NAIROBI—A man of faith, a peace maker, a patriot and a Kenyan icon.
This was how the Garissa Senator Muhammad Yusuf Haji, arguably one of the most respected Kenyan statesmen and community leaders, was eulogized after his death on Monday.
The former cabinet minister who is on record as having served as the longest provincial administrator passed away on Monday morning at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi. He was 80 years old.
Messages of condolences poured in for the veteran statesman who until his death was the chairperson of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Taskforce.
The Senator was a long term trustee mem- ber of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) and the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Umma University. Muhammad Yusuf Haji was born in 1940 in Garissa, which was then part of the North- ern Frontier District.
He joined Kenya’s provincial administration in 1960 as a district officer (DO) and rose through the ranks to become one of the country’s most powerful provincial commissioners. He served in Western province and Rift Valley province between 1970 and 1998.
In 2002, he was nominated to Parliament and five years later elected as the Member of Parliament for Ijara Constituency. During the Kibaki administration, he was appointed the Defence minister from 2008 to 2013 and briefly served as the acting Minister of Internal Security and Provincial Affairs in 2012.
He was a known peacemaker working on reconciliation efforts between warring clans in various parts of the country. In 2014, he oversaw the signing of a peace agreement between the Degodia and Garre communities in Wajir and Mandera counties to end the perennial clashes. President Uhuru Kenyatta led Kenyans in paying tribute to the departed leader.
“We have lost such a dependable, solid and highly accomplished Kenyan leader. Mzee Haji was a highly respected leader and elder whose wisdom, deep knowledge of the Kenyan society and long experience as a public administrator ena- bled him to serve the country in various leadership roles with distinction for many years,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in his eulogy.
Speaking at the burial at the Lang’ata Muslim Cemetery, the Head of State who was accompanied by the Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Kenyans have lost a leader who stood for justice and a patriot who dedicated most of his years to serve his country.
The Vice President on his part described the late Senator as a selfless, progressive, dependable and a committed champion of a united Kenya.
“We will fondly remember Honourable Haji as a leader who robustly upheld and reinforced the reputation and integrity of public service,” he said.
The former majority leader and Garissa Township MP Aden Duale described the late statesman as a Muslim leader who advocated for peace and harmony among the pastoralist communities during his lifetime.
“He was a man of faith, integrity, diligence, duty, peace maker and an enforcer of discipline in public service. He was a prominent Muslim leader and respectable Somali elder and decent politician that both the Muslim umma and Kenya. We will miss his leadership and guidance,” he said in his condolence message.
Speaking at the burial, the deputy Imam of Jamia mosque Sheikh Jamaldin Osman described the Senator as a selfless leader who stood for peace and justice in the country and appeal for those he may have hurt to forgive him.
“In his more than 60 years of service, it is human nature that he offended some people. It is my appeal that we forgive him of his mistakes and pray to Allah to grant him paradise,” he implored.
The Jamia Mosque secretary general Abdulbari Hamid described his passing on as a big loss to the ummah stating that the late Senator was an instrumental figure in working for the interests of Muslims in the country.
“On behalf of the Muslims in the country, we condole with the family upon the passing of one of the country’s most respectable leaders,” he said.
Speaking at the family home of the late Muhammad Yusuf Hajj where officials from Jamia Mosque went to condole with the bereaved family, the Imam Sheikh Muhammad Swalihu said he would be remembered as a peacemaker where he was involved in various missions to pacify warring communities.
“He was a selfless leader who stood for peace and justice. The good he did for the community and the nation are more than his shortcomings. We implore upon on Allah to over- look his mistakes and grant him Jannatul Firdaws,” he said.