The campaign for the presidency of Kenya officially got under way Monday as the two main contenders submitted their nomination papers to the electoral commission in Nairobi. Business came to a standstill as the Kenyan capital was flooded with rival supporters of the two leading candidates.
Supporters of the two main candidates marched and cheered their way through the streets of Nairobi Monday.
With President Daniel arap Moi retiring after 24 years in power, this is the most exciting election many Kenyans have ever known.
There was some tension as rival chanting crowds gathered in the center of the city, waiting for their candidates to arrive. But the police succeeded in keeping the situation under control.
Many shops remained shuttered for fear of violence and some schools were closed.
Ruling party presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta was the first to submit his nomination papers to the electoral commission.
Mr. Kenyatta was accompanied by President Moi, who has singled-handedly promoted him to take over the reins of power. Though the he is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, Uhuru Kenyatta is a political novice and his selection by Mr. Moi has split KANU, the ruling party.
An hour after Mr. Kenyatta presented his papers, opposition candidate Mwai Kibaki gave his papers to the electoral commission. As the single presidential candidate for the National Rainbow Coalition, a broad alliance of more than a dozen opposition parties, former Vice President Mr. Kibaki represents the most formidable challenge KANU has ever faced.
Both men went on to address rival rallies in different locations in the city center. Both are promising to revive Kenya's ailing economy, which is going through its worst recession since independence.
Mr. Kenyatta's critics say he is just a puppet of Mr. Moi and will be unable to stamp out the corruption that they say has destroyed Kenya's economy.
Mr. Kibaki's critics charge that, at the age of 71, he is too old and should step aside for the younger generation.
Six other presidential candidates are expected to submit their nomination papers on Tuesday.