Lonely Kibaki back to golf clubs

Three months into retirement, former President Mwai Kibaki has taken to retracing his old steps in golfing circles and seeking out buddies who patronise clubs where he is a member. The former President, who has made few public appearances since he handed over State power on April 9 to Uhuru Kenyatta, has been cutting a lonely figure in retirement, as he seems to actively seek out company in the golf clubs where he was a regular member over 10 years ago.

Since he officially left State House on the evening of April 9, sources say he has been living at his Muthaiga residence with his wife Lucy. A frequent visitor to the residence among the Kibaki children has been his daughter Judy, while few VIPs – most retired – who were known to form his close circle of friends, also visit.

Accompanied by one or two security men, Kibaki often walks through a back gate from his home to enter the Muthaiga Golf Club, where he spends several evenings in a week. The People Team recently observed the former President sitting in a corner at the club, where he was joined by former East African Breweries chairman Jeremiah Kiereini and former managing director of Kenya Pipeline Seleste Kilinda.

They chatted in low tones, often breaking out in laughter, as they sipped different drinks. Kibaki took tea and fruit juice. On June 14, Kibaki sponsored the Muthaiga Ladies Invitation Tournament at the same club. He appeared in the evening accompanied by his daughter, Judy and both took part in the award presentations.

The People also observed the former President as he recently drew attention of club members when when he made an impromptu visit to Limuru Golf and Country Club at Tigoni, in Kiambu County. Kibaki visited the club last Thursday, arriving in a Range Rover vehicle in a convoy of three cars carrying his security detail. Many of the patrons present were caught unawares by the visit of the man they had ceased seeing in the news.

Prior to his first election as President in December, 2002, Kibaki had been a registered member of the club where he used to play when not at Muthaiga. “After checking in at the club at around 3pm he greeted the members present and called some by name. They were shocked that he could recall the name of a former caddy who used to serve him during his playing days,” said our source.

And after he settled down, Kibaki was joined by an old buddy. The two ordered a cup of tea each while the former President added two samosas to his snack. He stayed for almost two hours at the club’s lobby, chatting with his friend, occasionally interrupted by old friends either checking into the club or those leaving the course. “He did not engage them in prolonged talk, only exchanging greetings and chatting a little,” said our source.

He turned down offers from friends to have another cup of tea. He left after clearing his bill which he paid in cash. He gave the serving waitress a tip before he left. However, while Kibaki socialises with members, he has not been seen to set foot on the golf course. In his heyday, he lowered his amateur handicap from 16 to nine and gained a reputation for his hard, accurate stroke.

His club for many decades had been Muthaiga, an exclusive facility patronised by the super rich. Kibaki has also been a common figure at the adjacent Muthaiga Country Club where he often visits early in the morning, takes a sit at the far end of the spacious rest room and spends several hours reading the day’s press. A source at the country club who sat with him recently said the ex-President keenly reads the papers for almost two hours as he sips his tea.

After flipping through the dailies without interruption, Kibaki walks to the next door Muthaiga Golf Club where he likes joining other members for a talk. “He likes chatting with the old members during the evening visits, often sipping black tea, sometimes juice or wine, before departing on foot through the back gate after watching 9pm news,” our source said.

“He prefers to sit with elderly members, most of whom were his playing mates during his heyday as a golfer. But, Kibaki no longer plays due to poor physical health resulting from an accident and a stroke he sustained at the early days of his presidency. “Age is also certainly catching up and, coupled with the injury, he cannot engage in the game any more,” said our source.

Kibaki is still the patron of Kenya Golf Union (KGU) where he has served for the last 30 years. The former Head of State has played a key role in promoting the game in the country and has on many occasions challenged golf authorities to develop and spread the game beyond club level in Kenya. He once recommended spreading it to schools, which he believes would build a lasting and strong foundation.

It is not clear when Kibaki plans to move to his retirement home that he had been constructing at Mweiga, Nyandarwa County, but sources say persistent chilly weather in the area, at the foot of Aberdare Ranges, may not be suitable for all-year stay by the former President.

– The People

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