The Kenya Air Force helicopter was just about to lift President Daniel arap Moi out of the State House, a symbolic final flight marking the end of his 24-year reign.
Dr Sally Kosgei, the Head of Civil Service, stood by weeping, quite evidently, bitterly.
For Dr Kosgei, it was a trying moment when a victorious Mwai Kibaki was sworn in as President. The ceremony was a veritable mess. There were no proper sitting arrangements. The crowd even threw mud balls at President Moi.
“The people who took over protocol were David Mwenje and Fred Gumo,” recalls Francis Mathura, who would become Head of Civil Service in the new government.
“I was very angry at what had happened. As if that were not enough, on the way out of Uhuru Park, it was impossible to get into my car, whose windscreen had been broken; I had to ride with other people,” recalls Sally Kosgei.
“In the confusion of running up and down, I don’t how but I somehow ended up with one shoe.”
Of the humiliation, she says: “I cried for days because of the work we had done (preparing for the handover to Kibaki). I didn’t cry for him (Moi); I cried for democracy.”
“It was frightening,” says Muthaura who recalls turning around and seeing no escape route from a dais surrounded by a euphoric crowd.
Five years later, in a twist of irony, President Kibaki had to turn to the party he had vanquished, Kanu, and the very opponent he had trounced, Uhuru Kenyatta, for help.
The coalition that had swept him to power five years earlier had deserted him and a lonely Kibaki was literally clutching at straws ahead of the 2007 General Election.
But the full meaning of the coming together of the two former opponents was to be witnessed in subsequent events that culminated in the passing of the presidential baton from Mwai to Muigai.
Weeks to the 2002 election, a nasty road accident at the Mombasa Highway-Machakos road junction threw the Narc campaign into uncertainty as it confined their presidential candidate, Kibaki, to hospital and then to a wheelchair. Party leaders fought to keep the spirits of supporters high and the campaign alive.
“The captain has been injured but the match goes on,” Raila Odinga would encourage crowds during political rallies.
Raila was the undisputed central figure of Narc machinery, up against a determined and well-funded Uhuru Kenyatta campaign, powered by President Moi.
Raila had earlier broken ranks with Moi, walked out of Kanu, helped form Narc and, on October 14, 2002, endorsed Kibaki for president.
“The person who convinced Raila to support Kibaki was Joab Omino,” recalls former Westlands MP Fred Gumo.
“The Mwai Kibaki presidency had everything to do with Raila Odinga the moment he said Kibaki Tosha,” says Martha Karua.
A highly impulsive politician, Raila had instantly rewarded the euphoric crowd at Uhuru Park with Kibaki’s name, but had in the same breath annoyed other potential allies.
“Moi had played a dangerous card by nominating somebody from Mwai Kibaki’s side so that there could be an exodus. You could see people like Mzee Njenga Karume and Stephen Ndichu moving away,” says Raila. It was either pragmatism or defeat.
“The issue of a single candidate had been discussed and no agreement reached. We had done this in 1997 and failed. People would just say ‘next time’,” says Raila of his decision to endorse Kibaki.
An angry Simeon Nyachae pulled his Ford People party out as coalition partners formalised their agreement with Kibaki as the presidential candidate of a united opposition front.
Nyachae describes Kibaki’s endorsement as: “The kind of arrangements where there is no democratic formula.” He adds: “I was not going to be party to autocratic arrangements.”
A memorandum of understanding setting out a power-sharing arrangement among coalition leaders and parties had been prepared. In the arrangement that made Kibaki president, Raila was to become Prime Minister.
But like the biblical Tower of Babel, Narc was a house of many colours and voices, as illustrated by the chaotic inauguration of the new president and its aftermath.
After the inauguration, wrangles began on issues ranging from the pre-election agreement to Cabinet appointments.
“We had very extensive negotiations at Nairobi Club. Kibaki was first to agree he had to go for one term and power would be shared on a 50-50 basis, including the Cabinet. There would be consultations on major appointments in the government,” says Raila.
The parties had also agreed to change the Constitution and promulgate it within 90 days of assuming power. That was the MoU, Raila adds. But, in blithe disregard to these agreements, the Kibaki side had its own ideas.
“When Kibaki named the Cabinet, it was completely different from what we had agreed. We had given 11 names and we only got seven (positions); he gave the other side 16. From the seven, two were not on the list we had provided, although they were on the LDP side,” recalls Raila.
Under pressure from his party, Raila and then Foreign Affairs Minister Moody Awori (later Vice-President), were mandated to express dissatisfaction to the president, only to be humiliated further when they drove to State House and were not allowed past the gate.
“I always thought that Kibaki had time for Raila but those around him did not want that to happen. That made their relations very frosty,” says former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.
“Honestly, that’s where the Kibaki regime failed. Raila was not treated well. The system failed to see the importance of the role he had played. If the post (of PM) had been established the politics of this country would have been very different,” says Muthaura.
As for Ms Karua, she is convinced Raila deserved the presidency after Kibaki “considering the manner in which he had organised his campaign.”
“Without Raila in Kanu, the likes of Kamotho, the late Saitoti and many others would never have walked out of Kanu… that was a game changer.”
The core team in the Kibaki campaign was called the Summit – comprising Raila, Awori, Charity Ngilu, Kalonzo Musyoka, Najib Balala, George Saitoti and Kijana Wamalwa.
“They were ministers who were supposed to be special. They selected what portfolio they wanted. Saitoti chose Education, Raila Roads, Ngilu Health, Kalonzo Foreign Affairs and Awori Home Affairs.
But the Summit would die with the naming of the Cabinet.
“The gentleman who would later become the Comptroller of State House (Matere Keriri) told me: “Look, if I were you I would meet the president as a minister. The Summit was there before the Cabinet was formed. Now that there is a Cabinet, there is no need for the Summit to meet. Even if it were to meet, who would chair it? The Summit never met,” recalls Raila of its demise.
To Muthaura, the Constitution didn’t have a place for the Summit because “you would be creating a special tier that does not exist”.
As a result of the raging wrangles, Kenyans had, within months, made a short journey from being the world’s most optimistic people to the region’s most disappointed. And with that, the collapse of the Narc dream.
“We had thought all bad things would go when Moi was out,” regrets Karua.
The national dialogue on writing of a new Constitution became an opportunity to flex muscles for the two sides of Narc. A referendum in November 2005 became a Kibaki versus Raila contest, one that Raila won hands down. To survive after what was essentially a vote of no confidence, Kibaki sacked his entire Cabinet and left out Raila’s LDP in the re-arrangement that followed.
The referendum marked the parting of ways for Kibaki and Raila, with the latter converting the victorious “Orange/No Vote” campaign into a political party, which became the Orange Democratic Movement.
The party brought together leaders and communities that were dissatisfied with Kibaki’s, particularly his perceived alienation of non-Mt Kenya tribes.
There was Kalonzo and Ngilu from Eastern, Ruto from the Rift Valley, Mudavadi from Western and Balala from the Coast. With the exception of Kalonzo, all these leaders supported Raila’s presidential bid in 2007. But the election ended in bloodshed after Kibaki was declared winner.
Muthaura was Kibaki’s right hand man and as Public Service head, the most powerful figure in the administration.
“I was with him alone in his office watching TV. When you are with the president and you see things are not good, you talk to him to give him comfort. I told him: “Your Excellency, what I see here is like a repeat of the referendum,” recalls Muthaura of the tension that preceded the declaration of Kibaki’s victory.
To steel the president, he informed him that results from his strongholds were yet to be announced. That Kibaki survived the collapse of Narc in 2005 and won an election in 2007 painted a picture of the ultimate survivor in a man who was once referred to as the gentleman of Kenyan politics.