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The Legacy of Mwai Kibaki, the Third President of Kenya

Hon. Mwai Kibaki at the London Conference on Somalia

Hon. Mwai Kibaki at the London Conference on Somalia

On the morning of Friday April 22, 2022, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the death of the former president of the Republic of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki.

Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki, popularly known as Mwai Kibaki, is revered for having resuscitated Kenya's economy that had declined drastically, ushering in free primary education and revised Kenya constitution, revitalising the health sector, boosting infrastructure and other social services.

The 2010 constitution is remarked as Kibaki's most noteworthy achievement. The revised constitution was meant to "reduce the excessive power vested in the presidency, decentralise government and bring it closer to the people through devolution." Other changes that were made "included the independence of judiciary, a bicameral legislatures creation of independent institutions, enhanced fight against corruption, gender equality and a well laid out transitional process." (The Standard Newspaper)

When Kibaki took the office on December 2002, Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP) was at its lowest - 0.5%. Under his leadership, Kenya's GDP grew from 2.9% in 2003 to 5.1% in 2004, 5.9% in 2005, 6.4% in 2006, and 6.8% in 2007.

According to Business Daily Africa newspaper, the economic gain that was experienced during Kibaki's first term tumbled to 0.2% following the 2007 post-election violence and the global financial crisis of 2008. However, the GDP spiked to 3.3% in 2009 and 8% in 2010.

The East African newspaper states when Kibaki took over from Moi, the revised economic data released by World Bank-funded Kenya Open Data Project on the Internet in 2011 reveals "Kenya was starting to recover from the trough of a decade-long economic decline induced by a debilitating toll of grand corruption that sapped public finances and the resulting shocks induced by massive cuts in economic aid."

Mwai Kibaki's Biography

Early Life

Kibaki was born on November 1931 in Gatuyaini village, Nyeri County, to peasant farmers, Kibaki Gîthînji and Teresia Wanjiku. He was the youngest of the eight children in the family.

He attended Mang'u High school (1947-1950) after completing his primary education, and earned a scholarship to study at Makerere University, Uganda. He enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics, History and Political Science; graduating from the university (1955) with a First Class Honours.

He worked briefly as an assistant general manager at Shell Company of East Africa, Uganda, before earning a scholarship to study for a postgraduate degree at any university in Britain. He chose to study at London School of Economics; graduating in 1958 with a distinction in Bachelor of Science in Public Finance.

From 1958-1961, Kibaki taught at Makere University as an assistant lecturer in the economics department.

President Moi and Bush

President Moi and Bush

Political Life

One of the longest serving politicians in Kenya, Kibaki joined politics in 1960 after resigning from his teaching job at Makerere. His first political job was as an executive officer of Kenya African National Union (KANU).

He served in various capacities in both Kenyatta's and Moi's governments.

  • In 1963, he was appointed as the Permanent Secretary for the Treasury.
  • In the same year, he was also appointed Assistant Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Economic Planning Commission.
  • In 1966, he was appointed as Minister of Commerce and Industry.
  • In 1969 he was appointed as Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.

Kibaki also served as Vice-president following the death of Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

In 1963, Kibaki became a first-time Member of Parliament; clinching the seat for Donholm Constituency in Nairobi. Years later, he relocated his political base to Nyeri where he contested for the same political position for Othaya Constituency. He won the seat, in 1974, and since then, Kibaki managed to be elected back as Member of Parliament for Othaya Constituency until 2007 when he retired from politics.

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Back then during Moi's regime, Kibaki was both a loyalist to Moi's government and the ruling party, KANU. He mocked the concept of multipartism. It came as a surprise to many when he resigned from his civil post and left the ruling party to form his own party, Democratic Party (DP).

Confrontation between Kibaki and Moi on political matters saw Kibaki being moved from holding the ministerial position of finance to home affairs. Further fallout between the two culminated to Kibaki being stripped of his position as Vice-president and moved to the ministry of health docket.

He contested for the presidential seat twice - 1992 and 1997 - but lost to the second president of Kenya, Danie Moi. The following year, Kibaki became the leader of opposition.

Prior to 2002 General Election, Kibaki's political party, DP, joined hands with another alliance party, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and several other parties to form an umbrella party - the National Alliance of Rainbow Coalition (NARC). It's through the alliance thag Kibaki was able to emerge as the winner in the 2002 General Election. He gathered 62% of the votes while KANU's candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, came second.

Tens of thousands of Kenyans including national and international dignitaries attended the swearing-in ceremony of the third president of Kenya. The ceremony marked the end of Moi's 24-years iron-fist rule, and the end of the ruling political party, KANU, four-decades dominance in the political arena from when the country gained independence from their colonialist, Britain.

The 2007-post election violence tainted Kibaki's image however a power-sharing agreement that was brokered by a number of dignitaries, both locally and internationally, led to the end of violence that claimed over 1,000 lives, displacement of more than 300,000 Kenyans, and damage of millions of worth of properties. Also, he never succeeded in fighting against corruption that was prevalent in his two-terms presidency that had crippled Kenyan's economy during Moi's rule.

The general sentiments among Kenyans concerning the death of their third president is that Kibaki was the best president Kenya has ever had. They question whether they'll ever have a president equal to or who will surpass Kibaki's legacy.

Personal Life

Kibaki met Lucy Muthoni in 1959. When they met, Lucy was holding the position of principal at Kambui College, Kiambu.

Lucy was born in 1936 to John Kagai, a pastor, and Rose Nyachomba, in Mukurwr-ini, Nyeri County.

Lucy was trained as a teacher - having worked in that capacity at Kamwenja Teacher's College, and later at Kambui College before she was promoted to the post of principal at the college.

After two years of dating, they married in 1961. Two years later, Lucy resigned from her teaching job.

Lucy died at the age of 80 on April 26, 2016, at Bupa Cromwell Hospital in London after having been briefly hospitalised at Nairobi Hospital for chest pains.

Uhuru Kenyatta didn't disclose the cause of Kibaki's death when he broke the news in a televised address to the nation. However, on Monday (April 25) when the doors were opened for the public to view Kibaki's body culminating in a state funeral on Friday (April 29) before being buried at his rural home (April 30), Jimmy in an interview with Citizen TV stated his father had been ailing for three years. His condition had worsened three months prior to his death.

The former president died at Nairobi Hospital where he was hospitalised.

The two have left behind four children - Judy Wanjiku, Jimmy Kibaki, David Kagai and Tony Gîthînji - grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Kibaki's Memorable Quotes

  1. The Constitution I promulgated in August 2010 is the boldest step the Kenyan people have taken towards changing their lives. This constitution, which Kenyans sought fruitlessly for more than two decades, effected fundamental changes in the way in which the country shall be governed.
  2. Kenyans will always prefer peace over conflict, prosperity over desolation, unity over discord and justice over injustice. That is why on February 28, 2008, I and Hon Raila Odinga signed the National accord because our people had spoken clearly that they wanted one Kenya - in which all lived in peace, justice and harmony.
  3. I am inheriting a country which has been badly ravaged by years of misrule and ineptitude. There has been a wide disconnect between the people and the Government, between people’s aspirants and the Government’s attitude toward them... We want to bring back the culture of due process, accountability and transparency in public office. The era of “anything goes” is gone forever. Government will no longer be run on the whims of individuals. The era of roadside policy declarations is gone. My Government’s decisions will be guided by teamwork and consultations.
  4. You do not have to blacken the other fellow in order for you to shine. You can shine very brilliantly and the other guy can also shine very brilliantly. This business of being jealous and envious is ridiculous. It is a mark of smallness of mind and spirit. It is only people of very small minds and spirits who think that they can only shine if the other fellow is totally blackened.
  5. Education is now the most important factor of production. No one, no country can be competitive without massive investment in education. We must therefore ensure all our children have access to quality education. This is the only way of giving them a fair chance in life in today’s world. But it should not just be education. We must look at the particular bodies of knowledge and skills that are driving economies around the world and that will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Let us focus on these areas and others that are relevant to the needs of our country and the world market.”
  6. It is our belief that nations should embrace dialogue and peaceful settlement of disputes instead of rushing to arms, for suffering and bloodshed will ensue.
  7. May hard work, and justice, always cement our bonds of unity that we may get our country back to production.
  8. Only by addressing the root causes of conflict and disputes can we hope to find lasting peace in a just and equitable world.
  9. Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed.

© 2022 Alianess Benny Njuguna

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