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1/2/03 - KENYA’S NEW PRESIDENT - 2003-01-03

Kenya has a new president. After winning election on December 27th, Mwai Kibaki [m-WHY kee-BAH-kee] of the opposition National Rainbow Coalition took office on December 30th. It was the first time the ruling Kenya African National Union party had lost a presidential election since the country won independence from Britain in 1963.

U.S. ambassador to Kenya Johnnie Carson called the inauguration a historic day for the nation. He said it is an opportunity for Kenya “to begin to reverse the economic misfortunes that it’s had over the last decade.”

Kenya has long suffered from corruption and poverty. President Kibaki has promised, in his words, “to bring back the culture of due process, accountability, and transparency in public office.”

President Kibaki replaces Daniel arap Moi [AH-rahp MOY], who was required to retire after twenty-four years in office. Kenya’s only other president was independence leader Jomo Kenyatta [JOE-mow kehn-YAH-tah]. He died in office in 1978.

The U.S. is committed to supporting Kenya and its new government. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. looks forward to working with President Kibaki “on issues of regional peace and security, human rights, counterterrorism, enhancing trade, job growth and investment, and [fighting] H-I-V/AIDS.”

Mr. Boucher also said the U.S. “applauds Kenyan presidential candidates, including Uhuru [ooh-who-ru] Kenyatta and Simeon Nyachae [een-ya-cha], who conceded with grace and statesmanship and have pledged to play a constructive role in the National Assembly.”

The U.S. acknowledges the important role that outgoing President Moi has played in assuring a smooth process. As Mr. Boucher said, “the people of Kenya...have made a strong demonstration of their democratic commitment and established an important example for [Africa] and the world.”