BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Somali Swahili French Great Lakes Hausa Portugeuse

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Africa  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Monday, 14 October, 2002, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Profile: Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta's name is on everyone's lips now that he has been nominated as the ruling party's presidential candidate to succeed Daniel arap Moi.

Uhuru Kenyatta
Uhuru: Ascending to great heights
He is, of course, known as the son of Kenya's founding president, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, but he is only just beginning to emerge from his father's shadow.

To his supporters Uhuru Kenyatta is a visionary leader. To his detractors the heavy-smoking man is a reluctant politician who never had any designs to jump into the murky waters of Kenya's political game.

His initial entry into politics came through his election as the chairman of his hometown branch of the ruling party, Kanu, in 1997.

Political life

This came with the tacit approval of President Moi. At the time, many saw the election as a calculated move to prepare Uhuru for bigger things.

My father taught us to treat everyone fairly

Uhuru Kenyatta
In the general election held the same year, Uhuru contested the Gatundu parliamentary seat, once held by his father. It was assumed he would sail through. But that was not be: Uhuru lost to Moses Mwihia, a little-known Nairobi architect.

After losing the election, Uhuru's friends say that he was extremely upset and that he vowed to quit politics altogether.

He hurriedly retreated to the family business empire that includes five-star tourist hotels, airlines and commercial farming.

Uhuru's rise
1997: Fails to win parliamentary seat
1999: Appointed chairman, Kenya Tourism Board
2001: October, Nominated as MP by President Moi
2001: November, appointed local government minister
2002: March, elected vice chairman of Kanu
2002: July, President Moi names Uhuru his heir apparent
2002, October, becomes Kanu presidential candidate
Little did Uhuru know that President Moi was still intent on propelling him onto the national political scene.

In 1999 Moi appointed Uhuru the new chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board, where he worked with Kenya's political power-broker Nicholas Biwott, a very close confidante of the president. Apparently the young Uhuru was undergoing even more intensive training.

Then came October 2001 and Uhuru was nominated to parliament and subsequently to the cabinet. In March of this year Uhuru Kenyatta made it big on the national political scene when he was elected as one of the four national vice-chairmen of Kanu.

Since he joined Moi's inner circle, Uhuru Kenyatta has been fighting a not-too-successful battle to prove that he is his own man and not Moi's stooge.

And President Moi has paid a heavy price for ensuring Kenyatta is Kanu's presidential candidate, with several senior party figures, their own ambitions thwarted, resigning to set up another party.


Uhuru Kenyatta was born 42 years ago.

Being the son of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru's upbringing was steeped in politics.

Jomo Kenyatta
Jomo Kenyatta: Kenya's founding father
"Growing up in the Kenyatta household taught us many things. My father taught us to treat everyone fairly. He taught us the essence of justice and fairness, he told us to learn from history but not to live in history," Uhuru says.

A close associate of Uhuru says it is his untainted image that persuaded Moi to back him.

"Many Kenyans feel that he is Mister Clean in a country where most politicians have been mentioned in one corruption deal or other."

But perhaps the major cause of the widespread uncertainty about the abilities of Mzee Kenyatta's son stems from the fact that not much is known about him.

Younger days

His mother, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, describes him as "a model son, the best that a mother can hope for".

But little is known of Uhuru's private or early life.

What is not in doubt, however, is that he attended the prestigious St Mary's School in Nairobi, where his former schoolmates remember him as one of the brightest students.

From there he went on to study political science in the United Kingdom.

He is also reputed to be a shrewd businessman, having long played a central role in the vast family business empire.

For now his immediate past is not particularly relevant, at least as far as the majority of Kenyans are concerned.

The major thing Kenyans want to know is whether Uhuru Kenyatta can transform himself from a smart business manager to a smart "Mr President of Kenya".

A full version of this profile first appeared in the BBC's Focus on Africa magazine

Is Kenyatta the right man to replace Moi?



13816 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Kenyans choose a new president

Key stories

Inauguration day

Moi steps down




See also:

10 Oct 02 | Africa
23 Sep 02 | Africa
18 Sep 02 | Africa
18 Sep 02 | Africa
16 Sep 02 | Africa
09 Sep 02 | Africa
03 Sep 02 | Africa
30 Aug 02 | Africa
06 Aug 02 | Africa
21 Nov 01 | Africa
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |