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Kenya's Njonjo springs electoral surprise on Africa

For days now, Charles Njonjo, clad as usual in a legal- looking three-piece pin-striped suit, pink rose in his buttonhole, gold watch chain across his middle, has been addressing huge public meetings, kissing babies, and hugging old peasant women, with "Vote for Njonjo" placards everywhere in sight.

This is a new role for Mr. Njonjo, a brilliant black African lawyer who, until recently, was not a politician who needed to run for office, but Kenya's attorney general.

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For many years past, he had sat in parliament -- but always as an appointment member, never an elected one. When he reached retirement age, however, he did not feel inclined merely to sit back and tend his garden.

Instead, Mr. Njonjo wanted to do what he had never done before, in spite of his power and influence -- namely, run for election to parliament.

That is precisely what he has been doing. The perhaps not entirely coincidental resignation of a member of parliament in Kikuyu, near Nairobi, gave Mr. Njonjo the opportunity he apparently was waiting for. And since he is unopposed, he is certain to win the seat.

There was great surprise at his retirement as attorney general and his decision to "go into politics."

Regarded as one of Africa's outstanding men, Mr. Njonjo has been close to both of Kenya's presidents -- the late Jomo Kenyatta and current President Daniel arap Moi.

He is widely credited with helping to make the 1978 transition between Mr. Kenyatta's death and Mr. Moi's accession smooth and peaceful.

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