I am not dating Aliko Dangote — Ambassador Yvonne

Bilionaire Aliko Dangote
    Aliko Dangote speaking during World Economic Forum Photo: Reuters\Mike Hutchings

In a political environment crawling with bushy-cheeked men in ill-fitting suits yelling slogans and spewing threats, Yvonne Khamati stood out like a sore thump when she burst into the limelight as a baby faced elected member of the executive committee of Ford Kenya in 2002.

At 21 years of age, she was the youngest female in a position of leadership in a political party.

That year, Yvonne ran for the Makadara Constituency parliamentary seat against an all-male politically crowded field that included Reuben Ndolo of the ‘weka taya’ fame and was insulted at rallies, roughed up and at some point admitted to hospital after suffering injuries in a campaign scuffle.

Meteoric rise

“Female politicians visited me in hospital and said, ‘This is baptism by fire. You will get used to it!’ I realised such was the life of a female in Kenya’s male dominated politician arena,” Yvonne says.

Her meteoric rise from obscurity to national limelight had tongues wagging, especially when she bagged a Foreign Service post as Deputy AU ambassador following negotiations by her party leader in 2005. Was Musikari Kombo, the man who negotiated her appointment, her lover? Twelve years on, and now deployed as Kenya’s deputy ambassador to Somalia, tongues are still wagging.

From allegations of owning a private jet, to dating Africa’s richest man and having a tiff with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s wife, Ida, the rumours created around Yvonne Khamati’s personal and professional life read like a script out of popular TV series Scandal.

“Some of the stories I hear about myself just make me laugh. For example, if I owned a private jet, where would I park it? You would have seen it by now!” laughs the diplomat.

“Rumours that I was dating Kombo are the kind of puerile politics that we must stop. Kombo is a mentor and a friend. I went to school with his children and his wife went to school with my mother,” she explains.

The rumours did not stop there. Soon Kenyans on Twitter were sharing rumours created by a man named Douglas Mango stating that the diplomat was seeing Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote.

“I don’t think Aliko has even been to Cedars. I would know as it is in my neighbourhood. Why would I be publicly hanging out with him as a senior diplomat? I’d rather we deal with real issues, not gossip from Twitter generated by someone who has since apologised,” she states.

At only 18 years old, Yvonne was already flying the Kenyan flag high, representing the youth in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations at The Hague, Netherlands, rubbing shoulders with heads of states and governments and setting a firm foundation for her career in diplomacy.

When President Kibaki appointed her ambassador in May 2007, she was only 25 years old, making her the youngest envoy in Africa.

“I am glad I ran for a political seat at a tender age because it opened the doors for more young women like Senators Naisula Lesuuda and Joy Gwendo to participate in leadership, traditionally believed to be a men-only affair.

Yvonne Khamati was born in Nairobi’s Maringo Estate and spent the greatest part of her teenage life and schooling in Manchester, England, before returning to Kenya and joining St Christopher’s School, then Peponi School, briefly. She is an alumnus of the University of Nairobi and the American World University (AWU).

She served as the international coordinator of the World Youth Organisation on Climate Change and was a research fellow at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

In 2001 she met Vincent Kilonzo whom she married after an eight-year courtship.

The two, who have since parted, have a four-year-old daughter.

She has her sights trained on the Nairobi’s Senatorial seat in the 2017: “I have a lot to offer Nairobians and I am already doing the groundwork and I believe I will win and take the city to new heights.”