Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s 3rd president is a politician, a national figure, and an African leader. Best remembered for having given the country its long-awaited new constitution, Kibaki will go into the books of many as the president who finally put Kenya on the path to economic recovery. At his time at the helm, the country went on to witness a 7% economic growth rate before the infamous 2007 post-election violence.

Kibaki also played a key role in uplifting social standards in the country. It is during his time as president that Free Basic Education was introduced. You could write a whole book about the great man because there is really a lot to be written about him. However, here is a summary of things you should know about the retired president.

Mwai Kibaki Biography

Kibaki was born on November 15, 1931, in Gatuyaini Village of Othaya, Nyeri District. Born Mwai Kibaki, he is the youngest son of Kibaki Gathinji and Teresia Wanjiku, both Kikuyus. He was baptized Emilio Stanley by the Italian missionaries in his early youth but went on to use the name Mwai Kibaki most of his life. The Kibaki family was a tobacco farming family. In fact, Kibaki in Kikuyu means tobacco.

According to available history, much of which remains oral, young Kibaki would never have gone to school if not for his much older brother-in-law who insisted that the young boy had to go to school. Since his family were farmers, Kibaki would have spent most his early days grazing his father’s ship and cattle. When he eventually went to school, Kibaki tuned out to be an exceptional student. He first went to Gutayani School for two years where he completed what was known as “Sub A” and Sub B” – equivalent to standard 1 and 2. He later joined Karima Mission School for three more years before moving to Mathari School for class 4, 5 and 6. While at Mathari (now Nyeri School), Kibaki practised carpentry, masonry, and even operated as a conductor during holidays. He attended Mangu Secondary School.

Kibaki joined Makerere University in Kampala Uganda immediately after he finished his secondary education at Mangu. He studied economics, history, and political science. Again, he proved his excellence at Makerere, graduating best in the class of 1955 with First Class Honors in economics. Immediately after his graduation, he took up a job as an Assistant Sales Manager at the Ugandan division of Shell Company East Africa.

He later earned a postgraduate scholarship with British University and consequently joined the London School of Economics where he studied B. Sc. Finance, graduating with a distinction. Between 1958 and 1960, he taught as an Assistant Lecturer in the Economics Department at Makerere University.

Military Career and Political Life

Kibaki wanted to join the army. In his final years at Mangu, having been inspired by veterans of the first and second world wars, he inquired whether he could join the military. Though his interest was real, the ruling by Walter Coutts, the Chief Colonial Secretary, which barrexd Kikuyus, Embus, and Merus from joining the military, cut his military ambition short. They remained only a dream. 

Kibaki first joined active politics in 1960 when at the request of Raila Odinga‘s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, he quit his role at Makerere, returned to Kenya, and took up the position of Executive Officer in the Kenya African National Union (KANU). While in this position, he helped to draft Kenya’s first constitution.

As Member of Parliament

Mwai Kibaki was elected a Member of Parliament for Donholm Constituency in 1963. Located in central Nairobi, Donholm Constituency later became Bahati Constituency and is currently Makadara Constituency. That probably marked the beginning of a long, successful political career for Kibaki. In the same year, he was appointed the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury and later the Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Finance. He also served as the chairman of the Economic Planning Commission. He was also Minister of Finance and Economic Planning between 1969 and 1982.

See also: Kenyan Presidents’ Academic Qualifications: 1964 Till Date

As Vice President 

In 1974, feeling the heat in Nairobi, Kibaki considered seeking re-election to parliament in his local town, Othaya. The Donholm parliamentary seat was becoming too competitive and he feared he could lose out to one Mrs. Jael Mbogo whom he had only narrowly beaten in the 1969 elections. He was subsequently elected MP of Othaya in the 1974 elections. In the same year, Mwai Kibaki was rated among the Top 100 people with the potential to lead by the Time Magazine. He served as Member of Parliament for Othaya between 1974 and 2012.

Kibaki became the Vice President of Kenya in 1978. He was the first VP under President Moi. During his early VP days, he retained his Finance portfolio until Moi made him the Minister of Home Affairs in 1982. Kibaki fell out with the president and was consequently stripped of the Vice Presidency in 1988. He later served under Moi as Minister of Health.

As Opposition to KANU

No one expected that Mwai Kibaki, who had once said that trying to remove KANU from power was like cutting a fig tree with a razor blade, would one day become an opposition leader. However, Kibaki was one of the first people to resign from KANU in the wake of multiparty politics in 1991. Soon after his resignation, he formed the Democratic Party (DP) and registered as a candidate in the 1992 elections. Kibaki came third in the elections behind Moi’s KANU and FORD. He also vied in 1997 and came second to Moi.

As President

There was rebellion in KANU in 2002 that caused several leaders to quit the party to form the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led by Raila Odinga. In the same year, Kibaki joined forces with several political leaders to form the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK). LDP later merged with NAK to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). Kibaki was declared NARC’s presidential candidate on October 14th, 2002, later winning the 2002 election, when he garnered over 62% of the votes. Kibaki was again declared the winner in the controversial 2007 election.

Is Kibaki Dead or Alive? Family, Net Worth and Other Facts

Kibaki is a leader adored by many and his leadership style is idolized across all of Africa. He completed his constitutional 2 terms in 2012 and currently lives with his family in Nairobi. Many had speculated his death following his recent ailment and health complications but he is still very much alive. He has however, retreated from the limelight and presently enjoys the company of his family, especially his grandchildren.

Talking about his family, Mwai Kibaki has four children – three sons and one daughter – with his late wife, Lucy Muthoni. They got married in 1961 and were married until Lucy died in 2016. Their children are Judy Wanjiku, Jimmy Kibaki, David Kagai, and Tony Githinji. They have lived long enough to see their grandchildren also and they have four of them – Joy Jamie Marie, Mwai Junior, Krystinaa Muthoni.

Mwai Kibaki’s net worth is estimated to be about $50 million. The source of his wealth is politics, having been within and around Kenyan politics for 53 years (1960 – 2013), reaching the zenith of the echelon of power as elected president of Kenya for two consecutive terms.

Did You Know That:

  • His full name is Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki and he enjoys playing golf
  • Kibaki is one of Kenya’s richest men. His business interests include farming, hotels and insurance.
  • Even though Kibaki’s rise in politics can be attributed to the Kenya African National Union (KANU), he later became a strong opposition to the party.
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