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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Moi's comments create a stir
Daniel arap Moi
Moi is keeping Kenyans guessing about his plans
By Kariuki wa Mureithi and Russell Smith

Kenya is gripped by a sense of deep anxiety over the future intentions of their president - Daniel arap Moi - the third longest serving head of state in Africa.

According to a revamped Kenyan constitution, he is supposed to stand down by the end of next year at the end of his second-five year term.

When the right time comes it will be my duty to hand over my national responsibilities to a younger Kenyan leader

President Moi

And at the weekend President Moi gave the strongest signal yet that he is preparing to stand down.

"The debate concerning my retirement is taking too much energy," he told a rally in his most revealing comments to date.

"When the right time comes it will be my duty to hand over my national responsibilities to a younger Kenyan leader."

Yet for Kenyans everything he says on his future and on his possible successor is scrutinised for double meanings.

Will he, Won't he?

No one is quite sure what the man dubbed the "professor of politics" is up to.

"Is it really possible to trust the president?" Kenyans ask themselves.

"Does Mr Moi have the political will to quit politics?"

Many find it hard to believe he will step down and few feel qualified to decode the contradictory signals the president sends out - least of all those hoping to succeed him.

The 78-year-old has now been head of state for more than 20 years, outmaneuvering political colleagues and opponents with apparent ease over the years.


And his machinations show no signs of ending, as new favourites are ruthlessly moved in to replace old allies.

The latest favoured "young Turk" on the scene is newly appointed MP Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president whom Moi succeeded in 1978.

But as any number of favoured sons before will testify, one can rapidly fall from grace in Mr Moi's court.

But it is at least all providing some fun for newspaper cartoonists who have been having a field day:

One recent cartoon depicted Moi holding the hand of Uhuru Kenyatta in what was obviously a ruined country. The caption read: Son, one day all this will be yours.

Another cartoon depicted a group of Kenyan politicians engaged in heated debate about Moi's remarks that he wants to hand over power to a younger person... but they cannot agree on the meaning of "young person", "young Turk", "younger person" or "a person younger than Moi".

See also:

14 Jun 01 | Africa
Kenya's 'most important man'
02 Jul 01 | Africa
Kenya ponders HIV hanging call
10 Jul 00 | Africa
Campaign to keep Moi in power
13 Sep 99 | Africa
Poll says Moi should go in 2002
03 Sep 01 | Africa
Dividing Kenya along ethnic lines
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