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IN THE NEWS - January 4, 2003: Kenya’s New President - 2003-01-03

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

Mwai Kibaki was sworn-in this week as president of Kenya. He won sixty-three percent of the vote in the Kenyan presidential election last Friday. Mister Kibaki was the candidate of an alliance of opposition groups called the National Rainbow Coalition. His election is widely considered an important victory for democracy in Kenya.

Mister Kibaki replaces Daniel Arap Moi, who was Kenyan president for twenty-four years. Mister Moi led the Kenya African National Union, known as KANU. His party had been in power since Kenya gained independence from Britain in nineteen-sixty-three. It was the only party permitted in Kenya until nineteen-ninety-one. Constitutional changes put other parties on the ballot and limited Presidents to two terms in office.

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Nairobi to watch Mister Kibaki get sworn-in. Some people shouted at Mister Moi during the ceremony.

Mister Moi listened quietly as Mister Kibaki noted the failings of his government. The new President said there has been what he called “a wide disconnect” between the people and the government. He said he believes that governments exist to serve the people, not the people to serve the government.

Mister Kibaki’s main opponent in the election was Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta. President Moi supported Uhuru Kenyatta as the KANU candidate in the election last week. Mister Kenyatta won only thirty-percent of the vote.

Kenya’s new leader is a former economist. He served ten years as vice president under Mister Moi. Then, he spent more than ten years in the political opposition. Mister Kibaki lost as a candidate for President in nineteen-ninety-two and nineteen-ninety-seven. KANU was accused of cheating in both elections to stay in power.

Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa. But wasteful use of public money and dishonesty in government have weakened the economy in recent years. Many of the country’s thirty-million people survive on one dollar a day. The economic situation has hurt foreign investment. Many people blame Daniel Arap Moi for the problems.

President Moi was praised for keeping Kenya peaceful when conflicts started in other parts of Africa. However, he was criticized for his oppressive rule. Mister Moi demanded loyalty from citizens and jailed those who dissented. His picture was on streets, airports, schools and Kenyan money.

Many Kenyans expect a lot from Mister Kibaki and his government. He has said he wants to end dishonesty in government and help the poor. Some observers fear that the new government will not be able to force real change. They say many of those leading the National Rainbow Coalition were KANU members a short time ago. Others say Mister Kibaki’s attempts at reform may cause tensions.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.