Former President Mwai Kibaki was on Sunday afternoon flown to South Africa for specialized treatment after he fell ill over the weekend and was rushed to Karen Hospital in Nairobi.
Government officials and his family were guarded with information on Mr Kibaki’s health, but the Nation learnt that he was wheeled into the hospital’s emergency unit on Saturday night at around 9pm.
On Sunday, it was feared that Mr Kibaki, 84, may have suffered a stroke, although there was no confirmation from either the family or the hospital.
Mr Kibaki enjoyed good health most of his adult life and was known to play golf and was an almost permanent fixture in the country club circuit until a 2012 car accident.
He has been in uncertain health since the accident and is believed to have suffered a stroke in early 2003. He made remarkable recovery, save for mild memory lapses and slight speech impairment, and successfully served 10 years as President, including gruelling campaigns and dealing with national crises.
In the 1970s and ’80s, when he was Finance and Planning minister, Mr Kibaki, whose brilliance in economics was widely acknowledged, was famous for his prodigious memory and grasp of technical detail.
A former lecturer, Mr Kibaki was notable in youth for his capacity to speak without notes, but as President he painfully laboured through written speeches on national days.
An intensely private and stoic man, it is not known outside a tight family circle what effect the April death of his wife of 54 years, Lucy Kibaki, had on Mr Kibaki’s already uncertain health.
The retired President has kept up a schedule of public service as Unesco Special Envoy for Water.
(READ: Kibaki meets African envoys on water shortage)
On Sunday, hospital staff told the Nation that Mr Kibaki was treated on Saturday and discharged yesterday after the family decided he would be treated abroad and flew him out.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was among those who went to the hospital to visit his predecessor.
A statement from the Presidency said Mr Kibaki was accompanied by his doctor to South Africa.
“We expect him to return soon, and Kenyans will be informed of his progress as appropriate,” said government spokesman Manoah Esipisu. “We ask Kenyans to pray for him, and to respect the privacy of the family at this difficult time.”
A source at Karen Hospital said the facility had been “very busy” since Mr Kibaki was wheeled in on Saturday night.
The hospital, one of the best in the country and reputed for its high-end patients registry, was founded by renowned cardiologists Dan Gikonyo and his wife Betty. Dr Gikonyo has been Mr Kibaki’s personal doctor and famously oversaw his recovery from the broken leg he suffered towards the end of the campaigns in December 2002.
According to the sources, who asked not to be named because they are not allowed to speak to the press, Mr Kibaki was taken out of the hospital in an ambulance with police escort.
ROUTINE MEDICAL CHECK-UPS
“The ambulance was between a police chase car, two Mercedes Benzes and two Toyota VXs,” said one of the sources.
Sources at the hospital said the former President had lately been “a frequent patient” there, mostly for “routine medical check-ups”.
Reporters also spotted the former President’s son, Jimmy Kibaki, at the hospital Sunday afternoon. He walked out at about 2.25pm and spoke to a group of five men at the hospital’s parking lot.
There were five vehicles, three of them Mercedes models with regular plates, as well as a chase car with GK number plates along with a uniformed police driver, presumably the team that drove the former President to hospital.
Retired heads of State are entitled to a motorcade and protection.
Hospital security kept reporters away from the former President’s family and staff at the car park but promised a family statement at 4pm. However, the Nation was later asked by the hospital to leave the premises.
Former heads of State usually enjoy perks from their former jobs, complete with a chase car and a motorcade financed by the State.
“The family has said that they are not ready to speak. The man you (media) are coming to see is here, but the family has said no (sic),” a hospital security official said.
Mr Kibaki, who has kept a low profile since he retired in April 2013.