L' 'etat c'est Moi.

Author:Kamau, John
Position:Cover Story 1: Kenya
 
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After 24 years in power, President Daniel arap Moi is to retire at the next elections in December 2002.

It will be a new beginning for the east African nation. But as our Kenya correspondent reports, the battle for succession has just begun and it will be tough and rough.

It is "almost" certain: Kenya's president of 24 years, Daniel arap Moi, will be retiring at the end of 2002 as the constitution stipulates But even with a year to go, he still has no been eager to groom anybody for the top job perhaps believing that time is still on his side (But it is not).

At best, he has said he will go back to his extensive farm in Kabarak, deep in the Rift Valley province and "spend more time with hi grandchildren".

At worst, he has been warning politicians within the ruling party, the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), not to underestimate him. "I will be around for a long, long time", he has said, vowing not to relinquish his post as the chairman of Kanu.

And that has been the catch.

Moi is not exactly Louis XIV of France, but having been in power for 24 years, he is tempted to think like Louis XIV: L'etat c'est moi. Pundits say Moi still wants to be politically relevant--just like the late Tanzanian Mwalimu Julius Nyerere--even after he hands over power.

Again he does not want to do anything risky, lest he splits Kanu and hands victory to another parry that could question his past. And that is the constant dilemma raising fear whether there will be a smooth transition.

For the best half of 2001, Moi kept saying in public that he would leave power to a young person--raising speculation that he wanted a person he could easily manipulate.

And true to his word, Moi announced a major cabinet reshuffle on 21 November and brought in some "young" blood, including Uhuru Kenyatta, 38, the son of Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta. Uhuru was first nominated as an MP in September, and by November he was sitting in the cabinet--a meteoric rise by any standards.

Also brought into the cabinet was Cyrus Jirongo, 41, the former chairman of the "Youth for Kanu 92" lobby group. He joined the transport and communications minister, Musalia Mudavadi, 43; the information and tourism minister, Kalonzo Musyoka, and the increasingly influential William Ruto, 38, an assistant minister in the office of the president, as the young turks.

However, none of these people looks like presidential material--all, being political novices.

Already, Moi's cabinet is split over his continued talk of young turks. His former intelligence boss-turned politician, Elijah Sumbeiywo, told him at a recent public meeting that: "Leadership is like a forest and needs old trees".

The permutations

While the November reshuffle was expected to state clearly the direction of the Moi succession, it ended up opening the race to speculation. By retaining Prof George Saitoti (his vice president since 1989) in the same portfolio, Moi sent out signals that Saitoti was a likely choice for his job.

But Saitoti has his problems too. A Kikuyu by birth and Maasai by adoption, he has been having trouble in his Kajiado North constituency where, come the elections, he will face a stiff challenge from the rubble-rousing Maasai local county leader, Daniel ole Muyaa, who has the backing of a political cartel that wanes to block Saitoti's move to the top job.

At another front, Moi has been working with Raila Odinga of the National Development Parry (NDP) in a bid to have a formidable team ready for the next elections, especially from the NDP's bedrock Luo support.

But would Moi be grooming Raila? The November reshuffle showed no such thing. Instead, Raila was forced to share his powerful energy ministry with another...

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