- Title: KENYA: FINAL DAY OF ELECTION CAMPAIGN FOR NEW PRESIDENT
- Date: 25th December 2002
- Summary: (W3) NAIROBI, KENYA (RECENT) (REUTERS) SMV UHURU BEING ENDORSED AT KANU DELEGATES CONFERENCE AND SHAKING HANDS WITH MOI
- Embargoed: 9th January 2003 12:00
- Location: REUTERS AND NATION TV
- Country: Kenya
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVABRS10YPSESO7110W56IWWSWCU
- Story Text: Kenya's general election campaign has entered its final day with pundits betting on a historic opposition victory in the all-important race to succeed President Daniel arap Moi.
After 24 years, and on the heels of a recent terrorist attack, Kenya's president has been preparing to step down.
As Friday (December 27) polls approach, two favourites have emerged to succeed him - one a young-gun, the president's protÃ©gÃ© - the other a seasoned opposition politician who defected from the ruling party a decade ago.
"I have had my time, and will render support to our next President. My fellow Kenyans, whoever succeeds me, has great challenges to surmount," said Moi.
Many Kenyan were sceptical when Moi first announced his plans to retire. But it was his choice of an heir that truly shocked the nation. Moi picked 42-year-old Uhuru Kenyatta - son of Kenya's founding father - Jomo Kenyatta.
When Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya's first president he already had years of leadership experience from spearheading Kenya's struggle for independence. Uhuru seeks election as a political novice. But, he comes from Kenya's largest ethnic community: the Kikuyu.
Most Kikuyus have consistently voted against Moi's ruling Kenya African National Union party or KANU, since the start of multi-party democracy in 1991. Analysts say that Kenyatta was chosen to split the Kikuyu vote.
"The president simply went and he picked him up and he told him, man, I'm gonna make you president. And you have to owe it to me. And as a result of that you also have to protect me," says Kenyan Political Analyst Mutahi Ngunyi.
Top opposition leaders agree that the inexperienced Kenyatta would be used as a puppet to protect the ruling elite from prosecution for alleged economic crimes.
"So we are going to have a president who has to ask the ex-president each time before he takes a decision that affect the lives of the people. I don't know where else this happens, but that is basically what the president is telling the people of this country," said Opposition politician Raila Odinga.
In March this year influential opposition leader Raila Odinga dissolved his National Democratic Party to merge with the dominant KANU party. Odinga is an Luo -Kenya's second largest ethnic group. He and his party members were given government positions but Raila wanted more and Moi wanted Uhuru.
Odinga quit KANU, followed by several heavyweights including former vice-president George Saitoti. Raila is the charismatic driving force behind the new Opposition super alliance called the National Rainbow Coalition.
But it is the veteran Mwai Kibaki who was nominated as the opposition flag bearer. In the 1980s Kibaki served as finance minister and later as vice-president under Moi. Kibaki has already run for president twice, but has lost both times to Daniel Arap Moi.
This time, he has teamed up with Odinga and most of Kenya's other opposition parties.
Opposition meetings have drawn in thousands of people eager to see for the first time - a united opposition. Even when Kibaki was recently injured in a car accident the Opposition made sure to continue portraying a united front to the voters.
"Kenya has suffered a lot. Economically we have suffered.
People are not employed. The corruption is there in plenty, and we want each and everything to end. We want a new Kenya, we want to change our lives. We want to be like any other country - any other developed country," says a National Rainbow Coalition supporter.
Uhuru is also hot on the campaign trail. He kicked of his campaign with a return to his hometown, Gatundu.
The last time he visited asking for votes was in 1997. He was vying for a parliamentary seat. He lost. The opposition lost the 1992 and 1997 polls because it was divided, but the elections were also marred by widespread political violence, which forced many opposition supporters to flee rather than vote.
KANU has become synonymous with Kenya's fading fortunes.
Once an economic power house, the country is now shunned by investors and donors alike. Rampant corruption and neglect have had an adverse effect even on economic mainstays like tea and coffee exports.
Kenya is world-famous for the beaches and resorts along its Indian Ocean coast. But any anxiety Kenyan felt about the future was heightened when suicide bombers shattered the peace and tranquillity of Mombasa recently by attacking Israeli tourists staying at a local hotel.
"We were getting very good money from coffee, tea, and milk. But all these infrastructure, they have all died," says one Kenyan man.
"Set right the economy, the infrastructure, the education, all the organisations that are gone to the dogs, so to speak, to bring them back, and I hope we will be able to attract more donors and also the tourism, it has to be brought back to its feet," said a Kenyan woman.
Uhuru's supporters believe that youthful ideas and a revamped KANU will do things better.
"I personally have faith in Uhuru, because he has never been an associate with the people who corrupted our government before," said a female KANU supporter.
"What this country needs is a fresh new start, new people, new blood coming into positions of power and I think that is what we need to be," said Uhuru Kenyatta.
But the opposition believes that KANU has already had its chance.
"Everyone living in Kenya today has no doubt in their minds that National Coalition will, in fact, win the election.
So there is no way that Moi can hang on where he is," said Mwai Kibaki.
Whether Uhuru or Kibaki wins - one thing is clear: Kenya will see change. What Kenyans are waiting to see is whether is will be the kind of change they want or need.
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