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Who is Mwai Kibaki?

By Amina Wako April 22nd, 2022 2 min read

Kenya’s third President Mwai Kibaki is remembered as the man who helped restore Kenya’s failing economy.

The 90-year-old is also known to have been at the helm during arguably the most challenging period in Kenya’s history. That was in 2007/2008 when Kenyans turned on each other with weapons to protest a disputed election.

Kibaki who served as President between 2002 to 2013 passed on at a Nairobi hospital. His death was announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He will be accorded a State funeral.

Kibaki was born on November 15, 1931, in Othaya, near Mount Kenya, in the heartland of his Kikuyu tribe, Kenya’s largest. The son of a tobacco trader, his name in Kikuyu means big tobacco leaf.

Married with four children, Kibaki was educated at Uganda’s Makerere University and the London School of Economics, where he was the first African to graduate with a first-class degree.

He returned to Makerere in 1958 as an economics lecturer.

He later became active in the Kenyan struggle for independence from Great Britain.

After Kenya became independent in 1963, he won a seat in the National Assembly as a member of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) party.

He has served as minister of finance (1969–82) and vice president (1978–88) but increasingly found himself at odds with President Daniel Arap Moi, who headed KANU.

In 1991 Kibaki resigned his membership in KANU to form the Democratic Party.

Kibaki unsuccessfully challenged Moi in the presidential elections of 1992 and 1997, though in 1998, he became the official head of the opposition.

With Moi constitutionally barred from seeking another presidential term, Kibaki sought the presidency for the third time.

In September 2002, he helped create the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), a multiparty alliance that nominated Kibaki as its presidential candidate.

In preparation for the December 2007 elections, Kibaki formed a new coalition, the Party of National Unity (PNU)

After a delay in releasing the final election results, Kibaki was declared the winner, narrowly defeating Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Odinga immediately disputed the outcome, and international observers questioned the validity of the final results. Widespread protests ensued throughout the country and degenerated into horrific acts of violence involving Kenya’s many ethnic groups, most notable of which were the Kikuyu (Kibaki’s group) and the Luo (Odinga’s group); both groups were victims as well as perpetrators. More than 1,000 people were killed, and over 60,000 Kenyans were displaced.

On February 28, 2008, Kibaki and Odinga signed a power-sharing plan brokered by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and Jakaya Kikwete, president of Tanzania and chairman of the African Union.

A new constitution finally materialized during Kibaki’s second term.

Among Kenya’s richest men, he has vast landholdings and interests in hotels, insurance, and farming. Kibaki enjoys playing golf and socializing at Nairobi’s exclusive clubs.

Kibaki was the first President of Kenya to belong to a party other than KANU (Kenya African national union)