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Michael K. Wamalwa, 58; Vice President of Kenya

August 24, 2003|From Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Vice President Michael Kijana Wamalwa died Saturday of an undisclosed illness after several months of treatment in a hospital near London. He was 58.

Wamalwa, a member of parliament for the FORD-Kenya party, became Kenya's eighth vice president since independence after the opposition victory in December that ended the 24-year rule of former President Daniel Arap Moi.

President Mwai Kibaki said he had lost a friend and comrade whom he looked up to for advice while they served in the opposition and now in the management of the country's affairs.

In Wamalwa's hometown of Kitale in western Kenya, people rushed wailing and screaming into the streets in heavy rain to mourn his death. Shops and businesses closed.

Kibaki's statement announcing the death did not mention a cause of death, and a spokeswoman at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north of London, declined to comment on his treatment. Kenyan newspapers reported that he had gout, a chest infection or pancreatitis, and that his doctor was a specialist in treating HIV and AIDS.

In October 2002, Wamalwa, a graduate of the London School of Economics, brought his party -- at the time the third-largest opposition group -- together with about 10 others to form the National Rainbow Coalition or NARC.

After receiving a law degree, Wamalwa returned to Kenya in 1969 and taught law at the University of Nairobi. In 1979 he ran for parliament on the ticket of the Kenyan African National Union, the country's sole political party.

When Moi reluctantly agreed to multiparty elections in 1992, Wamalwa joined the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy, or FORD, from which FORD-Kenya splintered. He became party leader in 1994.

When Kibaki, a member of the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe, named his cabinet Jan. 3, he chose Wamalwa, a member of Kenya's third-largest tribe, the Luhya, as his deputy.

The president's statement did not mention funeral arrangements or how or when Wamalwa's successor would be chosen.

Wamalwa is survived by his widow, Yvonne, and their young daughter.

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