Former Kenyan president, Mwai Kibaki, who led the East African country for more than a decade, has died, his successor Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Friday. He was 90.
“It is a sad day for us as a country. We have lost a great leader,” Kenyatta said in an address on state television.
He ordered a period of national mourning until sunset on the day Kibaki is to be buried, with all flags to be flown at half-mast.
A British-educated economist, Kibaki’s unflappable demeanor concealed political guile that finally won him the presidency after four decades as a lawmaker, government minister, and then vice president to his predecessor, Daniel Arap Moi.
Kibaki, whose death was announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta, is credited with reviving Kenya’s then-ailing economy, but his tenure was marred by deadly violence that killed more than 1,200 Kenyans following his disputed re-election in December 2007.
The opposition had been far ahead when journalists were hurriedly ejected from the election commission.
Hours later, Kibaki’s win by a narrow margin was announced. Smoke immediately began rising from fires lit by protesters.
While announcing Kibaki’s death, Kenyatta recalled his long public service, including being a member of parliament for five decades.
“Kibaki was a quintessential patriot whose legacy of civic responsibility will continue to inspire generations of Kenyans long into our future,” Kenyatta said in a televised address.
Kenyatta did not state the cause of death but Kibaki has been ailing for some time, domestic media reported.
Politicians took a break from campaigning for a general election scheduled for August 9, to mourn Kibaki.
“He stood firm and laid the foundation for the economic fruits that Kenya is experiencing today,” said Musalia Mudavadi, who is backing Deputy President William Ruto in the presidential contest.
But Kibaki failed to tackle endemic graft, which remains a key demand of voters in the upcoming polls that pit Ruto against Raila Odinga, a former veteran opposition leader now embraced by the political establishment.
Kibaki had also tried to bring peace to regional hotspots, said Moses Wetengula, who served in the cabinet. “As his foreign minister, I ran many missions to stabilise Somalia and other pockets of instability including Congo,” Wetangula said.
Kenyan peacekeepers are still serving in southern Somalia.