A former university don who bears the scars of the second liberation has created excitement in Tharaka Nithi County after joining the race for a civic seat in Maara Constituency.
Prof Lawrence Mbae Mbijiwe, a renowned microbiologist who spent time at Manyani Maximum Prison in the early ‘80s, hopes to become the next Muthambi Ward Rep to transform the lives of his people after a decade of failed dreams.
According to Prof. Mbijiwe, for devolution to succeed as envisaged in the 2010 Constitution, county assemblies must have “the best brains” for better legislation, representation and oversight of the Executive.
“Devolution is the best thing that has ever happened in this country since independence but until county assemblies get the right brains, the dream will never be realized,” said Prof Mbijiwe, 64.
Though he has never been involved in elective politics, he fought for democracy and good governance during the repressive Nyayo regime.
1982 Attempted Coup
He was among University of Nairobi students who were arrested, detained and charged for allegedly participating in the 1982 attempted coup. As a second year student pursuing a degree in education, he found himself on the wrong side of President Moi’s government.
The young Mbijiwe was picked up by security agents and locked up at Manyani alongside other students, politicians and renegade Kenya Air Force soldiers who had allegedly participated in the attempted coup.
To ease congestion at the prison, he was among a few students who were put under house arrest. They had to report to the local chief’s office daily He, however, fled to Tanzania and later moved to Australia, where he studied and worked for many years before returning home in 2006.
In Tanzania, he met politicians James Orengo, Cheragat Mutai, Koigi wa Wamwere and Makau Mutua, who had also fled the country. With the help of the United Nations, he moved to Australia in 1985, where he studied medical microbiology and biotechnology.
Prof Mbijiwe later taught at Murdoch University and Curtin University until 2006 when he returned home and joined Kenyatta University for two years. “At Kenyatta University, I advised on the need to have a hospital and a mortuary, where medical students would have practicals. That’s how the hospital was built,” he offered.
In 2008, he retired to his sleepy Kathugune village, where he has been farming tobacco. As a member of the Ameru Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders, Prof Mbijiwe has been pushing for development projects in the region.
He has also been conducting civic education to enlighten locals on their rights and the need for education.
“I started developing interest for the civic seat after realising that after almost 10 years of devolution, very little development had been achieved in our county and the people to blame are MCAs, who don’t take their responsibilities seriously. We need better people at the assembly,” he said.
He accused MCAs of aiding corruption in the county, saying many are bribed with as little as Sh5000 to pass skewed budgets. He regretted that after a decade of devolution, Tharaka Nithi MCAs still debate in temporary chambers despite the county receiving billions of funds each year.
Prof Mbijiwe, who is running as an independent candidate, expressed the need to have learned MCAs who can add value to voters. “I am not interested in money, I only want to see my county developing,” he said.
He was born and brought up in Kathugune village in Gitije location, Muthambi Sub-County. He went to Marima Primary School and Chuka Boys, where he did his O-levels.
The author is a Digital Strategist. He occasionally writes on matters Technology, Politics and Health