Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

Kenya’s third president Mwai Kibaki, who has died at the age of 90, led East Africa’s economic powerhouse for over a decade. Mr. Kibaki oversaw some of its bloodiest and most corrupt years but also the ushering in of a new constitution.

Mwai Kibaki’s distinguished political career was tarnished when he won a second presidential term that was followed by deadly post-election violence.

Mr. Kibaki’s death was announced Friday by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who said his passing was a sad day for the country and praised his predecessor as a great Kenyan and a statesman.

The cause of death was not given, but Mr. Kibaki was in and out of hospitals in recent years as his health failed.

“Mwai Kibaki will forever be remembered as a gentleman in Kenyan politics, a brilliant debater and one who steered development in the country,” Mr. Kenyatta said, declaring a period of mourning until his funeral is held.

Mr. Kenyatta described Mr. Kibaki as a “quintessential patriot whose legacy of civic responsibility will continue to inspire generations of Kenyans.”

Mr. Kibaki served two terms as president of the East African country, ruling from 2002 to 2013.

Dent in His Reputation

But his re-election to a second term in 2007 put a dent in his reputation as his victory was disputed by his opponent, Raila Odinga. Mr. Odinga asserted that the election result had been rigged and that he had really won the poll.

Hundreds of people were killed in weeks of ethnic violence that followed.

Amid the stalemate, Kenya exploded into fighting along tribal lines that forced more than 600,000 people from their homes. The violence shattered Kenya’s standing as a beacon of stability in East Africa.

The international community led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan eventually brokered a fragile power-sharing deal between Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga, who settled for a new role as Kenya’s prime minister.

But the International Criminal Court brought charges of crimes against humanity against Mr. Kenyatta, who had backed Mr. Kibaki, as well as William Ruto, the current deputy president. The ICC later dropped criminal charges against Mr. Ruto and Mr. Kenyatta, who had been charged for their alleged roles in the violence. They denied any wrongdoing.

In the wake of the violence, Mr. Kibaki oversaw a new constitution for Kenya that was aimed at decentralizing powers and reducing persistent ethnic tensions that continue to flare up during electoral seasons. The new constitution was praised as having some of the most progressive human rights provisions in the world.

Mr. Kibaki stepped down in 2013 at the end of his second term.

Emilio Mwai Kibaki was born on Nov. 15, 1931, when Kenya was under British colonial rule.

He studied at Uganda’s Makerere University, where his teachers remembered him as a brilliant economics student. He continued his studies at the London School of Economics.

Back home, he worked as a teacher before joining politics in a country buoyed by independence from colonial role in 1964. He became a lawmaker and served as finance minister, vice president, leader of the opposition — roles that placed him among the most consequential Kenyans of his generation.

Before winning the presidency in 2002, he had run for the top political job twice and lost.

Although generally well-liked, there were often questions about his authority as allegations of corruption swirled around his government. Mr. Kibaki’s efforts to tackle official corruption with new legislation largely failed, according to political analysts.


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