silence is baffling."
This is the story that represents the children of two worlds, the life of privilege and want, as symbolised by the fact that as they wept, a day after the accident Kibaki was airborne — headed to London for specialised treatment. Today we go back in time and pick up their forgotten story, of crashed dreams and utter hopelessness, of minions whose hand nobody has come forth to pick.