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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Kenyan president sacks his deputy
President Daniel arap Moi
Moi wants Uhuru Kenyatta to be his successor
Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi has dismissed his Vice President, George Saitoti, in a row over who should succeed him.

Mr Saitoti, vice president for 13 years, has been at the forefront of a rebellion within the ruling party over Mr Moi's decision to back the son of the late independence leader, Jomo Kenyatta, as his preferred choice as next president.


Everybody must toe the line or otherwise quit

President Moi
President Moi has been campaigning strongly for Uhuru Kenyatta to succeed him, but two weeks ago Mr Saitoti announced his intention to stand for the ruling party's presidential nomination.

Elections are due by the end of the year, after which President Moi is obliged by the constitution to stand down following almost 25 years at the helm.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent says that, by sacking Mr Saitoti, through an announcement on the lunchtime radio news, President Moi has greatly raised the stakes in the power struggle.

Many commentators have suggested that Mr Moi wants a loyal successor who will protect him and his family from legal action once he leaves office.

During Moi's presidency Kenya has become one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Response

Mr Saitoti said he accepted his dismissal, but vowed to continue his fight to secure the ruling party's nomination.

George Saitoti
Saitoti has been vice president for 13 years
"I have never known in history where a vice-president is fired because he is seeking nomination, when the incumbent president's term is due to expire, but it is a worthwhile price to pay," he told reporters.

An urbane, intellectual figure in his 50s, Mr Saitoti was nominated as an MP in 1985 and immediately became finance minister, before a stint at home affairs.

He had clearly hoped to move seamlessly into the top job, but his days were numbered when he was demoted from his powerful party post as vice chairman of the ruling party when Kanu and the opposition NDP merged in March.

Since then President Moi, has become increasingly intolerant of any opposition within the ruling party to his preferred successor.

Warning

Earlier this week he issued his sternest warning yet.

Raila Odinga
Raila Odinga also wants the Kanu nomination

"Everybody must toe the line or otherwise quit," he told a public rally in the coastal city of Mombasa.

He said the party had "no room for dissenting fellows. I shall use all mechanisms at my disposal to silence them".

Two ministers have already been sacked for publicly criticising Mr Moi's choice of successor.

Opposition

The rift within the ruling party emerged when Mr Saitoti and two other senior Kanu officials formed a "Kanu Rainbow Alliance" to push for a democratic vote to choose the party's next presidential candidate.

Raila Odinga
Raila Odinga also wants the Kanu nomination

Also in the group is the party's general secretary Raila Odinga who assumed the post after the NDP merged with Kanu.

Mr Odinga has also declared he will contest the Kanu nomination.

Our correspondent says that President Moi - usually quite a careful, subtle politician - has thrown caution to the wind, gambling that the party will eventually back his choice, and that Uhuru Kenyatta will go on to win the presidential election.

But the move could backfire, leading to an irreversible split in Kanu, and possibly to an opposition victory, he says.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Harding
"The battle within the ruling party has come to a showdown"
Kariuki Mureithi reporting for Focus on Africa
"Rumours had been doing the rounds all morning"
Kenyans choose a new president

Key stories

Inauguration day

Moi steps down

Background

INTERACTIVE GUIDE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

06 Aug 02 | Africa
21 Nov 01 | Africa
28 Mar 02 | Africa
05 Aug 02 | Africa
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