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Mwai Kibaki: Kenya’s first opposition president dies aged 90

By Racheal Nuwahereza

Mwai Kibaki, who served as Kenya’s third president has died aged 90

Kibaki’s death was announced on Friday by his predecessor and current president; Uhuru Kenyatta.

“It is my sorrowful duty to announce to the nation the passing on of H.E. Emilio Mwai Kibaki, the Third President of the Republic of Kenya. Mwai Kibaki lived a dedicated life of public service. We salute a leader and notable father figure in the chronicles of our Nation who strove so hard and accomplished so much for his country. A nation he so deeply cherished and served with commitment and an unbending will to improve the lives of our people,” said Kenyatta.

“Mwai Kibaki will forever be remembered as a gentleman in Kenyan politics, a brilliant debater and one who steered development in the country. As we mourn this immeasurable loss, we recall with eternal gratitude President Kibaki’s patriotic journey in service to his Country, which can be traced way back to Kenya’s fight for liberation,” said Kenyatta.

Kenyatta ordered a mourning period to honour Kibaki, during which flags will be flown at half-mast.


Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki was born on 15th November, 1931 to Kibaki Gĩthĩnji and Teresia Wanjikũ, in Thunguri village, Othaya division of Kenya’s then Nyeri district, present day Nyeri County. 

The youngest son of Kikuyu peasants was baptised as Emilio Stanley by Italian missionaries in his youth, he however came to be better known as Mwai Kibaki throughout his public life.


Kibaki attended Gatuyainĩ School for the first two years, where he completed the then Sub “A” and “B” (the equivalent of Kenya’s standard one and two).

He later joined Karima mission school for the three more classes of primary school

From 1944 and 1946, he moved to Mathari School (present day Nyeri High School) for Standard four to six.

From 1947 and 1950, he attended to Mang’u High School where he studied and passed his six subjects’ “O” level examination with Grade 1 Distinction.

Kibaki moved to Kampala, Uganda to study economics, History and Political Science, at Makerere Univeristy where he graduated best in his class in 1955 with a First Class Honours Degree (BA) in Economics.

After his graduation, Kibaki took up an appointment as Assistant Sales Manager Shell Company of East Africa, Uganda Division. During the same year, he earned a scholarship entitling him to postgraduate studies in any British University where he enrolled at the prestigious London School of Economics for a BSc in public finance, and graduated with a distinction.

In 1958, he went back to Makerere University where he taught as an Assistant Lecturer in the economics department until 1961.

Political Career

In early 1960, Mwai Kibaki left academia for active politics by giving up his job at Makerere and returning to Kenya to become an executive officer of Kenya African National Union (KANU), at the request of Thomas Joseph Mboya the then secretary general of KANU).

Kibaki then helped to draft Kenya’s Independence Constitutution.

In 1963, when Kenya got its independence, Kibaki was elected Member of Parliament and he was consequently appointed the Permanent Secretary for the Treasury.

In 1963, Kibaki was appointed Assistant Minister of Finance and chairman of the Economic Planning Commission and in 1966; he was promoted to Minister of Commerce and Industry. 

In 1969, he became Minister of Finance and Economic Planning where he served until 1982.

From 1969–1981, Kibaki served as Minister of Finance under Kenyatta government where Kenya enjoyed a period of relative prosperity, fueled by a commodities boom, especially coffee, with remarkable fiscal discipline and sound monetary policies.

In 1979, Kibaki was elected as Member of Parliament via his rural home, Othaya. He has been re-elected Member of Parliament for Othaya in the subsequent elections of 1979, 1983, 1988, 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2007.

In 1978, when Daniel Arap Moi succeeded Jomo Kenyatta as President of Kenya, Kibaki was elevated to Vice Presidency and kept the Finance portfolio until Moi changed his ministerial portfolio from Finance to Home Affairs in 1982.

From 1969–1981, Kibaki served as Minister of Finance under Kenyatta and Moi governments and from 1982–1988, he served as Minister for Home Affairs under the Moi government.

From 1978 to 1988, he served as the fourth Vice President of Kenya for ten years under President Daniel Arap Moi.

Kibaki fell out of favor with President Moi and in March 1988, he was dropped as vice president and moved to the Ministry of Health where he served from 1988–1991.

In the months before multi-party politics were introduced in 1992, he infamously declared that agitating for multi-party democracy and trying to dislodge KANU from power was like “trying to cut down a fig tree with a razor blade”

From 1992 to 2002, Kibaki served as an opposition Member of Parliament where from 1998 to 2002, he served as the Leader of Opposition in Parliament.

In December 1991, Kibaki left KANU and founded the Democratic Party (DP). In the 1992 General Election he vied for the presidency and finished third. And in 1997, he competed again for the country’s top seat, finishing second.

In preparation for the 2002 elections, the DP joined several other parties to form the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK). NAK allied itself to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to form the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc).

On December 27, 2002, Narc won with 62% of the votes and Kibaki was successfully elected President of Kenya, where he served two terms ruling from 2002 to 2013.

His 2002 election ended 40 years of one-party rule since independence.

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