Mwai Kibaki life and biography

Mwai Kibaki picture, image, poster

Mwai Kibaki biography

Date of birth : 1931-12-08
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Nyeri, Kenya
Nationality : Kenyan
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-22
Credited as : Politician and economist, President of Kenya, World's political leader

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Mwai Kibaki, also known as Emilio Mwai Kibaki born December 8, 1931 in Nyeri, Kenya is a Kenyan Politician, economist and the current President of Kenya.

Economist and politician Mwai Kibaki in 2002 became the third president of independent Kenya, ending 24 years of Daniel Arap Moi's rule, and breaking the hegemonic grip over national politics that the Kenya African National Union (KANU) had maintained since Kenya won its independence from Britain in 1963. As in other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that have, for the first time since independence, recently witnessed a handover of power through the ballot box, the elections were hailed as a historical landmark, a "second liberation." Also in common with these countries, however, the return to multiparty democracy has not borne the fruits of its promise. Under Kibaki, euphoria gave way to disillusionment as governmental corruption appeared as intractable as ever, jobs were scarce, and 20 million of the country's 30 million continued to live below the poverty line of one dollar per day in East Africa's largest economy. Called by New African's Tom Mbakwe "one of the eternal faces of Kenyan politics," Kibaki has played a role in government uninterrupted since independence, rising up the ranks to prominence--before falling out with his predecessor in the 1980s, founding his own party, and resolutely launching three bids for the presidency. He was re-elected in 2007 amid accusations of fraud.

Kibaki, the youngest of eight children, was born on November 15, 1931, to tobacco and cattle farmers Kibaki Githinji and Teresia Wanjiku. The family, members of Kenya's largest single tribal group, the Kikuyu, lived in Gatuyaini Village near Mount Kenya--homeland of the Kikuyu and Kenya's highest mountain and the second highest in Africa. Kibaki attended three primary schools and received his secondary education at one of Kenya's best schools, Man'gu High School, where his academic performance earned him a scholarship at Uganda's Makerere University to read economics, history, and political science. At Makerere--a prestigious institution where a significant number of those who were to play key roles in post-independence Africa were educated--Kibaki thrived. He graduated in 1955 with first class honors, and was chairman of the Kenya Students Association, and vice chairman of the Makerere Students Guild. On graduation, Kibaki accepted a job as assistant sales manager with Shell's Uganda division, but very quickly left when he was awarded a scholarship to study at the London School of Economics. Equipped with a distinction in economics and public finance, Kibaki returned to Makerere in 1958 to take up a post as assistant economics lecturer.

Four Decades in the Kenyan Government

During a visit to Kenya, while he was still teaching, Kibaki helped to draft what was to become independent Kenya's first constitution--a process which according to Kibaki and others involved took just a few hours at a Nairobi bar. Kibaki left Makerere and returned to Kenya in 1960, serving as executive officer for two years in KANU, the largest Kenyan political party at the time. Kibaki left this role the same year that he married Lucy Muthoni, a pastor's daughter, with whom he was to have four children. In 1963, when Kenya won its independence, KANU, led by Jomo Kenyatta, took the helm of government and Kibaki was elected Member of Parliament. He served in Kenyatta's government in a number of positions before being made minister of finance and economic planning in 1970. On Kenyatta's death in 1978, Moi became president and appointed Kibaki as his vice-president. Under Moi, vibrant debate became stifled, culminating in a constitutional amendment in 1982 which made KANU the only legal political party. Moi and Kibaki fell out over the 1988 elections which consolidated Kenya as a one party state, and the president demoted Kibaki, granting him the ministry of health portfolio. Kibaki resigned from KANU in December 1991, days after the one-party state stipulation in the constitution was repealed, to found the Democratic Party (DP) on Christmas Day and launch a bid for the presidency.

Despite a nominal return to multi-party democracy, Moi retained his tenacious grip on power, winning the vote in 1992 and 1997 through rigged elections marred by violence and bloodshed. Kibaki ran both times, placing third in 1992 and second in 1997. Kibaki presided over the forging together of fifteen disparate groups to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) that would run against KANU in the 2002 elections. In the months before the elections several prominent KANU members defected to NARC due, in large part, to Moi's obstinate insistence that Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya's first post-independence president, be the presidential candidate.

Kibaki's campaign centered on four central pledges: a crackdown on corruption, rapid economic growth and the creation of 500 000 jobs, constitutional reform, and free primary education for all. With these promises, Kibaki tapped into the thirst for change, and in elections largely free from violence, was swept to victory on a wave of euphoria, winning 62.2% of the vote. Three days later, on December 30, 2002, Kibaki was inaugurated--still in a wheelchair due to a car accident he had suffered on the campaign trail. The atmosphere was jubilant, chaotic, and hopeful; people were singing a NARC campaigning slogan, "Everything is possible without Moi." Indeed, when Moi arrived, his convoy was pelted with mud and his faltering speech was booed and jeered throughout. Kibaki, on the other hand, delivered from his wheelchair, what, according to New African journalist Wanjohi Kabukuru, was one of the best speeches given in the East African region. Promising to "lead this nation out of the present wilderness and malaise onto the promised land" through "responsive, transparent and innovative leadership" and announcing that "the era of 'anything goes' [was] gone forever", the speech was stirring and did little to temper the enormity of the expectations of the Kenyan electorate.

From the Wilderness to the Promised Land?

The first move of the new government was to initiate the free primary education policy just one week after Kibaki took office. Moi had bequeathed a foundering economy isolated from the international community. Citing endemic corruption, the IMF had, apart from a few months in 2000, frozen its funding to Kenya since 1997, and other bilateral and multilateral donors had consequently done the same. Kibaki's pledge to turn the economy around meant restoring investor confidence and encouraging the resumption of international aid--and so was intimately linked to his pledge to crack down on corruption.

Towards the end of 2003, international donors resumed aid and lending, citing Kibaki's tough stance on corruption and judicial reform. In the first two months of Kibaki's rule, the equivalent of $198 million stolen from public coffers was recovered. Investigations led to the suspension of a number of judges and magistrates accused of bribery and related offences. Kibaki's government opened an inquiry into the notorious Goldenberg Affair--a high-profile scandal in the early 1990s involving non-existent companies, fabricated claims, and central bank payments of billions of dollars for fake export credits for gold and diamond. It was this investigation in particular that was meant to convey the message that the top echelons of Kenyan government would no longer be able to plunder the state with impunity.

Despite early signs of improvement, however, high-level sleaze, corruption, and mistrust continued to characterize the economic and political landscape during Kibaki's presidency. In a move that was perceived by many as proof of his commitment to stamp out corruption, Kibaki had appointed John Githongo as chief anti-corruption investigator. Less than two years later, however, in 2004, Githongo announced his resignation during a trip to the United Kingdom, days after the British High Commissioner had caused a diplomatic storm accusing Kenyan government officials of "eating like gluttons" and "vomiting on the shoes of foreign donors," as quoted by Neil Ford writing for African Business. Githongo claimed that he had been prevented from investigating the activities of high-ranking officials in Kibaki's government, and in a dossier he had prepared, exposed the Anglo-Leasing scandal, which revolved around a $20 million passport computer system, and led to the resignation of a number of Kibaki's ministers and to the suspension of some money flows from the United States and Germany.

As part of an effort to reduce Kenya's reliance on multilateral and Western donors, Kibaki's government intensified economic co-operation with China and the Asian Tigers. Perhaps more crucially, it, with Tanzania and Uganda, has sought to move forward with the establishment and institutionalization of the East African Federation, which would entail economic integration and the creation of a single market.

Troubled Leadership

Constitutional reform, one of Kibaki's central electoral pledges, was seen by many as essential to the consolidation of democracy. The process of drawing up a new constitution exacerbated and brought to the fore deep frictions and fissures within Kibaki's National Rainbow Coalition. Disagreements were particularly acrimonious when it came to the issue of how much power would be concentrated in the president. The final draft was put to a national referendum. According to critics and opponents of this draft--amongst whom were a quarter of Kibaki's cabinet--it did not place sufficient limits on the president's extensive powers. In a country where a third of the adult population are illiterate, fruits were used to represent the opposing camps. Kibaki's yes campaign used a banana, and the no campaign, an orange. After weeks of incendiary and sometimes violent campaigning, on November 21, 2005, the orange camp carried the day with 57 percent of the vote. Kibaki's immediate response to his humiliating defeat was to sack his entire cabinet, running the country for a fortnight with his vice-president, attorney general and permanent secretaries constituting his only team. After drawing up a new sympathetic cabinet, Kibaki was plunged further into crisis when several of the people he had named turned down their appointments.

Tribal affiliations and loyalties, thought to have become less politically significant since the end of the Moi-era, clearly played out in voting patterns; most dramatically, in the Kikuyu Mount Kenya region, the yes campaign took 92% of the vote. For a number of commentators, however, the results of the constitutional referendum are better understood as an indictment of Kibaki's rule. In the words of Magesha Ngwiri, opinion editor of Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, the vote was "a countrywide protest against the fact that he seems to have retreated into some laager of his own creation." It will be in the 2007 elections--which Kibaki announced that he would contest in January 2007--that Kibaki's popularity with the Kenyan electorate will be more accurately gauged.

Whilst Moi's rule was characterized by his adept political maneuverings which played ethnic differences off against one another, Kibaki's hands-off approach has not incited ethnic tensions. Accusations, however, that Kibaki, himself a Kikuyu, has fallen under the influence of a clique of Kikuyu politicians dubbed the "Mount Kenya mafia," have stirred up fears of domination by the Kikuyu, who constituting just over a fifth of the Kenyan population, are the country's largest ethnic group. The principally Kikuyu based Mau Mau rebellion--in which Kibaki's brother fought and died--was a key part of Kenya's path to independence. Rather than celebrate it, however, independent Kenya has shied away from official commemoration for fear that it would have divisive and disruptive consequences in a multiethnic state. Kibaki has sought to reverse this trend, so that this bloody chapter in Kenya's struggle for independence can be officially remembered.

Elected on a mandate to eliminate corruption, transform the economy, and implement constitutional reform, Kibaki has, despite presiding over increased economic growth rates and an expansion of the democratic space, spectacularly failed to bring about dramatic change. In 2007, Kenya's election authorities declared Kibaki the winner of the December 27 presidential elections. He was sworn in for another term an hour after he was declared the winner, despite his challenger, Raila Odinga, having claimed that Kibaki had stolen the election.

Days later, election monitors from the European Union said Kibaki's re-election "lacked credibility" because of "a lack of transparency in the processing and tallying of the presidential results." On February 28, 2008, Kibaki and Odinga signed a power-sharing agreement. Observers hoped the agreement would end ethnic violence that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths in the wake of the disputed election.

One month later, Kibaki appointed a commission to investigate allegations of election irregularities. Unrest in the country continued, however. In late December of that year, hecklers cut short Kibaki's annual independence day speech.

In 2009, Kibaki promised to make his country more open to new businesses. "Government departments must expedite all applications and submissions presented to them by stakeholders on improving the environment of doing business in the country. This is the attitude government departments must adopt, " Kibaki said, as quoted by the Nairobi publication Business Daily.


Born Mwai Kibaki on November December 8, 1938, in Nyeri, Kenya; married Lucy Muthoni, 1962; children: Judy, Jimmy, David, and Tony Education: Makerere University Uganda, economics, history and political science, 1955; London School of Economics, BSc, economics and public finance, 1958. Religion: Catholic. Memberships: Committee, member and chair; House Business Committee, member. Addresses: Office--Harambee House, Office of the President, P.O. Box 30510, Nairobi, Kenya.


Makerere University, Uganda, assistant economics lecturer; 1958-60; national executive officer of Kenya African National Union, 1960-62; Central Legislative Assembly of East African Common Services Organization, representative from Kenya, 1962; Member of Parliament, 1963-; parliamentary secretary to minister of finance, 1963-65; assistant minister of economics, planning, and development, 1964-66; minister for commerce and industry, 1966-69; minister of finance and economic planning, 1970-82; branch chairman for KANU, 1974-91; minister of home affairs, 1983-88; vice president of Kenya, 1978-88; minister of health, 1988-91; National Democratic Party of Kenya, leader, 1991-; President of Kenya, 2002-.

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