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Kenya's President Appoints His Predecessor as Sudan Envoy

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has appointed his predecessor, Daniel Arap Moi, as special envoy for Sudan to help make sure that a faltering peace deal which ended a 21-year civil war between north and south is implemented. But as Nick Wadhams reports for VOA from Nairobi, the appointment could have more to do with Kenyan politics than Sudan's.

Mr. Moi says he will use his contacts with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudanese leaders to make sure the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement is carried out. South Sudan has warned that the country risks slipping back into war because the north has not withdrawn some troops from the south as the deal demands.

But the move is striking because Mr. Kibaki and his predecessor had earlier been seen as foes. President Kibaki's overwhelming victory in 2002 elections was viewed as a repudiation of Mr. Moi's 24-year rule, which was marked by the torture of political opponents, suppression of popular dissent and widespread corruption.

Analysts believe that the move may be part of an alliance of convenience on both sides ahead of elections set for December. Ojwang Agina is a lawyer and political analyst who follows Kenya's politics closely.

"It must be part of a larger package that has been worked between the Kibaki regime and Moi's political group," said Agina. "So it falls into a larger picture and this is just part of that picture which is still evolving."

President Kibaki, who is seeking a second term despite earlier promises that he would not do so, may want Mr. Moi's help in getting as many votes as he can. The president has recently reappointed several ministers once accused in costly corruption scandals, moves that have been seen as efforts to win the loyalty of their constituents.

For his part, former President Moi has many business interests in East Africa, and Agina says he fears the results if the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, or ODM, comes to power.

"The former president sees that a Kenya with an ODM leadership will be contrary to his wishes in that some of the interests that he represents will not be preserved," Agina said. "So he thinks that the current government is better placed to protect his economic and indeed political interests."

President Kibaki has insisted that he turned to Mr. Moi because he is an elder statesman who knows all the players in Sudan. The former leader's spokesman, Lee Njiru, denies any political motive.

"Is there any problem with being political friends? Why do people think that?" asked Njiru. "The fact that he has known and worked with President Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan for many years will actually give him an opportunity to consolidate what has already been achieved so far regarding peace and security in that country."

Whatever the reason, the appointment is yet one more sign that Mr. Moi continues to wield enormous political power in Kenya despite the criticism he has faced from his own people, human rights campaigners and anti-corruption advocates.

In the years since he stepped down, politicians of all stripes have turned to him to help settle their disputes and seek the legitimacy that his approval still bestows.