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From Jomo to Uhuru: The life and times of Yusuf Haji

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In his early days, Mohammed Yusuf Haji knew how to use power – given a chance – and, later on in life, and as wisdom came with age, he turned into a diplomatic figure. From Jomo to Kenyatta presidency, Haji has played the power games without dropping any balls.

By the time he died on Monday morning, President Kenyatta described him as a ‘patriot and dependable” and as a “highly respected leader and elder whose wisdom, deep knowledge of the Kenyan society and long experience as a public administrator enabled him to serve the country in various leadership roles with distinction for many years.”

In his early days, Mohammed Yusuf Haji knew how to use power – given a chance – and, later on in life, and as wisdom came with age, he turned into a diplomatic figure. From Jomo to Kenyatta presidency, Haji has played the power games without dropping any balls.

By the time he died on Monday morning, President Kenyatta described him as a ‘patriot and dependable” and as a “highly respected leader and elder whose wisdom, deep knowledge of the Kenyan society and long experience as a public administrator enabled him to serve the country in various leadership roles with distinction for many years.”

Yusuf Haji Uhuru Kenyatta
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta (left) speaks with the Minister for Defense Yusuf Haji at Eastleigh High School on May 2, 2011.

File | Jennifer Muiruri | Nation Media Group

Ruthless and uncompromising

For instance in June 1988, during the clamour for multiparty democracy, Haji’s car broke down on the Eldoret Highway and he flagged down a Mr Peter Makau, driving a company pick-up truck, for a lift. It was 7.30am.

But Makau, an electrician, was not willing to carry the then Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner telling him: “Go and find a government of Kenya vehicle. My car is not a government vehicle.”

Within a few hours, Haji had mobilised the administration to hunt for the Eldoret-based air-conditioning technician who was working with Soma Industries.

While there was no law that demanded that government officials should be given free rides, Makau was promptly arrested and jailed for three months for what the magistrate said was behaving “in a very unsocial manner” and lack of respect.

“Government officials deserve respect. The accused lacked respect . . . (and a) deterrent sentence should be meted out as a lesson to those with such mind and unbecoming behaviour,” said the magistrate.

The case against Makau caused international uproar and was used by human rights groups as an indicator of the excesses of the Moi regime – and the apparent abuse of power by his provincial administrators.

Mohamed Yusuf Haji when he was D.C for Kiambu. He was speaking at a Baraza held in Muguga.

File Bashkas Jugsoda’ay| Nation Media Group

Over the years, Haji, who died on Monday February 15, 2021, mellowed with age and his last assignment was that of chairman of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), an indicator of his role in the President Uhuru Kenyatta and former prime minister Raila Odinga initiative that might redefine Kenya’s politics.

An undated photo of Roads and Works minister Raila Odinga (left), Ijara MP Yusuf Haji (centre) and assistant minister Joshua Toro (right) during a three-day tour of North Eastern Province.

File Bashkas Jugsoda’ay| Nation Media Group

Moi years

It was during his tenure as PC that the Rift Valley province was hit by tribal clashes, instigated by politicians, some army officers, policemen, chiefs and local councillors.

By Nation

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