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Kenya's Ruling KANU Party Endorses Kenyatta - 2002-10-14

In Kenya, the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) party has formally endorsed local government Minister Uhuru Kenyatta as its candidate for the presidency. Mr. Kenyatta's endorsement was widely expected.

There was applause in Kasarani Sports Stadium Monday, after Mr. Kenyatta was unanimously endorsed as the KANU party's presidential candidate. He was the only applicant.

Mr. Kenyatta was proposed and seconded by KANU vice chairman Musalia Mudavadi and Katana Ngala, both of whom had declared interest in running for the presidency. But President Daniel arap Moi convinced them to support Mr. Kenyatta.

Speaking after his nomination, Mr. Kenyatta thanked the delegates, and pledged to serve the party with devotion.

"I am grateful to the many officials of the party, and especially, my colleagues, the vice chairmen, and all of you delegates, for supporting my nomination," he said. "I humbly accept this nomination. I intend to serve you, the party and this great nation, with devotion, discipline, vigor, courage and undivided loyalty."

Mr. Kenyatta hailed President Moi for choosing him as his successor and pledged to tap into his wealth of experience and knowledge of Africa for the benefit of the country and the continent as a whole.

Mr. Moi's choice of Mr. Kenyatta caused a split in the ruling party, with some top KANU officials leaving the party to form the opposition Rainbow Alliance. Mr. Kenyatta concedes the road to his nomination has not been smooth.

"The road has been a long and difficult one. Seven leaders declared their interest in the nomination, but only three of those are here today," he said. "Those absent raised many issues, including requests for secret ballot, grass-root elections, extension of the last date of the nomination exercise, dropping some conditions for nominations, and scrutiny of the list of delegates, among others. The party leadership went out of its way to facilitate and persuade them to return to the fold, and to participate in this nomination process. We were not successful."

Uhuru Kenyatta, 41, is the son of Kenya's founding president, the late Jomo Kenyatta. He is known more as a businessman with interests in banking, timber, hotels and the service industry. His entry into politics suffered a blow in 1997, when he failed to win a seat in his father's Gatundu constituency. He entered parliament through nomination two years ago. Critics often cite his lack of experience in politics as the main reason they oppose him.

Mr. Kenyatta says, if elected president, he will revive the economy, create jobs, curb corruption, fight AIDS and review the country's constitution. But he says the task of reviewing the constitution is too important to be tied to the general election, as members of the opposition have been demanding.