Four days before she succumbed to Covid-19-related complications, Susan Kikwai instructed senior staff at the Kericho County on what needed to be put in place for the local government to run smoothly.
And even in her hospital bed, Kikwai, who served as deputy governor, followed up with the officers on whether they had executed the assignments given to them.
Yesterday County Secretary Joel Bett recalled his last moments with Kikwai.
“Even as she lay in her hospital bed she could summon senior county officers to confirm whether what had been programmed was going on as scheduled. She would even read some documents and consult me on areas she felt required changes before she could approve,” said Mr Bett.
Kikwai died on Saturday at Siloam Hospital, where she was being treated for coronavirus. Family members, friends, colleagues, and local leaders are making burial plans.
The county government has proposed that Kikwai be buried on Tuesday, but family members meeting at her Chegaik residence near Brooke trading centre requested for one more time to mourn her.
Despite the government’s directive to relatives of Covid-19 victims to bury within 72 hours, Bett said they were yet to settle on a burial date.
The county secretary eulogised Kikwai as a leader who had passion for her work and cared about operations of the county government even when she was unwell.
“She ran the county government like a parastatal, and the most important thing for her was that the county government delivered on the development agenda,” he said.
“She always had a month’s schedule, which she stuck to. Even if something was urgent, she would deal with what on her schedule first,” he said.
Trade Executive Charles Birech recalled how Kikwai headhunted him from Kenivest, where they previously worked together, in a bid to build a dream team to deliver the county’s development agenda.
“I have come a long way with her. She first hired me as the Keninvest Mombasa Regional Manager. When she took over the county government reigns alongside Governor Paul Chepkwony in 2013, she asked me to join the county government. We have been together ever since,” he said.
He added: “She nurtured me professionally. She instilled in us professionalism, and paying attention to detail, especially when drafting official letters. Her demise is a big loss to me and the entire county,” he said.
Mr Birech said before she died Kikwai had shared with him her wish and desire to succeed Chepkwony as governor, but “unfortunately that will not be”.
He said he would ensure his department implements projects such as Chebulu Conservancy in Soin/Sigowet Constituency. “Once we have the project up and running we will have certain areas, of course with the approval of the governor, named after her,” he said.
Former Standard Group Deputy Chairman and Strategy Adviser Paul Melly described Kikwai as a leader of great promise.
“It is with a deep sense of shock and sorrow that we have learnt of the demise of Kikwai, who I have known well for years. She was indeed a leader of great promise and her demise is not only a loss to her family but the people of Kericho and Kenya,” said Mr Melly.
Kericho contractors, led by their Secretary General Elija Rono, described “the power that Kikwai wielded” and how she empowered them.
“I remember that in 2016 the county owed us around Sh500 million, forcing us to go to demonstrate in the streets to demand our dues. The situation forced the DG to summon the relevant officers and the money was eventually released to us,” he said.
Beatrice Kemei, a member of the Kericho Municipal Board, said whenever the board was in a deadlock, members would reach out to Kikwai for solutions.
“Her leadership style is incomparable. She supported the governor and all the arms of government. She had great plans and had asked me to collaborate with her so we could reach women, specifically rural womenfolk,” she said.