Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr. had a distant gaze recounting one of his hardest leadership moments. His voice cracked a little, his expression sombre as he recalled the heart-wrenching stories from survivors of the Solai Dam tragedy of 2018 . This set the tone for what would be one of the most riveting fireside chats titled Round Table ‘Ask Me Anything’, courtesy of the Rotary Club of Nairobi- Lang’ata. The virtual, thought-provoking fireside conversation which took place on Friday 18th September, was moderated by Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner, Dr. Fred Mugambi.
“Solai still haunts me to date. I spoke to a man whose children have refused to go home because they are traumatized. Many of those families are now beggars waiting for handouts because he has the justice system in his pockets, and remains untouchable by law enforcers in Solai,” Sen. Mutula Jr. began.
Citing Karl Marx, he vehemently condemned the impunity that exonerated the culprits of manslaughter, that even saw human rights activists being teargassed as they donated food to the families whose livelihoods were destroyed.
“The man is like a god without whom the people of Solai could not have water! What hurts even more is that people claimed that the tragedy was an act of God! We need to cease this notion of having justice for the rich and the poor. Many of the people who were affected were laborers with nobody to stand up for them. The level of impunity is unfathomable, that the man who took away the lives of 47 people has his nose up in the air as the victims languish in poverty,” said Senator Mutula.
Sen. Mutula Jr. narrated how within months of the Solai tragedy, he was invited to Brazil to witness a similar tragedy whose management was a stark contrast. In what would be the worst catastrophe in the history of the country, a mining dam collapsed in Brumadinho, killing 157 people . The government swiftly moved into action saving as many lives as they could and the engineers serving time for their negligence.
To lighten the mood, Dr. Mugambi probed into his upbringing and what it was like being raised by his father, legendary former cabinet minister, Hon. Mutula Kilonzo. He nostalgically described his runs as a clerk and cleaner in his father’s law firm, cherishing his political counsel and keeping his memory alive by planting trees.
“My father was my best friend. I learnt to be a Rotarian from my dad whose values of integrity were unshaken. He was however a lonely man since his ideals in the political circles were unpopular. Growing up, my father hired me as a clerk in his office. I know all the back alleys and shortcut in Nairobi like the back of my hand. He would make me ride in public transport at 5 am in the morning as he drove to work, yet we met at the same office. This experience made me appreciate the tribulations of market women seeking food on their table,” narrated Sen. Mutula Jr.
Like the proverbial apple from the tree, he and a few friends came together and intensely lobbied to charter the Rotary Club of Nairobi-Lang’ata in 2001, championing Parapet CEO, Alex Nyaga as the Charter President. The Club which exuded youthful vibrancy and inclusivity now stands as the biggest club in the District.
An avid reader and golfer, Sen. Mutula Jr. is adjusting his sails in the turbulent waters of leadership to ensure that Early Childhood education (ECDE) classes are well kitted to make learning fun for children.
He has also been vocal against teenage pregnancies calling for stiffer penalties against perpetrators of children related crimes.
“I was once invited to commission a school where I noticed an abandoned corner of the school. My guide told me that it was the dormitory for the physically challenged. I was horrified at the dilapidated state in which the pupils lived. I make it a personal vow that together with people of goodwill to ensure that physically challenged pupils access equal rights as other children. More importantly, I commit to making the EDCE classrooms are the most vibrant in the school. This pandemic has made me reflect deeply about our priorities in education,” explained Sen. Mutula.
After nearly three hours of a nourishing conversation, he appealed to attendees to uphold integrity and justice especially for those who could not fight for themselves. He also urged the attendees to demand accountability from their leaders.
To savor these thought-provoking interactions, await the next Round table in three months, with a surprise guest.