Kenya: Christmas elections

Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the founding father of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, is the man standing between the opposition party NARC (National African Rainbow Coalition) and election victory.

Uhuru Kenyatta, 42, has the official backing of the retiring President, Daniel Arap Moi, 79, who stands down on December 24th after 24 years in power, having taken over from Kenyatta senior, who stepped down in 1978 after leading the country to its independence in 1963. His KANU Party (Kenyan African National Union) has been associated by many with corruption, Transparency International claiming that Kenya is the sixth most corrupt country in the world.

However, Kenyatta junior tries to distance himself from the Party, saying that he is the embodiment of a fresh start. He declares that his comparative lack of experience in politics (14 months as a Member of Parliament) brings him in good stead with the country’s needs: a change. He claims that the Opposition Rainbow Party is full of KANU members who defected because they feel the mood of the country is against KANU.

Kenyatta’s message strikes a chord with the younger voters, who identify with him although analysts point out that most of the older voters will vote with NARC, whose leader, Mwai Kibaki, has enlisted many tribal leaders in the party ranks.

Whether it is Kibaki or Kenyatta, the new leader of Kenya will have to deal with a serious social crisis, after years of 8% growth rates slumped to zero and with social indicators showing a worst-possible scenario, with soaring unemployment and poverty rates, among the worst indicators in terms of infant mortality and life expectancy among Kenya’s 31 million inhabitants and an endemic culture of corruption which stagnates the economy further.

With an external debt of 8 bn. USD, Kenya exports 1.8 bn. USD-worth of goods, needing to import goods worth some 3.1 bn. USD. The unemployment rate stands at 40% and rising and there are 2.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, of which the prevalence rate is 13.5% of the adult population of the country. The life expectancy is just 47.02 years of age, while infant mortality is 67.24 per 1,000 live births.

With 50% of the population living below the poverty line and around 80% of the working population engaged in the agricultural sector, Kenya’s new leader will have to draw on considerable resources to bring the country into the front line in the near future.

It remains to be seen whether the Kenyans are more influenced by experience or by hope for a fresh start.


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