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Moi, and Beyond

One can only hope Daniel arap Moi is sincere when he says his next five-year term as Kenya's president will root out corruption, spark economic growth, and be "devoid of hate, fear, and confrontation."

The past two decades of Moi rule don't foster much optimism. Mr. Moi has become increasingly authoritarian over his years in office. His style of governance has given Kenya greater political stability than many of its neighbors. But it has done little to develop the country's considerable economic promise. Annual per capita income is $270; roads, phone service, and other assets have deteriorated.

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Corruption has been a persistent scourge. The tendency of aid money to filter into politicians' pockets rather than into development caused the International Monetary Fund to cut off money for Kenya last July. Moi's anticorruption promises are aimed largely at international bankers.

The IMF, along with private foreign investors, will watch closely to see if Moi is serious about ending Kenya's graft habit. His only step, so far, is formal appointment of a commission to investigate corruption.

Moi talks about democracy, but he has never willingly given it room to blossom. Kenya has had a multiparty system since 1992, but the opposition lives under the threat of a Moi crackdown if criticism of his regime becomes too pointed. Moi is notorious for trying to muzzle the press.

Still, the recent election showed that opposition is growing. Moi got only 40 percent of the vote, winning by a plurality over more than a dozen challengers. The largest share of the other 60 percent went to Mwai Kibaki, a former vice president whose support is drawn from Kenya's largest tribal group, the Kikuyu. Tribal loyalties, and distrust, permeate politics and have been shrewdly manipulated by Moi and his Kenya African National Union (KANU) over the years.

Clearly, most Kenyans want something other than the "big man" rule Moi represents. Opposition leaders are loathe to accept Moi's victory. They protest that the balloting was rigged. But their best option, surely, is to work even harder to forge a united front against Moi and KANU. Like many in Africa, Kenyans need to articulate a national interest that transcends ethnic or tribal identity.

Democracy is astir in Kenya, and its stirrings will shape the final years under Moi.

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