World · August 7, 2022

Uhuru Kenyatta, millionaire heir and inscrutable president



Puppet or strategist, amateur or power-hungry heir? After nearly 10 years in power and a mixed legacy, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta remains an enigma for many Kenyans, even those who twice elected him president.

But one thing is certain: it is impossible to dissociate the outgoing leader from his family, which is among the richest in Kenya, with two of the four Kenyan presidents emerging from the Kenyatta dynasty.

His support for longtime arch-rival Raila Odinga has sparked rumors that he wants to play the role of king maker, helping the veteran opposition leader secure the support of his ruling Jubilee party.

True to form, Kenyatta’s motives or future plans remain unclear, but many believe he will build on the diplomatic legacy created by his re-election in 2017.

The 60-year-old worked hard to raise Kenya’s international stature and trained as a regional statesman, trying to resolve conflicts in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It also bolstered the country’s status as an economic powerhouse in East Africa, launching several major infrastructure projects including a Nairobi expressway inaugurated last month that also caused Kenya’s debt to rise.

His declared fight against corruption has been less successful, causing perplexity and even ridicule among Kenyans who have long seen the Kenyatta family as the embodiment of the elite’s grip on power.

His father Jomo was Kenya’s first independent president, and the family is the largest landowner in the country, with a financial empire that includes dairy giant Brookside, bank NCBA and broadcaster Mediamax.

His fortune was estimated at $ 500 million by Forbes in 2011.

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political alliances

Born to Jomo and his fourth wife “Mama” Ngina in October 1961, Uhuru (meaning “freedom” in Swahili) studied in the United States and entered politics in the mid-1990s.

Over the years “the prince of Kenyan politics” has allied himself with leaders across the spectrum, from autocrat Daniel arap Moi – an early mentor – to former president Mwai Kibaki, whom he supported in the 2007 election.

The disputed vote led to an explosion of politically motivated tribal violence involving largely two of Kenya’s main ethnic groups, the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, which saw more than 1,100 people killed.

In 2013 Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, allied himself with William Ruto, a Kalenjin, and was elected president.

Both were indicted by the International Criminal Court for their role in the 2007-2008 murders, but the cases ultimately failed, with the charge claiming that a relentless campaign of intimidating witnesses made a trial impossible.

Kenyatta’s candidacy for re-election in 2017 sent the country into turmoil as police cracked down on opposition protests with deadly effects.

His victory was overturned by the Supreme Court, but he won a rerun after his then opponent Odinga boycotted the trial, calling the vote rigged.

Then, in a turn of events that few saw coming, the two men stunned the nation in March 2018 by shaking hands and declaring a truce.

The pact – known simply as “the handshake” – put Ruto on the sidelines.

But Kenyatta’s favorite political project, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which aimed to expand the executive, ran into an obstacle after the Supreme Court ruled it illegal.

Many saw the constitutional proposals, which included the creation of a new prime minister supposedly destined for Kenyatta, as a final offer to remain in power after his second and final term as president.

‘party animals’

Kenya’s global profile has grown under its watch, as it has welcomed foreign investors and a number of visiting international dignitaries including former US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis.

Despite his long career, the father of three remains a mystery to many.

Some diplomatic sources call him “a party animal who didn’t want a job” while others describe him as a shrewd politician with a common touch “who knows how to talk to people.”

A regular at the church, he mixes easily with Kenyan commoners, eagerly takes to the dance floor, and jokes in local youth lingo.

His shy brother Muhoho manages the family’s finances, while he reportedly enjoys driving around Nairobi late at night, undercover and protected by a handful of bodyguards.

As his last term draws to a close, Kenyatta looms over Tuesday’s election, with Ruto devoting much of his time to campaigning against his former boss instead of Odinga.

Although many Kenyans expect Kenyatta to keep his hand at stake, the man himself dismissed the speculation, saying last year to broadcaster France 24: “Oh please, please! I’d rather enjoy a holiday in France every summer. .

“I don’t want to stay in power as they say. This is hard work, ”she said at a prayer service last month.

“Ten years is enough for me. I’m waiting for August 9th “.

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