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Kenya President Opens Parliament; Promises to Fight Corruption - 2003-02-18


Kenya's new president, Mwai Kibaki, opened Parliament by outlining his government's ambitious plans for national renewal. He promised to personally lead the fight against corruption and restore Kenya to glory.

Hundreds lined the streets leading to Parliament, festooned with Kenya's red, black and green national flag, cheering in support of President Mwai Kibaki.

Kenyans have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the ninth Parliament so their new National Rainbow Coalition government can set about implementing the ambitious pledges on which it was elected just more nearly two months ago.

In his speech, President Kibaki reiterated his commitment to creating a culture of zero tolerance toward corruption in Kenya.

"In the past, some of those widely perceived as most responsible for the vice of corruption sat in this very house or occupied other positions of public trust," he said. "This is going to change. As president I intend to lead this change. Corruption, they say, starts at the top. Now the fight against corruption in Kenya will start at the top."

Three anti-corruption bills are among the first pieces of legislation the government is expected to bring to the House.

Mr. Kibaki also promised to reform the judiciary, which is notoriously corrupt.

"The integrity and the effectiveness of key institutions like the judiciary are essential to Kenya's economy," he said. "They are critical to the restoration of the rights and freedoms of our people. We shall therefore fundamentally reform the judiciary to ensure that its integrity and independence is once again guaranteed."

One of the main reasons Kenyans were so excited about the opening of Parliament was to see President Kibaki walk and to hear him speak.

There have been serious concerns about the 72-year-old president's health since he was injured in a car accident in December.

Parliament was due to open last month, but it was delayed when Mr. Kibaki was admitted to hospital because of blood clots and high blood pressure. He has not made any public speeches since then, fueling rumors that he had had a stroke.

The official opening of Parliament marked the first time that President Kibaki has been seen walking normally since the crash. But his sometimes faltering speech shows he has not fully regained his health.

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