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Power shift in Kenya

Nairobi, Dec. 29 (Reuters): Opposition leader Mwai Kibaki swept to a historic win in Kenya’s presidential and general election, ending nearly 40 years of rule by President Daniel arap Moi’s KANU party, the electoral commission said today.

KANU candidate Uhuru Kenyatta conceded defeat even before official results were declared, telling Kenyans in a statement: “I accept your choice.”

“I now concede that Mwai Kibaki will be the third President of the Republic of Kenya,” he said. “KANU and I will respect him and his position in accordance with the Constitution.”

A commission spokesman said hours earlier that provisional results showed Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) alliance had won Friday’s poll. “He has won convincingly, and we will announce it officially later today,” he said.

But commission chairman Samuel Kivuitu later said he could not declare a Kibaki victory until all result certificates had arrived from the constituencies.

“Looking at the figures we have so far, Kibaki is leading,” he said. “If it goes like that he is likely to be the next President of Kenya. But one must follow the law which says we must receive all the certificates.”

His statement caused an uproar among Opposition supporters expecting to hear him announce the final result, and he made a hasty exit, jostled and shoved by angry onlookers.

Moi, who has ruled East Africa’s most important country and economy largely unchallenged for 24 years, was constitutionally barred from running.

Kenyans reeling under harsh economic conditions turned massively to Kibaki’s alliance of about 10 parties that finally set aside years of bickering to forge a common front.

The economy shrank in 2000 for the first time since 1963 and grew by only 1.2 per cent last year. Well over half its 30 million people live on less than $1 a day.

Kibaki, a former finance minister who studied at the London School of Economics, has pledged to revive the economy and end Moi’s patronage-based style.

But critics say NARC represents only an illusion of change, pointing to the many recent defectors from KANU among its ranks, and to Kibaki’s decade as vice president under Moi during one of the most intolerant periods in recent Kenyan history. Kenyatta told Kenyans to ensure “that leaders you have elected deliver on their promises”.

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