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Saturday, 5 September 2020

Kagwe: Next Mt Kenya kingpin?

 Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the daily Covid-19 briefing at Afya House on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

In Kagumo Old Boys Association circles, Health Cabinet Secretary would be easily be referred as a man of consolidated intellect.

While many would criticize that given the current circumstances as far as the Kemsa Scandal is concerned, the tag is associated with Kagumo High School, which Kagwe is an alumnus. He also has a schoolmate in the Cabinet - Transport CS James Macharia.

Kagwe, 62, was born in 1958 and grew up in Mukurweini, Nyeri county.

Before joining Kagumo in 1972, Kagwe attended Kihate Primary School in Mukurweini between 1965- 71. He later joined the University of Nairobi in 1978 for a Bachelors of Commerce (Insurance) degree.

Between 1988-92, he attended USIU for his Master’s in Business Administration.

He has worked in the media industry, and this could inform his PR skills, which is also his field of business. He is associated with Tell-Em PR.

Kagwe joined politics in 2002, becoming the fifth Mukurweini MP on the Narc ticket and succeded David Mutahi of DP. He had served since 1992.

In his first term, Kagwe served as the chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Trade, Tourism, and Planning. He was later appointed by President Mwai Kibaki as ICT minister in 2005 when he reshuffled the Cabinet following his defeat in the constitutional referendum.

As the ICT minister, Kagwe is credited with the establishment of the  East African Marine System, the first Fibre Optic Project for Eastern Africa. It was during his tenure that Kenya launched M-Pesa, world's first ever mobile money transfer system. 

In 2006, he is quoted telling a journalist at Panari Hotel that as part of his legacy at the ministry, he would want Kenyans to communicate easily and cheaply with the world.

At the time, writer Patrick Kariuki notes, it cost Sh35 per minute to make a phone call within the Safaricom network during peak hours and up to Sh50 per minute to other networks. This, he says, informed the decision to abandon satellites and join the global fibre-optic network.

Kagwe's fast rise in politics was disrupted by his defeat in the 2007 elections, losing to Kabando wa Kabando of the little-known Safina Party.

Gibson Wambugu, a youth leader in the constituency, says Kagwe might have lost contact with the grassroots when he became minister.

“There was a feeling that he was now high up, and although he visited often, his contact with the electorate, especially with the youth, was limited. Meanwhile, Kabando was busy at the grassroots,” Wambugu says.

He made a comeback in 2013 as the first Nyeri senator.

As senator. he chaired the Committee on Information and Technology and sat in the Finance and Budget and the Liaison Committee.

He is also credited with the Cyber Security and Protection Bill. He in 2016 told this writer that the bill was “to protect Kenyans from criminals and terrorists”.

Ambitious, Kagwe vied for governor but lost to Wahome Gakuru, also an alumnus of Kagumo. He died in a road accident in November 2017.

He remained in the political cold until he was nominated Health CS in January.

Tasked with the war on Covid-19, Kagwe’s profile has risen, and there is talk he is being groomed for a bigger post.

Although he has denied, saying it is impractical and unAfrican to talk about inheriting the position of a leader who is still in office, Kagwe is among those who are mentioned as potentioal successros of President Uhuru Kenyatta as Mt Kenya kingpin.  

“No leader from Mt Kenya has been able to step out from the crowd as Kagwe has done.  He is slowly but surely capturing the imagination of the residents of the region as Uhuru prepares to leave the stage,” Star columnist and State House director of Political Affairs says.

He is also said to be planning to vie for the governor's seat in 2022.

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