Mwai Kibaki

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Mwai Kibaki
Mwai Kibaki

3rd President of Kenya
In office
December 30, 2002 – April 9, 2013
Vice President(s)   Michael Wamalwa
Moody Awori
Kalonzo Musyoka
Prime Minister Raila Odinga (2008–2013)
Preceded by Daniel arap Moi
Succeeded by Uhuru Kenyatta

4th Vice President of Kenya
In office
October 14, 1978 – March 24, 1988
President Daniel arap Moi
Preceded by Daniel arap Moi
Succeeded by Josephat Karanja

Minister for Finance
In office
1969 – 1982
President Daniel arap Moi
Jomo Kenyatta
Preceded by James Gichuru
Succeeded by Arthur Magugu

Member of Parliament
for Othaya
In office
1974 – January 2013
Preceded by King'ori Muhiukia
Succeeded by Mary Wambui

Born November 15 1931(1931-11-15)
Gatuyaini, Kenya Colony
Died 21 April 2022 (aged 90)
Nairobi, Kenya
Political party Kenya African National Union (1963–1992)
Democratic Party (1992–2007)
Party of National Unity (2007–2013)
Spouse Lucy Muthoni
(m. 1961; died 2016)
Children 4

Mwai Kibaki (November 15, 1931 - April 21, 2022) was a Kenyan politician, the third President of Kenya, serving from December 2002 to April 2013. Kibaki was previously Vice President (1978-1988) under Daniel arap Moi, and has held several other cabinet positions, including Minister for Finance (1978-1981), Minister for Home Affairs (1982-1988), and Minister for Health (1988-1991). After graduating from Makerere University College, Uganda, he taught economics there from 1958 until 1960. That year, he was involved in founding the KANU party. He became a member of parliament in 1963. He broke with Moi in 1991, when he founded the Democratic Party and contested the presidential election. Moi won. On his second attempt in 1997, he came second but the following year he became official leader of the opposition. When Moi retired, he stood against Moi's chosen successor and won, becoming Kenya's third President.

He was baptized Emilio Stanley by Italian missionaries in his youth but he rarely uses this name. He was sworn in on December 30, 2007, for his second term as president of the Republic of Kenya after controversially emerging winner of an election that was marked by accusations of fraud and widespread irregularities that have led to civil unrest. However, his presidency saw an annual percentage point rise in the gross domestic product. Although he initially rooted out corruption, this remains endemic. His style of leadership, like that of his two predecessors, was authoritarian.

Kibaki increased the power of the presidency at the expense of parliament. For genuine democracy to develop in Kenya, the legislative branch needs to be strengthened, decision-making needs to be shared more widely and more people need to be able to participate in the political process. Kibaki's regime was described as semi-patrimonial; cabinet posts were alleged to be a form of largess to those who supported the president, regardless of their interest in serving the nation or their competency to handle a ministerial portfolio.

Early life

Born in Gatuyaini village in Othaya division of Nyeri District, Kibaki was the youngest son of Kikuyu peasants Kibaki Gĩthĩnji and Teresia Wanjikũ (both now deceased). He was educated at Gatuyainĩ School (two years), Karĩma Mission School (three years), Mathari Boarding Primary School (between 1944 and 1946). Family oral history maintains that his early education was made possible by his much older brother-in-law, Paul Muruthi, who believed that Kibaki should not be baby-sitting his little nephews and nieces for his older sister. He studied at the prestigious Mang'u High School between 1947 and 1950 and obtained the maximum possible score in his high school terminal examinations. Kibaki was eager to join the army after high school, but due to a ruling by Walter Coutts, the Chief colonial secretary, people from GEMA communities were prevented from the British army.

He studied Economics, History and Political Science at Makerere University College, Kampala, Uganda. During his studies, he was chairman of the Kenya Students' Association. In 1955, he graduated as best student of his class, and was therefore awarded a scholarship to undertake further studies in the United Kingdom, obtaining a B.Sc. with distinction in Public Finance at the London School of Economics.

Kenya African National Union

After obtaining his Master's degree, he became an economics lecturer at Makerere. In early 1960 however, he gave up his job to become executive officer of Kenya African National Union (KANU). He helped to draft Kenya's constitution. In the 1963 elections, he took the then Donholm Constituency (subsequently called Bahati and now known as Makadara) in Nairobi. He has been a member of parliament (MP) ever since.

His election was the start of a long political career. Appointed Assistant Minister of Finance and chairman of the Economic Planning Commission in 1963, he was promoted to Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1966. In 1969, he became Minister of Finance and Economic Planning where he served until 1978. Moving his political base from Nairobi to his rural home, he was re-elected to parliament in 1974 to represent his native Othaya Constituency. The same year, Time magazine rated him among the top 100 people in the world who had the potential to lead. He was re-elected Member of Parliament for the same constituency in the subsequent elections of 1979, 1983, 1988, 1992, 1997, and 2002.

When Daniel arap Moi succeeded Jomo Kenyatta as President of Kenya in 1978, Kibaki was elevated to the Vice Presidency, but was allowed to keep the Finance portfolio, which he exchanged for that of Home Affairs in 1982. Kibaki fell out of favor with President Moi in 1988, was dropped as Vice President and moved to the Ministry of Health.

Multi-party politics

In December 1991, only days after the repeal of Section 2A of the constitution, which restored the multi-party system, Mwai Kibaki left KANU and founded the Democratic Party (DP). He came in third in the presidential elections of 1992, and was second in the 1997 elections.

In January 1998, Mwai Kibaki became the leader of the official opposition with the Democratic Party being the official opposition party.


In preparation for the 2002 elections, Kibaki's Democratic Party affiliated with several other parties to form the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK). NAK allied itself with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). On December 27, 2002, NARC won a landslide victory over KANU. Kibaki got 62 percent of the votes in the presidential elections, against only 31 percent for the KANU candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta.

On December 30, 2002, still nursing injuries from a motor vehicle accident and in a wheel chair, Mwai Kibaki was sworn-in as the third President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kenya.

Kibaki's first cabinet was a careful balancing act with one Minister or Assistant Minister coming from each of Kenya's 42 areas. His presidential style was very "hands-off," unlike his predecessor, who attempted to control everything from the center.

Mwai Kibaki and Mrs. Kibaki with U.S. President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush at the White House during a state visit to Washington, D.C. in 2003.

In November 2004, in an ABC News interview with Peter Jennings, former U.S. President Bill Clinton identified Kibaki as the one living person he would most like to meet "because of the Kenyan government's decision to abolish school fees for primary education."[1] Clinton added that, by providing free and compulsory primary education, what Kibaki had done would affect more lives than any president had done or would ever do by the end of the year. The free education program saw nearly 1.7 million more pupils enroll in school by the end of that year. Clinton's wish was granted when he visited Kenya in the summer of 2005 and finally met president Kibaki on July 22.

Constitutional referendum and dismissal of cabinet

The 2005 Kenyan constitutional referendum was held on November 21, 2005. The main issues of contention throughout the drafting of the constitution were over how much power should be vested in the Head of State (the President, in this case). In previous drafts, those who feared a concentration of power in the president added provisions for European-style power-sharing between a ceremonial President elected via universal suffrage and a Prime Minister in Cabinet appointed by the President. However, the final draft of the constitution retained sweeping powers for the Head of State, which were however well checked by other branches of Government, including Parliament.

Though supported by Kibaki, some members of his own cabinet and the main opposition party mobilized a powerful campaign that resulted in a majority of 58 percent of Kenyan voters rejecting the draft.

As a consequence of this, Kibaki made a historic and decisive political move on November 23, 2005, by dismissing his entire cabinet in the middle of his administration's term.[2] About his decision Kibaki said, “Following the results of the Referendum, it has become necessary for me, as the President of the Republic, to re-organize my Government to make it more cohesive and better able to serve the people of Kenya."[3]

Although the dismissal of individual officials is commonplace in government, the dissolution of the cabinet in its entirety is rare. The only members of the cabinet office to be spared a midterm exit were the Vice President and Minister of Home Affairs, Moody Awori, and the Attorney General whose position is constitutionally protected. The Cabinet was thereafter appointed, but some MPs who were offered ministerial positions declined to take up posts.

New cabinet

On July 24, 2006, Narc-Kenya, a new political Party set up by Kibaki allies won three out of five parliamentary seats. This indicated Kibaki's government had recovered from the defeat at the constitutional referendum.

Vision 2030, a scheme to raise annual GDP by 10 percent was unveiled by Kibaki on October 30, 2006. The prudent management of the economy under Kibaki has seen continued Kenya GDP growth during four straight years from a low 0.6 percent (real -1.6 percent) in 2002 to 3 percent in 2003, 4.9 percent in 2004, 5.8 percent in 2005, and 6 percent in 2006. GDP growth of 7 percent is projected for 2007, a very significant recovery from total decay preceding Kibaki's presidency. As a direct result of the consistent reforms undertaken by Kibaki's government, infrastructure rebuilding has been going on in earnest, and all the sectors of the economy have recovered from total collapse pre-2003.

On November 15, 2006, he reinstated Kiraitu Murungi, who had stepped down to allow for independent investigations of corruption allegations in the Anglo-Leasing scandal, as Energy minister, and George Saitoti, who had been previously accused in connection with the Goldenberg scandal, as Education minister.[4] Both the ministers were exonerated in the investigations.

2007 elections

On January 26, 2007, President Kibaki declared his intention of running for re-election in the 2007 presidential election. Kibaki was initially considered the front-runner in the presidential election, although he was subsequently overtaken in the polls by Raila Odinga.

On September 16, 2007, Kibaki announced that he would stand as the candidate of a new alliance called the Party of National Unity, which will include a number of parties, including KANU, DP, Narc-Kenya, Ford-Kenya, Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-People, and Shirikisho.[5] He began his presidential campaign on September 30, at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi.

Following the election, held on December 27, the electoral commission declared Kibaki the winner on December 30, 2007, placing him ahead of Odinga by about 232,000 votes in a hotly contested election. This was announced despite accusations by the ODM that the election was rigged. Odinga accused Kibaki of fraud and violence broke out in some places.[6] Kibaki was immediately sworn in for his second term, calling for the "verdict of the people" to be respected and for "healing and reconciliation" to begin.[7] Independent election observers have since declared that the elections were marred with irregularities on both sides, but especially at the final vote tallying stage.[8]

A group of eminent persons of Africa, led by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, was called in to broker a peaceful solution to the political stalemate. This group enjoyed the backing of the UN, European Union, African Union and United States governments, as well as those of various other notable countries across the world. On February 28, 2008, Kibaki and Odinga signed an agreement on the formation of a coalition government in which Odinga would become Kenya's second prime minister. Under the deal, the president would also appoint cabinet ministers from both PNU and ODM camps depending on each party's strength in Parliament. The agreement stipulated that the cabinet would also include a vice-president and two deputy Prime Ministers. After being debated and passed by Parliament, the coalition would hold until the end of the current Parliament or if either of the parties withdraws from the deal before then.

The new office of the Prime Minister will have power and authority to coordinate and supervise the functions of the government and will be occupied by an elected MP who will also be the leader of the party or coalition with majority members in Parliament. The world watched Annan and his UN-backed panel and African Union chairman Jakaya Kikwete as they brought together the erstwhile rivals to the signing ceremony, beamed live on national TV from the steps of Nairobi's Harambee House. Kenyan lawmakers unanimously approved a power-sharing deal on March 18, 2008, aimed at salvaging a country once seen as one of the most stable and prosperous in Africa. The deal brought Kibaki's PNU and Odinga's ODM together and heralded the formation of the Grand Coalition, in which the two political parties would share power equally.

In July 2008, an exit poll commissioned by Steadman International was released, alleging that Odinga won the election by a comfortable margin of 6 percent, 46 percent to 40 percent, well outside of the exit poll's 1.3 percent margin of error.[9] This contradicted the exit poll commissioned by Institute for Education in Democracy released immediately after elections which provided more detailed information.[10]

Second Term

East African Community Head of States. From left to right: Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi

According to Murunga and Nasong'o, although Kibaki stood against Moi's chosen candidate, not much distinguishes his regime from his predecessors. He made a "show at combating corruption" but it remained as "endemic as ever." Western diplomats allege that corruption cost Kenya one billion US dollars since Kibaki's election.[11] Like his predecessor, Kibaki manipulated politics to perpetuate his own rule. The alliance was really only a front for politicians who wanted an "opportunity for a stab at power."[12] Kibuki failed to promote genuine democracy and concentrated more power in the presidency. Kenya is unlikely to progress towards democracy unless power is "devolved from the presidency" and the "institutions of governance are restructured."[13] The "transition from Moi to Kibaki" illustrates that "a mere change of guard is not, in and of itself, a basis for a new mode of politics." Kenyan governance remains basically a patrimony; Kibaki allowed ministers "a wide margin of maneuver to ensure their continued support" and was seen as unlikely to crack down on ministerial graft "given his reliance on corrupt senior politicians."[14] "His close allies have been implicated in multi-million dollar scandals," says Njeri. The first three Kenyan Presidents tended towards authoritarianism, hindering the development of democracy. In Kenya, this requires a stronger parliament, "decentralization of power to local democratic formations" and many more institutions for the "aggregation and articulation of interests"[15]

2010 Constitution

However, the passage of Kenya's transformational 2010 Constitution, successfully championed by President Kibaki in the Kenyan constitutional referendum in 2010 was a major triumph and achievement, which went a long way into addressing Kenya's governance and institutional challenges. With the new Constitution started wide ranging institutional and legislative reforms, which President Kibaki skillfully and successfully steered in the final years of this presidency. "His greatest moment was the promulgation of the new Constitution... It was a very deep and emotional moment for him," Kibaki's son Jimmy was quoted as saying.[16]

2013: Power handover

A proud looking but rather worn President Kibaki handed over the Kenyan presidency to his successor, Uhuru Kenyatta, on April 9, 2013 at a public inauguration ceremony held at Kenya's largest stadium. "I am happy to pass the torch of leadership to the new generation of leaders", said Kibaki. He also thanked his family and all Kenyans for the support they had given him throughout his tenure in office, and cited the various achievements his government.[17]

The handover marked the end of his presidency and of his 50 years of public service.[18]

Private life

Kibaki married Lucy Kibaki (née Muthoni), with whom he had one daughter, Judy Wanjiku, and three sons, Jimmy Kibaki, David Kagai, and Tony Githinji.

In 2004, the media reported that Kibaki has a second spouse allegedly married under customary law, Mary Wambui, and a common daughter, Wangui Mwai. Mary Wambui is said to be provided with state bodyguards and other VIP privileges. She is also a National Rainbow Coalition activist. After the news broke, the State House released an unsigned statement that Kibaki's only immediate family is his wife, Lucy and their four children.[19]

Kibaki belonged to the Roman Catholic Church and attended the Holy Family Basilica Church.

Kibaki died on April 21, 2022, at the age of 90.


Honors awarded Kibaki include an honorary doctorate in Economics (2004) and one in Law (2008) both from Nairobi and in Science from Masinde Muliro University (2008).

Political offices
Preceded by:
Daniel arap Moi
Vice President of Kenya
1978 – 1988
Succeeded by:
Josephat Njuguna Karanja
Preceded by:
Daniel arap Moi
President of Kenya
2002 – present


  1. Nixon Ng'ang'a, Kenya: Why Former President Clinton Would Love to Meet Kibaki AllAfrica, November 22, 2004. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  2. Kenya's entire cabinet dismissed BBC, November 23, 2005. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  3. Tom Maliti, Kenyan President Dismisses Cabinet AP News, November 23, 2005. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  4. David Mageria, Kenya reinstates ministers after graft scandal Reuters, January 19, 2007. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  5. Kenya president eyes re-election BBC News, September 16, 2007. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  6. Kibaki re-elected Kenyan president: official results ABC News, December 30, 2007. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  7. Kibaki named victor in Kenya vote. BBC News, December 30, 2007. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  8. Mike Pflanz and Kevin Shoesmith, Kenyan Poll Chief Pressured to Declare Result The Telegraph, January 1, 2008. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  9. Kevin J. Kelley, US-funded exit poll says Raila won elections Daily Nation, July 10, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2022.
  10. Wangui Kanina and Andrew Cawthorne, Early exit poll gives Kenya's Kibaki election lead Reuters, December 27, 2007. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  11. Godwin Murunga and Shadrack Nasong'o, Kenya: The Struggle for Democracy (London: ZED Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1842778579), 322.
  12. Murunga and Nasong'o, 49.
  13. Murunga and Nasong'o, 5.
  14. Murunga and Nasong'o, 323.
  15. Murunga and Nasong'o, 6.
  16. Mwai Kibaki: Former Kenyan president leaves mixed legacy France 24, April 22, 2022. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  17. Brian Omino, Kenya: Kibaki Confident in Uhuru's Government The Star, April 9, 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  18. For Kibaki, the curtain falls on 50 years of public service Nation, July 2, 2020. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  19. Emily Wax, New Kenyan Soap Opera: The President's Two Wives Washington Post, January 30, 2004. Retrieved December 8, 2022.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Ahluwalia, D.P.S., and Paul F. Nursey-Bray. The Post-Colonial Condition: Contemporary Politics in Africa. Horizons in Post-Colonial Studies. Commack, NY: Nova Science Publishers, 1997. ISBN 978-1560724858
  • Mbugua, Ng'ang'a. Mwai Kibaki: Economist for Kenya. Nairobi, KE: Sasa Sema Publications, 2003. ISBN 978-9966951205
  • Murunga, Godwin R., and Shadrack Wanjala Nasong'o. Kenya: The Struggle for Democracy. Africa in the New Millennium. London, UK: Zed Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1842778579


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