Celebrations greet Kibaki as new Kenyan president


Kenya's new president took the oath of office today to the cheers of hundreds of thousands of supporters the capital, Nairobi.

In his first speech as Kenya's president, Mr Mwai Kibaki this afternoon said he would not conduct a witch-hunt of members of the long-time outgoing government, but added there would be no blanket amnesty either.

President-elect Mwai Kibaki
President-elect Mwai Kibaki

His victory at the polls unseated one of Africa's last "Big Men" leaders, Mr Daniel arap Moi, who had ruled the east African nation for 24 years.

"You have asked me to lead this nation out of the present wilderness and malaise on to the promised land, and I shall do so I shall offer a responsive, transparent and innovative leadership," Mr Kibaki said.

Seated in a wheelchair with his right leg in a cast after a car crash earlier this month, Mr Kibaki took the oath of office and received a 21-gun salute.

"I am inheriting a country which has been badly ravaged by years of misrule and ineptitude," he said. "There has been a wide disconnect between the people and government."

[Governing] is not a matter of promoting the ego of a president ... A president should prove himself by things he's going to do which change the life or ordinary Kenyans
Mr Mwai Kibaki

Mr Kibaki offered "the hand of friendship ... forgiveness and reconciliation" to his opponents. But he received the loudest ovation when he said: "It would be unfair to Kenyans not to raise questions about certain deliberate actions or policies of the past that continue to have grave consequences on the present."

Although the Electoral Commission had not released final results by this afternoon, provisional results gave Mr Kibaki 63 per cent of the vote to 30 per cent for Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.

Most of those gathered for today's inauguration hoped the relatively peaceful election will lead to a recovery for a country beset by corruption, poverty, crime and destructive tribal politics.

Mr Kibaki has promised sweeping changes in the way Kenya is run. He is proposing making it law for top officials to declare their wealth and he will break with traditions like hanging the presidential photo in shops and offices throughout the country.

"[Governing] is not a matter of promoting the ego of a president," he has said. "A president should prove himself by things he's going to do which change the life or ordinary Kenyans."

There are no formal procedures for the mechanics of handing over power in Kenya, which has been run by the Kenya Africa National Union (KANU) for the last 39 years.

After the inauguration, Mr Moi was to host a lunch for Mr Kibaki and guests at State House, the modest presidential headquarters that once served as the seat of the British colonial government.

Mr Moi was constitutionally obliged to step down after his second five-year term under a multiparty system restored in 1991.

In spite of bureaucratic glitches and unusually heavy rains, the elections for president, parliament and more than 2,000 local councillors were described by local and international observers as the most free and fair in Kenya's 39-year history as an independent nation.

Among the eight heads of state expected at the ceremony was Malawi President Bakili Muluzi who is seeking a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for a third, five-year term. Also expected are the leaders of South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi and Rwanda.

Mr Kibaki and his party, the National Rainbow Coalition, captured more than twice the number of constituencies as KANU in Friday's vote.

Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, the KANU candidate outgoing president Moi hand-picked to succeed him, conceded defeat after receiving 30% of the votes.

"KANU and I will respect him in his position in accordance with our constitution," said Mr Kenyatta, the 41-year-old son of Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta. He will be the leader of the official opposition after winning a seat in parliament.


Mr Kibaki, who has been a leading opposition figure since multi-party politics were reintroduced in 1991, was Mr Moi's vice president from 1978 to 1988. He was also Kenya's longest-serving finance minister, holding the post from 1969 to 1982 - a period of relative prosperity.

He came second to Mr Moi in 1997 elections and was third in 1992.

During his campaign, Mr Kibaki promised to right the wrongs of four decades of KANU government, revive the country's ailing economy and fight rampant corruption - a problem Western donors and international lending agencies have long said must be conquered before they can provide needed economic help.

In recent years the Kenyan economy has hit rock bottom, largely because of corruption and government mismanagement that has scared off foreign investors.

More than half of Kenya's 30 million people live on less than 60p a day, few have access to water or electricity and unemployment is rife.

Mr Kibaki's promise of an economic revival - and numerous pledges, like free primary school education - have raised hopes among ordinary Kenyans.

It is not immediately clear when he will announce the members of his Cabinet or how long the transition will take.