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US Congratulates Kenya's New President, Mwai Kibaki - 2002-12-30

The United States has congratulated Kenya's new president, Mwai Kibaki, with the State Department saying his victory in Friday's election reflects progress toward greater democracy in a country where one-party rule prevailed for decades.

Officials here say the election outcome in Kenya, with Mr. Kibaki soundly defeating the candidate of the long-entrenched Kenya African National Union Party, indicates the country "has come a long way" from the days of one-party rule and elections frequently marred by ethnic violence.

Briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker called Friday's vote in Kenya "free and fair" and said it reflects "progress on democracy" there. He said the United States looks forward to working productively with Mr. Kibaki and his new government.

"We congratulate President Mwai Kibaki and are heartened by his commitment to pursue economic reform and to demonstrate inclusiveness in dealing with the political opposition," Mr. Reeker said. "We've assured President Kibaki of continued United States friendship and support for Kenya. We look forward to working closely with him on issues of regional peace and security, human rights, counter-terrorism and for enhancing trade, job-growth, investment, and in fighting HIV/AIDS."

Mr. Reeker said the United States applauds the other candidates in the race, who he said conceded their loss to Mr. Kibaki "with grace and statesmanship" and have pledged to play a constructive role in Kenya's National Assembly.

The spokesman also said the United States acknowledges "the important role" of outgoing President Daniel arap Moi in assuring a smooth democratic process, and that it looks forward to working with the foundation Mr. Moi will lead in his retirement that will try to resolve African regional conflicts.

Mr. Moi ruled Kenya for 24 years and his authoritarian style of rule often drew U.S. criticism. On a visit to Nairobi last year, Secretary of State Colin Powell openly suggested that it was time for Mr. Moi to leave office.