In the heady days after Daniel arap Moi left State House after 24 long years, a bespectacled, short, quiet man took over the Treasury as the Mwai Kibaki’s right-hand man at the Ministry of Finance.
That man was Daudi Mwiraria – a member of the family said that he preferred to be called Daudi. But the Kenyan public, with its penchant for the formality inherited from the British bureaucracy, preferred to call him David Mwiraria.
Mr Mwiraria succumbed to cancer at Karen Hospital Thursday morning. It had progressed to Stage Four. He was 79.
At the former minister’s home in Karen on Mukinduri Road workers were busy putting up tents. A few visitors had come to pay their respects.
Reporters were told the family was not ready to issue a statement on his demise but would do so later.
The former Finance minister and Alliance High School alumnus was an accomplished economist and one of retired President Kibaki’s most trusted friends. Like Mr Kibaki, he was a graduate of Makerere University, where he studied for his Masters after attaining his Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics at the University of East Africa, Uganda.
He was one of a number of veterans who had been in the system since the 1960s, helping shape policy and then eventually going into politics and was elected MP for North Imenti in 1992.
It was 21 years after his election that he took over at Treasury, trying to revive an economy in the doldrums and working in a government that headed a country that was in 2003 rated as among the most optimistic in the world.
He is credited with instilling financial discipline in government, resulting in stabilizing fluctuating interest rates and turning around an economy that was recording negative growth.
Mr Mwiraria and his team at the Treasury concentrated on the basics — reducing borrowing from commercial banks and as a consequence forcing them to turn to the ordinary Kenyan and running after them to offer loans.
Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi has eulogized his former powerful cabinet colleague David Mwiraria as an honest and trusted leader of the Kibaki administration.
Describing Mr Mwiraria as a senior brother, mentor and close confidant, the senator said the former minister would be remembered as the most illustrious son of Meru and the finance minister who introduced the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in Kenya.
“Although he was a very educated and powerful finance minister, who was very trusted by President Kibaki, Mwiraria was a very honest, humble and kind person,’’ the Meru Senator said in his condolence message to the family.
Senator Murungi said he had received the news of his mentor’s death with “deep shock and regret.’’
“It is Hon Mwiraria’s diligence and commitment as Finance Minister that made all the difference with regard to delivering NARC’s promises on key sectors of the economy as we raced to fulfill our pledges against a background of an economy that had gone to the dogs,” said Raila Odinga in his condolence message on Thursday.
Mr Odinga was Roads minister in the Kibaki administration before they fell out in 2005.
Before Mr Mwiraria could complete his third year at Treasury, the Kibaki administration was hit by the storm that would shake it to its very foundation, the scandal one of its ministers said “never was” but which would never go away.
Kenya had signed 18 contracts, most of them with a shadowy international firm known as Anglo Leasing Finance, and when the details were leaked by then Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics John Githongo, Mr Mwiraria was caught up in it.
Mr Mwiraria would later “step aside” in 2006, keep a low profile and then be reappointed in July 2007 as Minister for Environment.
But Anglo Leasing would not let him go and in March 2015, he was among 13 suspects charged with conspiracy to defraud the government of Sh7 billion. The charges were the culmination of 10 years of investigations and came long after Mr Mwiraria had fallen sick.
Indeed, he never stepped inside the court and pleaded not guilty from his bed at Karen Hospital.
Additional reporting by Brian Moseti.