Lifestyle

Final trip for tout who built matatu empire

muchai

Mr Kibira Muchai, a businessman in Elburgon, Nakuru County. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NMG

Summary

  • Molo Line Services is probably one of the most popular brands that have dominated the industry shuttling between Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nyahururu.
  • It has transformed the sector forcing competitors to benchmark with it and use the name Molo in their brands to woo clients.
  • Mr Muchai is described by many as a transformative, humble man who never discriminated against anybody he interacted with.

To thousands of commuters who use the popular Molo Line Services fleet daily the mention of the name, Kibira Muchai may not ring a bell.

Unknown to many Mr Muchai who passed on Tuesday, is one of the founders of perhaps one of the most successful and well-organised transport service providers in the chaotic matatu industry in Kenya. He was the vice-chairman of the company.

Molo Line Services is probably one of the most popular brands that have dominated the industry shuttling between Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nyahururu.

It has transformed the sector forcing competitors to benchmark with it and use the name Molo in their brands to woo clients.

Mr Muchai is described by many as a transformative, humble man who never discriminated against anybody he interacted with. He was also classless, unlike his rich peers who rarely mingle with the poor.

While his rich peers frequented top hotels in Nakuru and Nairobi, he patronised the dingy eateries in backstreets, mingling with ordinary Kenyans and cracking jokes as they shared meals.

His journey as the founder of Molo Line Services is one of commitment, perseverance, and hard work that has seen the company formed in 1994 in the dusty Elburgon township play a key role in bringing order in the industry and changing the attitude of commuters and other stakeholders.

His mobilisation skills were top-notch and he is credited with being the brains behind the formation of the company after he brought together top businessmen from Molo and Elburgon to form the company.

The company fleet previously was starting its trips from Elburgon to Nairobi before opening branches in Nakuru, Nairobi, Eldoret, and Kisumu.

To his close friends, he was a generous man and one of the most philanthropic businessmen in the industry, perhaps because he was a tout before he rose from grass to riches. He contributed generously towards education of poor and needy students regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. Elburgon is a multi-ethnic township.

Whenever residents were hit by misfortunes like fires, accidents, and deaths he was on the frontline to assist the victims and the bereaved. His home in Arimi in Elburgon was like a politician's private office as many residents lined up to get financial assistance.

The former alumni of Elburgon Harambee Secondary School also extended his philanthropic gesture to those who sought his assistance in Nakuru town and Nairobi.

"He was a jovial man and down to earth with a big heart. He mentored many in the matatu industry and remained approachable just like the way he was when he was a tout, even after acquiring a lot of wealth. He stayed and continued to mingle with the touts despite changing his class status," said Raphael Munge, one of his closest friends.

Mr Muchai is a former civic leader in Elburgon after he was elected on a Ford Asili ticket in 1992 while he was a tout prompting the late President Daniel arap Moi in a political rally to issue one of his most infamous statements that he was shocked the residents of Elburgon dared to elect a manamba (tout) as their leader.

But Mr Muchai was not cowed by the statement and he went on to make history as the first-ever tout to become a civic leader in the rainbow county. However, his attempt to vie for the Molo Constituency parliamentary seat in 2002 flopped when he lost in the primaries.

Mr Muchai believed in helping to uplift people from the yoke of poverty and making friends across the political divide.

This was evident during the infamous 1992 tribal clashes in Molo and Elburgon which left a trail of destruction and bloodshed.

"He used his own money to crisscross the war-torn zone to preach peace and was instrumental in bringing the displaced people from all the affected communities together," said Mr Munge.

His neighbour Gichuki Kariuki who served as the medical officer of health for the then Nakuru District describes Mr Muchai as a unique person with exceptional leadership qualities.

"I was his doctor and I can attest he lived a simple life mingling with the higher and mighty," said Dr Kariuki who is also the county executive committee member in charge of the health docket.