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Kenya: Moi tightens grip for rough ride

Faced with severe economic problems, President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya has reshuffled his government and assumed greater personal control of his country.

The nation still is one of the most economically stable countries in black Africa. But it is suffering keenly from steeply rising oil prices. In addition, the world recession has hit Kenya's main exports (coffee and tea) with big price drops and set back the once-booming tourist trade.

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Businessmen, too, are at their wits' end: A serious balance-of-payments deficit and a shortage of foreign exchange virtually prohibit imports of vital machinery, spare parts, and raw materials. The whole private sector is suffering from acute cash-flow problems. Inflation is up. The population explosion of 4 percent per year is causing great concern.

After a period in which the President allowed both the government ministries and the security services considerable freedom to run their own bailiwicks, he has also taken firmer control over the Army, Air Force, police, and immigration.

In doing all this President Moi has not sacked anybody. But he has made two very significant changes in his Cabinet.

The most important switch was removing the crucial Ministry of Finance from the portfolio of Vice-President Mwai Kibaki and giving it to Minister of Health Arthur Magugu, who has energetically reorganized Kenya's hospital system. Magugu has made a habit of dropping into country hospitals unannounced, and has improved efficiency in many hospitals and clinics.

President Moi has given the home affairs portfolio to Kibaki, removing it from Kibaki's bitter rival, Charles Njonjo, who becomes minister of constitutional affairs.

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