|Intro||Vice-President of Kenya|
|Was|| Politician |
|Type|| Academia |
|Birth||25 November 1944, Kenya Colony|
|Death|| 23 August 2003, Hampstead, London Borough of Camden, Greater London, England|
(aged 58 years)
|Politics||National Rainbow Coalition|
Michael Kijana Wamalwa (25 November 1944 – 23 August 2003) was a Kenyan politician and, at the time of his death, Kenya’s Vice-President.
Michael Christopher Wamalwa Kijana was born in Sosio, a village near Kimilili in Kenya’s Bungoma district. Wamalwa was the son of an influential MP, William Wamalwa. He went on to become head boy and the best debater at his secondary school, Strathmore School, won a national essay competition and represented Kenya at a UN student forum. In 1965, he was awarded a commonwealth scholarship to study law at King’s College London, graduating with an LLB in 1968 before going on to the London School of Economics. He was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1970.
He returned to Kenya that same year, and taught law at the University of Nairobi. Some of the students he taught there were to become his political allies and opponents later on. During this period, he also ran the family farms in the Kitale area, as well as holding several prominent government positions, including general manager of the Kenya Stone Mining Company and director of the Kenya-Japan Association.
Wamalwa’s first foray into politics came in Kenya’s 1974 parliamentary election. Just 30, his opponents painted him as too young and from too wealthy a background to effectively represent his constituency. His campaign was flashy: it included the use of an aircraft and extravagant public rallies. He finally won a seat in 1979, as a protégé of Masinde Muliro. In the run-up to the first multy-party elections in post-independence Kenya, in 1992, Wamalwa identified with the Ford Kenya faction of the FORD opposition movement. He was elected MP for Saboti Constituency, as well as First Vice Chairman of his party. In January 1994, he became chairman of Ford Kenya following the death of Oginga Odinga. Wamalwa went on to contest the 1997 Kenyan elections as a leader of the opposition, but he fared badly and came only fourth in the nationwide tally of votes.Though he may of lost he never gave up and continued to try using his amazing can do attitude.
Alongside Tom Mboya, Ronald Ngala and PLO Lumumba, he was a gifted Kenyan orator. He sacrificed his riches to assist the poor and needy by paying school fees and assisting in raising standards of living for the poor. He started the Touch Africa foundation with a view toward empowering youths, the poor, and the needy to realize their dreams. He was a member of Parliament (MP) for Saboti Constituency, in Trans-Nzoia District, Rift Valley Province. His home town was Kitale. Perhaps uniquely in Kenyan history, he managed to secure votes without tribal/ethnic chauvinism. He was thought of as an automatic successor of President Mwai Kibaki.
In the run-up to the 2002 elections, Wamalwa formed a political alliance with Mwai Kibaki and Charity Ngilu to come up with a winning side. Later Kalonzo Musyoka and Raila Odinga, having realised their side KANU was going to lose, jumped ship to take advantage of the situation and the people, to present a unified challenge to then-president Daniel arap Moi’s Kenya African National Union (KANU) party. The coalition was called the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), and it won a landslide victory in the elections, with Mwai Kibaki as President. Wamalwa was appointed vice-president.
In late 2002, during the election campaign, Mwai Kibaki was seriously injured in a car accident and was flown to London for treatment. There he was visited by Wamalwa, who also fell ill and had to be treated, supposedly for kidney problems. This was apparently the forerunner of further illness because he was taken ill again in mid-2003 and was once again treated in London. He briefly recovered, and returned to Kenya to marry Yvonne Nambia, in a sumptuous ceremony; it was said that he proposed in Shakespearean English, and arrived at church in a vintage Ford, wearing a morning coat.
Just two months after the wedding, Wamalwa returned to the Royal Free Hospital for another check-up – leading to widespread speculation that his health was worse than doctors had been letting on. He was never to recover. He died on the morning of 23 August 2003, and was later given a state burial at his farm in Kitale.
The cause of Wamalwa’s illness and death has been disputed and official statements from the government did not specify a particular cause though some claim that he died of HIV/AIDS. Various Kenyan newspapers listed gout, a chest infection, or pancreatitis as the reasons for his illness while the British magazine The Economist reported his death had been caused by complications relating to AIDS.