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Kenya's President Prepares for Life After Retirement - 2002-12-19


President Daniel Arap Moi has been active in politics for the last 50 years…including his 24-year tenure as kenya’s head of state.

In a public address during Kenya’s recent independence celebrations, he unveiled his plans for the future -- with ending war at the top of the list. Mr. Moi wants to establish a conflict resolution center to be named the moi foundation.

Mutahi Ngunyi -- a political scientist with the Nairobi-based think tank, Consult Afrika -- says such a project is long overdue. He says almost all the organizations doing work in the continent are doing it piece-meal. For example, he says the Nyerere Foundation named after former president Julius Nyerere of Tanzania is focusing on conflict resolution in Burundi. He says former president Nelson Mandela of South Africa is working toward the same goal. But he think the Moi Foundation will have a larger goal: " When you are dealing with the question of Sudan, lessons learnt from Sudan being replicated in Somalia and lessons learnt from Somalia will be replicated in the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia."

Some question the credibility President Moi can bring to the task – since many regard him as one of Africa ’s longest-serving dictators. But Mr. Ngunyi says the president is more respected for his foreign policy than his domestic programs. "Moi might not be credible when he comes to democratic projects," he says,"because we have seen how he has dealt with politics in Kenya, but with regards to international politics and the whole question of peace in the region I think his credibility is not questionable. The people of Sudan do respect him a great deal, the factions in Somalia also respect him, and also the warring factions Rwanda regard him as a peace maker."

President Moi has chaired peace talks on Sudan and Somalia under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development, IGADD – which brings together countries in east africa and the horn of africa. Many of the talks have taken place in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Many heads of state of neighboring countries respect president Moi as one of Africa’s oldest statesmen. But analyst Mutahi Ngunyi says he does not enjoy a good relationship with the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. He says, "[Mandela] enjoys immense international attention, while Moi does not -- yet Moi feels he is a more senior statesman than Mandela because he has been involved in African politics for much longer. However the idea of the consolidation of the peace efforts under the Moi Foundation – as it has been stated -- is going to make the likes of Mandela and his initiatives irrelevant."

President Moi’s offer to spend his time bringing peace to Africa comes after a recent meeting with president George W. Bush. They met soon after the terrorist attack in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa. The Bush administration wants kenya to play a key role in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Ngunyi says a Moi Foundation on Conflict Resolution could be part of that effort – as well as helping to end regional conflicts: "It’s likely to attract funding because a lot of the international players right now are looking to local peacemakers rather than have Jimmy Carter come from the us to broker peace between the fighting forces in Sudan. And given that we’ve also been hit by the wave of terrorism in this region, he might also be involved in the anti-terrorism crusade across Africa."

Other retired African presidents such as Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda and Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings joined the campaign against HIV / AIDS, another area that requires a regional approach.

But civil war seems to have a more immediate impact on Eastern Africa’s economic growth – and many are waiting to see what skills Kenya’s former president can apply to ending conflict.

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