, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 22 – During his career as a civil servant and the period he served in the private sector, the late Environment Minister John Njoroge Michuki was known to be firm and never shied away from controversy.
He was born in a large polygamous family at Muguru Village, Iyego location of Kangema location in 1932.
The illustrious minister was described by colleagues in Parliament on Wednesday as a ‘no-nonsense’ individual.
His father died in 1940 when Michuki was just seven years old.
He started his early education at Muguru primary school in 1941 and dropped out two years later due to scarcity of fees forcing him to seek tailoring-related work in the capital Nairobi, where he got menial jobs at a uniform store fixing buttons. He would later return to Nyeri where he earned Sh1 daily for repairing buttons at small shop in the town at the peak of the Second World War.
He completed his Kenya African Primary Education in 1945 and went on to join Nyeri High School in 1947 for his Secondary education before he qualified for admission at the Mang’u High School for advance ‘A’ level education.
Michuki would later land a prestigious scholarship at the Worcester College (constituent college of Oxford) in the United Kingdom where he obtained a Bachelors Degree in Economics, Finance and Public Administration, courtesy of the government of Kenya.
He joined the civil service in 1957 when he worked as a clerk in the Provincial Administration and upon graduating from Worcester in 1961 he was appointed District Commissioner, Nyeri.
The late Michuki later rose through the ranks to various other government departments including the Treasury where he served as Finance as Permanent Secretary.
He was appointed executive chairman of the Kenya Commercial Bank by Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta in 1970 and served until 1979 when he joined the private sector.
Michuki leaves behind an impressive track record of handling government portfolios as well as managing his own businesses, which include the stylish Windsor Golf and Country Club in the outskirts of Nairobi.
He joined politics during the 1979 general elections but he failed to clinch the Kangema parliamentary seat. He however, captured the seat in the 1983 snap election and was immediately appointed Assistant Minister by President Daniel arap Moi but lost it in 1988 during a flawed poll. He would later join politics in 1991 through the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD).
He then re-captured the Kangema parliamentary seat through Ford Asili, a splinter of the original FORD. Michuki retained the seat helping him to become part of the inner circle of the coalition politics of 2002 when Kibaki was elected with a majority vote to succeed Daniel Moi.
That is when Kibaki appointed him Transport Minister where he is remembered for having transformed the industry, by compelling all public service vehicles to strictly adhere to traffic rules and regulations, including installing safety belts and speed governors in what is now commonly referred as the “Michuki rules.”
In 2005, Kibaki appointed him Minister for Internal Security. Three years later in 2008 after the post election violence, he was named Minister for Roads and Public Works.
He became Minister for Environment in 2008 and continued to serve there until his death. When Amos Kimunya stepped aside as Finance Minister over corruption allegations, it is Michuki who was appointed in an acting capacity.
Michuki was married to Josephine Watiri Michuki and they have six children.
As a Cabinet minister, the no-nonsense public servant had a fair share of criticism and will be remembered for his infamous quote “If you rattle a snake be prepared to bitten by it” which he made when journalists asked him to comment about the Standard raid in March 2006.
When he served as Internal Security Minister, he often declared to Central Kenya residents “you will only see graves” in reference to the war on Mungiki which had been blamed for massive killings and kidnappings.