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Kenya's Moi Fires VP Saitoti - 2002-08-30

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi Friday fired his long-time vice president, George Saitoti, who plans to run for president against Mr. Moi's wishes.

A boisterous crowd waited more than an hour for the fired vice president to address a news conference. Mr. Saitoti's supporters sang songs insulting President Moi and calling him a devil.

President Moi fired Mr. Saitoti Friday morning. No official reason was given and no replacement was named. He was also relieved of his post as Minister for Home Affairs.

Mr. Saitoti vowed to continue with his campaign to succeed President Moi as the ruling Kanu party's presidential candidate in the December elections.

"As stated previously, I will continue to seek the nomination, to stand as the president of the republic of Kenya in response to the calls by the Kenyan people that I do offer myself," he said.

President Moi's decision to fire Mr. Saitoti is the latest attempt to crush an unprecedented rebellion in his party. Members are angry that he wants M.P. Uhuru Kenyatta to be his successor. Mr. Kenyatta is the son of Kenya's founding president, Jomo Kenyatta.

Party rebels have formed what they call a Rainbow Alliance within the ruling party, calling for the presidential nomination to be carried out by secret ballot. President Moi wants the choice to be made by acclamation, or a show of hands.

At a news conference, flanked by several other members of the Rainbow Alliance, Mr. Saitoti called his firing undemocratic.

"I have never known in the history of the world, and much more so in a country that professes democracy, where the vice president has to be fired, merely because he seeks nomination from his party," he said. "But, I must also say, it is a worthwhile price to pay for democracy."

In the 13 years he served as vice president, Mr. Saitoti was one of President Moi's most loyal allies.

Three other ministers in the Rainbow Alliance were sacked earlier this month and another defected to the opposition on Thursday.