The battle for Kenya.

Position:Cover Story

President Daniel arap Moi is standing down after 24 years at the helm. But who will take his place? Will it be his chosen heir Uhuru Kenyatta (opposite page) or his sworn opponent Mwai Kibaki (this page). The race is too close to call. But whoever wins, a post-Moi Kenya will be a very different country. reports from Nairobi.

When Kenyans go to the polls on 27 December, it will be to choose between Uhuru Kenyatta, 41, son of Kenya's founding father Jomo Kenyatta, and Mwai Kibaki, 71, a former vice-president and finance minister.

Political pundits say this will be the closest the ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu) p arty will have come to lose its grip on Kenyan politics. But all admit that whoever wins, Kenya will never be the same again without President Moi, a man who for 24 years loomed large over the country. For Mwai Kibaki, an economics graduate of Makerere University and London School of Economics, this might be his last attempt to clinch the presidency--having failed twice before. A man with an impressive public record, Kibaki has lined up a galaxy of opposition politicians to his side who are backing him as the "sole" presidential candidate in a loose coalition of more than 14 political parties, most of them hitherto unknown, and gunning for the presidency under the banner of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC).

For Uhuru, his biggest asset is the backing of the state machinery and President Moi, which is also his undoing. His critics say he has to come out of Moi's shadow and convince Kenyans that he will be his own man--once elected.

On his campaign trail and in talk shows, he has however emerged as an intelligent young man, eloquent and focused. If he wins, he will do it in one of the most spectacular political face-offs in post-independent Kenya; and if Kibaki wins it will be the culmination of a long struggle of revenge against Moi's inner circle that pushed him from vice-president in 1988 to health minister until he defected from Kanu in 1991 to found his own Democratic Party.

Uhuru's rise has been meteoric. He was nominated to parliament in October last year after a key Moi ally, Mark Too, had stepped down. A month later, Uhuru was in the cabinet as minister for local government. In March this year, he became a Kanu vice-chairman, and in October the party's presidential candidate. But whether this meteoric rise will reach its designated goal--State House--will only be known after the polls on 27 December.


To continue reading