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 Sunday, 29 December, 2002, 21:29 GMT
Analysis: Kenya's new democratic mood
Narc supporters celebrate
A new mood of optimism in Kenya

It has taken a while to sink in.

Like lottery winners unable to believe their luck, Kenyans have spent much of the last 24 hours in a daze - hardly daring to celebrate an election that has turned their entire political establishment on its head.

"I'm just waiting for the army to come and stop all this," joked one of President-elect Mwai Kibaki's aides - giddily savouring the once unimaginable idea that the Kanu government's 39-year stranglehold on power was about to end. And end peacefully.

Now, of course, the celebrations have started in earnest.

Election winner Mwai Kibaki
Kibaki will be under huge pressure to make good on campaign pledges
Crowds dancing rebelliously in front of the Nairobi headquarters of KBC, the state broadcasting company which has been a shameless mouthpiece for the government right up to the eve of these historic polls.

It has been 11 years since President Moi reluctantly accepted multi-party politics in his east African fiefdom - but for many Kenyans, today may well be the first time it has really felt like a true democracy.

There have been years of noisy public debate, and endless, ever-changing new opposition parties and alliances.

Open in new window : Views of voters
Reaction to Kenyan results

But they have never seriously shaken Kanu's monopoly on power - it has tentacles extending into every branch of the state.

And now, Kanu lies in virtual ruins. Its young presidential candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, comprehensively beaten, its slim parliamentary majority wiped out. Almost every cabinet minister has lost his seat.

Frustration

All this feels a bit like a revolution.

In some senses it is.

A peaceful, democratic transition is something that few African countries take for granted - now a vital precedent has been set for Kenya, and for a wider region riddled with failing and war-torn states.

The elation of today may quickly turn to frustration for many Kenyans

But in domestic political terms, the jury is still out on this election.

What Kenyans have done is to vent their frustration with Kanu and President Moi.

The result is a symbolic two-fingered salute to Mr Moi's system of patronage, tribal division and corruption which has turned the state into little more than a parasitic obstacle to economic prosperity.

But will the new government be able to stop the rot?

'Broken dreams'

Critics point out that the National Rainbow Coalition is packed with old Kanu faces canny enough to have deserted a sinking ship.

Daniel arap Moi
Kenyans vented their frustration with Kanu and President Moi

It is true that the jumble of egos, agendas and parties making up the new alliance will not fit easily into a coherent government.

However, Mr Kibaki's team will be under enormous public pressure to make good on its campaign promises, to root out corruption, and to brush away the last cobwebs of Kanu's smug, monolithic rule.

One newspaper columnist observed that Kibaki now has "our broken dreams" in his "back pocket".

New mood

There can be no quick fix for the poverty, neglect and decaying infrastructure which Mr Moi has bequeathed the incoming government.

And the elation of today may quickly turn to frustration for many Kenyans.

But there is a new mood of optimism in this country now.

Kenyans have survived despite their government for so long.

Even a slight improvement by the new team could unlock huge potential.

An early test of the new government - and another critical rite of passage for the country - will come in perhaps three months, by which time Narc has pledged to wrap up a review of Kenya's outdated constitution.

Kenyans choose a new president

Key stories

Inauguration day

Moi steps down

Background

INTERACTIVE GUIDE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

29 Dec 02 | Africa
29 Dec 02 | Media reports
29 Dec 02 | Business
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