Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta (born 26 October 1961) is a Kenyan politician and businessman who is the fourth and current President of the Republic of Kenya. He served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Gatundu South from 2002 to 2013. Currently the party leader and a member of the Jubilee Party of Kenya, he was previously involved with The National Alliance and before that the Kenya African National Union.
He is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first President, and his fourth wife Mama Ngina Kenyatta. Uhuru was re-elected for a second term in the August 2017 general election, winning 54% of the popular vote. The win was formally declared on national television by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Wafula Chebukati. However, Uhuru’s election was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court of Kenya by his main competitor, Raila Odinga. On 1 September 2017, the court declared the election invalid and ordered a new presidential election to take place within 60 days from the day of the ruling. A new presidential election was held on 26 October, which he won, with 39% participation due to voter fatigue, voter apathy and being boycotted by the opposition.
Uhuru is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s founding father and the first president of the Republic of Kenya (in office 1964–1978), with his fourth wife, Mama Ngina Kenyatta. His family hails from the Kikuyu, a Bantu ethnic group. His given name “Uhuru” is from the Swahili term for “freedom”, and was given to him in anticipation of Kenya’s upcoming independence. Uhuru attended St Mary’s School in Nairobi. Between 1979 and 1980, he also briefly worked as a teller at the Kenya Commercial Bank.
After St. Mary’s school, Uhuru went on to study economics, political science and government at Amherst College in the United States. Upon his graduation, Uhuru returned to Kenya and started a company Wilham Kenya Limited, through which he sourced and exported agricultural produce.
Uhuru was nominated to Parliament in 2001, he became Minister for Local Government under President Daniel Arap Moi and, despite his political inexperience, was favoured by Moi as his successor. Kenyatta ran as KANU’s candidate in the December 2002 presidential election but lost to the opposition candidate Mwai Kibaki by a big margin. He subsequently became Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. He backed Kibaki for re-election in the December 2007 presidential election and was named Minister of Local Government by Kibaki in January 2008, before becoming Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade in April 2008 as part of a coalition government.
Subsequently, Kenyatta was Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2012, while remaining Deputy Prime Minister. Accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of committing crimes against humanity in relation to the violent aftermath of the 2007 election, he resigned as Minister of Finance on 26 January 2012. He was elected as President of Kenya in the March 2013 presidential election, defeating Raila Odinga with a slim majority in a single round of voting.
Though noted as one of the few ministers without any scandals, on 29 April 2009, Uhuru faced a scare after he presented a supplemental budget that was approved by parliament. The supplemental budget was to cover the budget gap that had arisen due to slow economic growth. The government required an additional Kshs 38 billion, but compromised on a figure of Kshs 22 billion and non-essential proposed expenditure was postponed as a result. After voting on the bill brought forward by Kenyatta, Gitobu Imanyara brought up discrepancy questions as to what exactly had been approved by the house. It appeared that parliament had voted on Kshs 31 billion as opposed to Kshs 22 billion that they thought they were voting on – the difference totalling Kshs 9.2 billion. The Deputy Prime Minister initially defended the budget that had been passed but later admitted that there were computer or typographical errors in the budget bill. An investigation by the CID and a parliamentary committee was ordered by the Speaker, to question him on the discrepancies. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Joint Finance and Budgetary Committee on the issue.
On 15 December 2010, prior to him becoming president, Kenyatta was named as a suspect of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, for planning and funding violence in Naivasha and Nakuru. This was in relation to the violence that followed the bungled national elections of December 2007. In furtherance of his political support for Kibaki’s PNU at the time, he was accused of organising a Kikuyu politico-religious group, the Mungiki, in the post-election violence. Overall, the post-election violence of 2007 is said to have claimed about 1300 lives. Uhuru maintained his innocence and wanted his name cleared. On 8 March 2011, while serving as minister in Kibaki’s government, he was indicted after being summoned to appear before the ICC pre-trial chamber. He was to appear at The Hague on 8 April 2011 alongside five other suspects. On 29 September 2011, while seeking to exonerate himself, Uhuru Kenyatta put up a spirited fight as he was being cross-examined by ICC Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo in The Hague, denying any links with the outlawed Mungiki sect. He said Prime Minister Raila Odinga should take political responsibility for the acts of violence and killings that followed the 2007 presidential elections in Kenya. He told the three judges that “by telling his supporters election results were being rigged, fanned tensions and then failed to use his influence to quell the violence that followed the announcement of the 2007 presidential results.”
Though Uhuru had previously dismissed ICC summons, he changed his decision along the way. Together with his two other co-accused suspects, Head of Civil Service, Ambassador Francis Muthaura and former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, the trio honoured the ICC Summons that sought to determine whether their cases met the set standards for international trials. On 23 January 2012, the ICC confirmed the cases against Kenyatta and Muthaura although the charges against Muthaura were subsequently dropped. Serious concerns about the case have been raised, particularly the nature of the evidence being used against Kenyatta. There are also serious concerns about witness tampering and indeed, a number of witnesses have disappeared or died, which is the reason cited by the ICC for dropping charges against Mathaura. On a 12 October 2013 speech to the African Union in which he set a belligerent tone, Uhuru accused the ICC of being “a toy of declining imperial powers”.
On 31 October 2013, the ICC postponed Kenyatta’s trial for crimes against humanity by three months until 5 February 2014 after the defence had requested more time.
On 8 October 2014, Kenyatta appeared before the ICC in The Hague. He was called to appear at the ICC “status conference” when the prosecution said evidence needed to go ahead with a trial was being withheld. In a speech to the Kenyan parliament, Kenyatta said that he was going to The Hague in a personal capacity — not as president of the country — so as not to compromise the sovereignty of Kenyans. Kenyatta did not speak in court but denied the charges in comments to journalists as he left the court to catch a flight back home. “We as Kenyans, we know where we came from, we know where we are going, and nobody will tell us what to do,” he said. The judges adjourned the hearings and charges were dropped on 13 March 2015.