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Mwai Kibaki served as Kenya’s third president, from 2003 to 2013.
A star student at the London School of Economics, Kibaki was running Kenya’s Treasury by his early 30s, “combining technocratic ability with solid liberal social reform instincts”, says Patrick Smith, Editor-in-Chief of The Africa Report.
“His great moment after being elected in 2002 was to hold a liberation press conference which was a genuine exchange of views. We all asked him when he was going to deliver on promises of free primary education — he said monday, and the press conference was on a friday afternoon”, says Smith. “The following monday, thousands of kids turned up demanding free schooling.”
“Kibaki was criticised for that but it came after decades of frustration with the corrupt repression of the Moi years, when a press conference was unheard of”, he continues.
Kibaki’s other great reforming instinct beyond education was to bring civil society in to help fight corruption. He appointed John Githongo to act as the permanent secretary for governance.
But by then, vested interests in the regime stepped in, and edged out Githongo. A weakened and sick Kibaki was not able to stand up to them.
He presided over a tax and spend growth boom which should have propelled Kenya into mid-income status , with extensive tech and industrial investments but was undermined by corporate short-term greed and political graft.
Under pressure from Kofi Annan, Kibaki agreed to power-sharing after the election violence of 2007-2008, which opened the pathway to the Odinga-Uhuru deal of today.
More on this story as it develops…
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