, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 27 – President Mwai Kibaki on Monday led friends, family and fellow politicians, in paying glowing tribute to the late Environment Minister John Michuki, describing him as “a true son of Kenya.”
The president urged Kenyans to honour the late Michuki by emulating the values that he lived for, both in public and private life.
President Kibaki who spoke during Michuki’s requiem mass at the Consolata Shrine in Westlands said that the late minister was a committed public servant, a firm and honest leader and a man who was never afraid of taking a decision for what he believed in.
“He was a man whose opinion I valued over the years and whom I could always rely on. Most importantly John Michuki kept his word. When he made a commitment, at a personal or official level, he ensured that he followed it and implemented it, to the best of his ability,” said the president.
He also called on leaders to rise above petty politics and concentrate on issues that will make a difference in the lives of Kenyans.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga who urged Kenyans to plant trees for one week starting Tuesday when Michuki was due to be buried.
Odinga said planting trees to restore the country’s forests to the internationally recommended 10 percent cover would be a fitting tribute to Michuki.
The prime minister said the country needs 7.6 million more trees to increase the forest cover from the current 1.7 percent. He announced a tree-planting programme for all Kenyans in the next one week in honour of the late Michuki whom he termed as a “special man.”
The requiem mass was attended by Michuki’s family, his Cabinet and parliamentary colleagues, diplomats, friends from both within the government and the private sector.
The hearse carrying the remains of the late minister arrived at the church shortly before 2pm escorted by police outriders with the coffin draped in the national flag. His Cabinet colleagues led by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka were the pall bearers.
Green and white flowers were chosen as the theme colours for the mass, a resounding tribute to the important role Michuki played as Environment Minister.
Those who eulogised him paid tribute to the man who has been accredited for restoring sanity in the public transport, culminating in what has been popularly referred to as the “Michuki Rules” of February, 2004. He is also accredited with the restoration of the Nairobi River, a task that the vice president admitted failed him during his tenure as environment minister.
The VP heaped compliments on the late minister in the critical role he played in the formation of the first coalition government after the hotly contested 2007 general election.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta who was a close friend and political ally of Michuki paid homage to a man whom he said never let disagreements ruin his relationships with the people he interacted with.
Uhuru said that “Uncle Mich” – as they fondly called him – used his public positions selflessly for the benefit of the country.
“Uncle Mich will be greatly missed but will also be fondly remembered,” said Uhuru.
Michuki’s eldest daughter Anne Mutahi also tearfully recounted her father’s attributes describing him as a father who loved his wife, sons and daughters in equal measure and one who taught them the ideals of the life he expected them to live.
Michuki who died last Tuesday at the Aga Khan University Hospital was due to be buried on Tuesday at his Kangema home.