Last week Mary Mugwanja was appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s ambassador to Austria. She learnt of the appointment while she accompanied her former boss, Nyandarua Governors Francis Kimemia.
People close to her describe her as a humble and caring person. According to reports, she cannot go for a minute without invoking God’s name.
From humble beginnings, Mugwanja was appointed to head Kenya’s envoy in Austria. Here is her story as told by WoK.
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Background & Education
According to a report by Nation, she once worked as a cleaner to fund her education.
Mugwanja also worked as a secretary at Barclays Bank (now Absa). She would work her way to the top, and was appointed director at Equity Bank and manager of its Westlands branch.
She was later poached by Governor Kimemia and appointed the County Executive Committee Member for Finance. During an event at Nuyayo Ward Hospital, the Nyandarua governor admitted that he poached her without consent from Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi.
“I had done my research and Ms Mugwanja turned out to be the best person I needed to help me manage the county treasury. She was then the Westlands Equity branch manager, the busiest branch,” Kimemia said.
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Mugwanja boasts 27 years in banking where she specialised in financial planning and management.
During a previous visit to Nyandarua County, Equity boss James Mwangi stated that Governor Kimemia had poached the best of his staff, saying that she was welcome back at Equity at any time.
“We were proud of Mary, she was always welcome to come back to Equity, she was an asset, a hardworking lady, focused, and a team leader,” he said.
She has now been appointed as the Kenyan ambassador to Austria.
“I don’t know how Kenyans learnt about the appointment ahead of me. I was unsure how to respond, I could not believe it, I thought there must be another Mary Mugwanja, until I officially received the official confirmation,” she said.
“That was when I was confident to receive calls and respond to the kind messages. I have always told those I interact with that service to humanity is service to God. I have seen and experienced a lot in my life. God has always been there for me at the hour of need. I thank God for the new appointment and promise the President and Kenyans that I will make Kenya proud in the new appointment.”
Mugwanja said that she does not know what she might have done to warrant the appointment. She revealed that she had only met President Uhuru Kenyatta once, at a time when they had gone to loby for development projects in Nyandarua county.
Nyandarua Interfaith Council chairperson Archbishop Josam Kariuki believes that she might have appealed to the president during one of those visits.
“Ms Mugwanja was the face of the county government, she is very interactive and her humble nature, sharpness, ability to negotiate and convince are amazing. She is very exposed and realistic. Her honesty in negotiating for the county and community and at work is amazing,” he said.
She is said to have rendered herself to the people of Nyandarua and left a mark in all the departments she headed. She is informed, diplomatic and relates well with people from all social classes.
“The best way for a leader to liberate himself is by mentoring others. I mentored Mary and I am proud of her performance. I am proud when I hear that under her leadership in the treasury, the county received three World Bank awards among others. If you want to liberate yourself as a leader, mentor your employees,” Equity boss James Mwangi described Mugwanja.
She was appointed as the CEC for Finance yandarua County in 2017. In 2018, she fell victim of a plot to impeach her which was hatched by a section of the Members of the County Assembly.
“My biggest motivation is to leave a legacy in whatever I do. You can never achieve anything unless you are dedicated to your job, the people you serve, serving them diligently, with honesty and transparency,” Mugwanja said.
“You must also be a keen listener to others. I believe in wider consultations and teamwork – we are where we are as Nyandarua due to teamwork. Everyone from the most junior to the governor [play] their roles. I also trust in God, always seeking his guidance.”
During the vetting exercise, the committee described Mugwanja as resilient, ambitious and hardworking.
“Ms Mugwanja is the right candidate for the job. Climbing the ladder in private companies means she is a hardworking person. She was perfectly able to articulate issues affecting Nyandarua and she had workable solutions,” House Business Committee vice-chairman Zachary Njeru said.
“I would like to thank the Nyandarua governor for allowing her to serve in her home county, and also inform Nyandarua residents that Mary is on sabbatical leave, she is free to join Equity Bank anytime if unhappy serving the county government,” James Mwangi said at the time.
“You don’t just quit a job because of the unending challenges, it’s how you handle the challenges that matters and the impact you make on the people. Our mission under the leadership of our governor is to transform Nyandarua and her people,” Mugwanja said.
She was later moved from the Ministry of Finance to Roads.
While a number of people claimed it was a demotion, Mugwanja noted that it was her most challenging task as she was not an engineer.
“The governor had good reasons to transfer me, you don’t doubt or fight your boss’ decisions. Nyandarua residents have for decades suffered under poor roads. The county had just bought Sh500 million roads equipment, my responsibility was to ensure the roads are done, equipment maintained with equal roads projects in the county,” she said.