How a Christian upbringing shaped the life of late Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki


(ANALYSIS) In 1974, the respected American publication Weather The magazine named Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, who was then Kenya’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, as one of its 100 people with the potential to become world leaders. The magazine would repeat the same prophecy in the 1980s.

the Weather The prophecies came true in 2002, when Kibaki, head of the National Rainbow Coalition, defeated Kenya Africa National Union independence party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta to become Kenya’s third president. Kibaki went on to win a controversial second term, beating Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement in 2007 to retain power until 2012, when he was constitutionally barred from serving another term.

After his death at 90 on Friday, Kibaki was mourned by Kenyans and indeed the world. A recurring theme was how a chance encounter with Consolata Missionaries gave a young boy a chance at education and, later, life itself and the presidency.

This chance opened doors for the young boy to attend the prestigious Mang’u High School, founded by another Catholic organization, the Fathers of the Holy Spirit. Kibaki went to Makerere University – a Ugandan institution that had become the university of choice for bright East African students – and then to the London of School of Economics for his master’s degree. There he became the first black student to graduate at the top of his class and returned to Makerere as an economics professor.

Like many Africans his age, not much is known about Kibaki’s early childhood, but he did reveal that he was born on November 15, 1931 and was taken to school because he was the youngest in the family. While the Consolata missionaries were looking for school children, Kibaki was chosen by his polygamous father because he lacked the strength for the backbreaking tasks of peasant farming and animal herding.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not stray from it,” says the Bible, and Kibaki’s early interactions with Catholics were evident in all his academic and political dealings. . Propelled to leadership at a young age, Kibaki was as moderate as he could be, a streak that caused his detractors to call him a “cowardly general” because he refused to take hard-line positions on many crucial issues.

It was while teaching in Uganda in 1961 that Kibaki was lured out of academia by officials of the Kenya African National Union party – which was poised to lead Kenya to independence from Britain – to return home to work as a general manager. KANU will soon form the first African government, thus propelling the young man into a political career from which he will never turn away.

Kibaki then joined fellow Catholic and former Mang’u High colleague, Tom Mboya, working at the National Treasury. Mboya was a flamboyant trade unionist whose close ties to former US President John F. Kennedy, another Catholic, led to the awarding of record scholarships to young Kenyans. They received an American education in preparation for leading the new government. One of them was the late Professor Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Although not a direct beneficiary of the airlifts, another brilliant Kenyan economist, Barack Obama Sr., was also in the United States at the same time. His son, also named Barack Obama, would later become the first black president of the United States.

When the former US president visited Kenya in July 2015, he held a highly publicized tete-a-tete at the Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel which has not been made public.

Reports would later leak that Obama had requested a private dinner with Kibaki to specifically thank him for offering his father a position as a Treasury economist. Kibaki was then Minister of Finance.


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