President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete (born October 7, 1950) is a Tanzanian politician and current President of the United Republic of Tanzania. Kikwete was born in Msoga, Bagamoyo District, Tanzania or as it was then known, Tanganyika.
He received his primary education at Msoga Primary School between 1958 and 1961 and his middle school education at Lugoba School from 1962 to 1965. He then moved from Lugoba School to Kibaha Secondary School for O-level education between 1966 to 1969. The following year he joined Tanga Secondary School for advanced level education. Kikwete attended the University of Dar es Salaam from 1972 to 1975, where he earned a degree in Economics.
Kikwete grew up witnessing the exercise of leadership by his grandfather Mrisho Kikwete as a local chief and father as a District Commissioner in colonial Tanganyika and Regional Administrative Secretary and an Ombudsman in post-colonial Tanganyika and the United Republic of Tanzania. He spent part of his childhood moving from one area of country to another as his father was transferred to different outposts. He also spent a better part of his childhood in the village under the guidance of his grandfather. Kikwete became a natural choice for leadership in school and later in the party (TANU and CCM) youth movements.
His leadership talents emerged at early stages in life. He was a student leader both in middle and secondary schools and at the University of Dar es Salaam. He was elected Chairman of the Students Council at Kibaha Secondary School and Deputy Head Prefect at Tanga Secondary School. He became very active in student politics at University. He was eventually elected Vice President of the Dar es Salaam University Students Organisation and de-facto President of the student government at the Main Campus in 1973/74. As a student leader, he spearheaded efforts to fight for student’s rights and welfare. He was in the forefront in bringing about awareness and activism in liberation and anti-apartheid politics in the campus and the University community at large. He represented the Dar es Salaam University students and the students and youths of the African continent in several international conferences. Among such meetings were the International Youth Population Conference in 1974 in Bucharest, Romania.
Graduating with a degree in economics in 1975, he opted for a low-paying job as an executive functionary/officer of the ruling Party (TANU later CCM). This gave him the opportunity to work at the grassroots in rural regions and districts of Tanzania.
Kikwete sharpened his leadership acumen in the military. He first had basic military training at Ruvu National Service Camp (1972) and later underwent a basic officers course at the famous Tanzania Military Academy at Monduli, Arusha. This is Tanzaniaâ€™s top military training institution. On successful completion of the course, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1976. He also undertook Company Commander’s Course in 1983 at the same academy. In his military career, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. From 1984 to 1986, Kikwete was Chief Political Instructor and Political Commissar at the Military Academy. He retired from the military as a lieutenant-colonel when political pluralism was reintroduced to Tanzania in 1992 when he chose to become a full time politician. Prior to that, he was permitted to be both in the military and political leadership.
In elective Party politics, Kikwete started shining in 1982 when he was overwhelmingly elected by the party (CCM) national congress to be a Member of the National Executive Committee. This is the highest policy and decision-making body of the party. He has won re-elections to the body every five years since then. Also, in 1997, he was elected a member of the partyâ€™s powerful 31-member Central Committee (CC). He is still a member of the Central Committee since he was reelected in 2002 for another term of 5 years.
As a party cadre, Kikwete moved from one position to another in the party ranks and from one location to another in the service of the party. When TANU and the Zanzibarâ€™s Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) merged to form CCM in 1977, Kikwete was moved to Zanzibar and assigned the task of setting-up the new partyâ€™s organisation and administration in the Islands. In 1980, he was moved to the Partyâ€™s Headquarters as Administrator of the Dar es Salaam Head Office and Head of the Defence and Security Department before moving again up-country â€“ to regional and district party offices in Tabora Region (1981-84) and Nachingwea (1986-88) and Masasi District (1988) in the countryâ€™s southern regions of Lindi and Mtwara respectively. President Kikwete throve in the military and grassroots party political organisation, mobilisation and administration until 1988 when he was appointed to join the Central Government. The then President Ally Hassan Mwinyi appointed him Member of Parliament and, simultaneously, Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals on November 7, 1988. In 1990 he was promoted to full Minister responsible for the Ministry of Water, Energy and Minerals. Later the same year he successfully contested for a parliamentary seat in his home constituency of Bagamoyo. He was reappointed Minister for Water, Energy and Minerals in the government formed after the elections.
In 1994, at 44, he became one of the youngest Finance Ministers in the history of Tanzania. At the Treasury, he established discipline in public finance management and accountability and, until today, he is still remembered for establishing cash budget system and revamping of revenue collection structures, methods and institutions, including preparations for the formation and eventual establishment of the Tanzania Revenue Authority.
In December 1995, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, being appointed by President Benjamin William Mkapa of the third phase government. He held this post for ten years, until he was elected President of the United Republic of Tanzania in December 2005, hence becoming the country’s longest serving foreign minister. During his tenure in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tanzania played a significant role in bringing about peace in the Great Lakes region, particularly in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Kikwete was also deeply involved in the process of rebuilding regional integration in East Africa. Specifically, several times, he was involved in a delicate process of establishing a Customs Union between the three countries of the East Africa Community (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania), where, for quite some time, he was a Chairman of East Africa Communityâ€™s Council of Ministers. Introducing candidate Kikwete at a campaign rally in Dar es Salaam on 21 August 2005, former President Mkapa described him as a super-diplomat, in recognition of his role in the search for peace in neighboring Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kikwete also participated in the initiation, and became a Co-Chair, of the Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy.
On May 4th, 2005, Kikwete emerged victorious among 11 CCM members who had sought the partyâ€™s nomination for Presidential candidacy in the general election. After a 14th December 2005 multiparty general election, he was declared a winner by the Electoral Commission on December 17th, 2005 and was sworn-in as the Fourth President of the United Republic of Tanzania on 21st December 2005.
President Kikweteâ€™s governing philosophy and political views are influenced by those of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere whom the President was privileged to be close to. So far Kikwete’s government has received accolades across the country and in the donor community for fighting corruption, investing in people, particularly in education, and push for new investiments. In the past two years of Kikwete’s presidency, a remarkable 1,500 new secondary schools have been built, and a new 40,000-student science university is being built in Dodoma, central Tanzania. These successes have led the United States government to grant Tanzania US $698 million under the the Millenium Challenge Account assistance program, the UK government US $500 million for education, and the New York based Africa-America Institute (AAI) to award Tanzania the Africa National Achievement Award in September 2007 in New York.
President Kikwete recently launched a national campaign for voluntary HIV/AIDS testing in Dar es Salaam. He and his wife were the first to be tested.
President Kikwete is a keen sportsman having played basketball competitively in school. He has been a patron of the Tanzania Basketball Federation for the past 10 years. He is married to Mama Salma Kikwete, and together they have eight children.