Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta
Date of Birth: 26/10/1961
Commentary: Uhuru Kenyatta is the first son of founding President Jomo Kenyatta by his fourth wife, Ngina Kenyatta. Born at the dawn of Kenya’s Independence, he carried in his name, Uhuru (Freedom), the aspirations of his father, recently freed from gaol, and his country’s approaching freedom from British rule.
Uhuru attended the strictly Roman Catholic Saint Mary’s School in Nairobi and then Amherst College, Massachusetts, United States, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in politics and economics. Despite his privileged background, Uhuru’s sociability and fondness for the national favourite Tusker beer has cast him as a man of the people.
In the early 1990s, Uhuru stood with the sons of the Independence nationalists in calling for democratic reform. Among them were Peter Mboya (son of the late Tom Mboya, assassinated in 1969, many say by men close to Kenyatta) and Gem Argwings-Kodhek (son of the late CMG Argwings-Kodhek, himself killed a year earlier in the first of the infamous and politically instigated ‘tragic road accidents’. However, Uhuru remained loyal to the ruling Kenya African National Union and got closer to the then President, Daniel arap Moi, culminating in his failed run for the presidency on the KANU ticket in 2002, which badly split the party.
At first strongly critical of President Mwai Kibaki’s government, Uhuru helped Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement to win its constitutional referendum victory. However, in the run-up to the 2007 presidential election, he declared open support for Kibaki. After the December 2007 election violence, Uhuru changed his rhetoric; dropping the inclusivist talk of the Independence nationalists, he became a staunch defender of conservative Kikuyu interests.
Kenyatta was charged along with six others by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity linked to the electoral violence. Nonetheless, he stood in the 2013 presidential elections and beat his opponent Odinga (50.07% to 43.28%). Despite pleas by Odinga – who believed the vote had been rigged – for a recount, the Supreme Court judged the election free and fair and Kenyatta was sworn in as President on 9 April 2013.
Kenyatta and his Vice-President, William Ruto, who is also charged with crimes against humanity, are due to appear at the ICC later this year.