Mitumba Trader Who Charmed His Way Into Statehouse

  • Kenya's second President Mwai Kibaki (right) with his Grandson Kibaki Junior pose for a photo at his Othaya home.
    Kenya's second President Mwai Kibaki (right) with his Grandson Kibaki Junior pose for a photo at his Othaya home.
    File
  • On February 7, 2012, Mzee Mwai Kibaki went to the Bomas of Kenya to attend an event to mark the 5th anniversary of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund.

    While he was touring the stands mounted by the youth, he stumbled upon a mitumba trader/aspiring designer Michael Mugwe who had carried a few of his cotton shirt designs to display at the venue.

    According to the Daily Nation on June 29, 2012, Kibaki stopped at the shed to admire the shirts that were made of cotton, while Mugwe trembled not too far off.

    "There was pandemonium near the stand as the President headed my way. I trembled. He particularly looked at my shirts, picked one and said “Hii ni rangi yangu. Hii nitachukua, kijana “(This is my favourite colour. I will buy it, young man),” Mugwe recounted.

    President Kibaki receives shirts from Michael Mugwe (second left) on April 5, 2012. Looking on are Youth minister Paul Otuoma and PS James Waweru.
    President Kibaki receives shirts from Michael Mugwe (second left) on April 5, 2012. Looking on are Youth minister Paul Otuoma and PS James Waweru.
    Daily Nation

    Mugwe, however, narrated that Kibaki found the shirt to be too small for him, but having been appealed by the design, he was not about to let it go.

    “Someone (I believe it was Youth Assistant Minister Wavinya Ndeti) immediately gave me the President’s measurements. It was XXL (Extra Extra Large). Tengeneza kama hii, uniletee (make like this one and bring it to me),” the President added.

    Mugwe narrated that three days later, he left three shirts at the Permanent Secretary's office, the PS at that time being James Waweru.

    Waweru responded a few days later and told Mugwe that the President had insisted that he wanted him to deliver the shirts personally and that he should be accompanied by a few young entrepreneurs.

    “The President still chose the same shirt after trying out the three. He was delighted that I use cotton, which is grown locally, and that I was married with children. He also didn't bargain when I stated my price” Mugwe noted.

    During the occasion, the President presented a cheque of Sh500,000 to him and encouraged him to keep working hard to develop his craft.

    Mugwe further recalled that it was not the end of their relationship as he kept working on more designs, including one that Kibaki wore during a  National Tree Planting season at Kitui High School on April 30, 2012.

    President Kibaki (centre) presents a cheque of Sh500,000 to Michael Mugwe, an outstanding youthful entrepreneur at his Harambee House Office on April 5, 2012.
    President Kibaki (centre) presents a cheque of Sh500,000 to Michael Mugwe, an outstanding youthful entrepreneur at his Harambee House Office on April 5, 2012.
    Daily Nation

    At the time, he had a shop identified as Micah Fine Art in Nairobi’s River Road and a workshop in Umoja estate, where a single shirt went for Ksh. 2000.