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Review of 2002 election result

The 27 December 2002 elections and the smooth handover of power that followed was historical in many ways, and was praised globally as an example of democratic maturity in an African country. After 24 years at the helm Presdient Daniel arap Moi, whose Kenya African National Union (KANU) party had ruled the country since independence in 1963, lost an election for the first time. The subsequent transition was the first time in the country's history that an incumbent stepped down for a new leader, and also the first occasion on which an opposition leader had won the country's presidential race. Mwai Kibaki won a landslide victory in the presidential race, beating his closest rival, Uhuru Kenyatta, also Moi's preferred successor in KANU, by a wide margin. Moi, who was barred from contesting the presidency after completing his two five-year terms as stipulated in the country's 1992 multiparty law, handed power over to Kibaki at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, where a number of African heads of state and hundreds of thousands of Kenyans had turned out to witness the occasion. Kibaki's victory, under the banner of the reformist National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) party, has set the stage for long-awaited changes in the country's political, economic and social sectors in the coming year. However, there are tough challenges ahead. The new NARC government inherits a country beset by economic, institutional and social failures. In addition, Kenya was recently ranked the sixth most corrupt nation in the world by the international corruption watchdog, Transparency International. Challenges ahead Kenyans will, in the coming year, be hoping to see changes in the leadership style of government, and will be looking out for results on the ground that make a positive impact on their lives. If it is to be successful, the new government will have to face up to the challenges of rising poverty, unemployment and corruption, analysts say. According to Denis Kabaara, the chief executive officer of the Nairobi-based Institute of Economic Affairs, Kenya is lagging at least 20 years behind where it should be in terms of development. "The last two decades have been a period of systematic failure. It was marked by the gradual running down of institutions, and the rule of law went out of the window," Kabaara told IRIN. The new government will have to focus its energies on rebuilding institutions, and developing a meritocracy in which Kenyan citizens can feel empowered, according to Kabaara. The analyst says he views Kibaki's newly-appointed cabinet of ministers as an impressive team of reformers who have the ability to turn around the economy and the institutions that have suffered as a result of neglect and corruption. But, he warns, good results will not come easily. "We need to undergo a social transformation, we want to see a different type of behaviour from our leaders. We need to have a government that socially and ideologically wants to enable and compete with the private sector," Kabaara said. Donor relations improving There are also signs that relations with donors, which have soured in recent years, are already improving, according to Kabaara. However, World Bank officials have already expressed concern over plans by Charity Ngilu, the new health minister, to scrap the donor-backed system of cost sharing in government hospitals, replacing it with free healthcare. "The donors will want to talk issues. But the new team also has its own ideas. We expect that they will take the Kenyan position and bring in donors as a balancing element in their plans," Kabaara said. Although the Kenyan economy performed poorly during his rule, Moi's supporters have credited him with keeping the peace in an otherwise turbulent part of the world. Human rights under scrutiny According to Phillip Kichana, a political analyst with the Nairobi-based Institute for Education in Democracy (IED), many people are also looking for a vast improvement in the human rights situation in the country, and for alleged abuses of the previous era to be thoroughly investigated. Of all the forms of alleged violations, torture was the most severe, Kichana said. "The human rights situation was gross. If you look at the basic freedoms of assembly and press, they were constantly violated. Police beat up people in rallies. But torture ranks among the most severe," he said. The new government should, in the coming year, reform the judiciary to ensure that ordinary Kenyans feel they get justice, Kichana pointed out. "If the institutional reform does not happen by the end of this year, then I am afraid we will be doing the same things as in the past. The emphasis has to be on building institutions. If this is not done, nothing good will happen," he added Kibaki, a former vice president and finance minister, has already stated that, while he is committed to fighting graft by replacing corrupt government officials with new people of integrity, he is not interested in pursuing a policy of "retribution" to dig into past political and economic crimes. However, pressure is already mounting within the human rights community, which wants the new government to investigate alleged abuses. In a statement released to the media on 9 January, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, which has documented alleged human rights violations, notably cases of torture, extrajudicial killings and the land clashes that rocked the country between 1992 and 1997, urged the Kibaki government to establish a "truth and reconciliation" commission. It is only by fully confronting the past, and completely accounting for it, that Kenyans can create a solid and legitimate basis for the democratic development and economic renewal they are seeking, the Statement argued. "Kenyans cannot simply forgive and forget the abominable crimes of the past. The victims of past abuses may only contemplate forgiveness after a full public accounting and justice has been done. But they must never forget because national amnesia for past abuses invites their recurrence," it added. Mungiki threat The new government is also faced with the tough challenge of restoring security in urban areas, where police operations have often been overwhelmed by heavily-armed criminals. For example, the Mungiki, an outlawed movement made up of dreadlocked ethnic Kikuyu youths which began in the late 1990s as a cultural sect, but which has grown into a major security concern in many parts of the country, will need to be tackled. The sect has been accused of promoting retrogressive traditional practices such as female circumcision, violence against women whom they deem to be indecently dressed, and even the carrying out of ritual murders in some parts of the country. In recent weeks, the group has been reported to have gone on the rampage in a number of urban areas, spreading terror and attacking unarmed civilians in their residences, killing more than 70 people. The Mungiki activities have raised a public outcry and brought the efficiency of the country's police force into sharp focus. The new government has, however, promised to take firm action against the group, and has begun to crack down on its activities. Women's Issues The year 2003 is also likely to be an important one for women in Kenya. A total of eight women were elected to parliament on various party tickets. Out of the seven slots set aside for its nominated MPs, NARC selected five women, while KANU nominated two, bringing the total number of women in the country's ninth parliament to 15. Although this number is still small in proportion to parliament's total of 210 seats, women leaders are still happy that the NARC government has already shown signs of commitment to improving the status of women in the country, with three women being appointed as full cabinet ministers. A new draft constitution, which the NARC government has promised to adopt within the first 100 days in power, includes proposals for affirmative action for women and minority groups in government leadership structures. This could mean that at least 70 seats in parliament would be reserved for women. Adelina Mwau, a leading women's rights activist is one of NARC's women parliamentary nominees. She looks forward to playing a key role in bringing gender issues into parliament. "This is exciting for me. I have a good grasp of the issues that affect women and men in this country, young and old. I hope to make a difference in the lives of women by directly making laws," she says. Under the previous government, Mwau says, the work of women activists like herself was frustrated by a lack of commitment by the government to enact laws and develop institutions that promoted women's interests.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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