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Kibaki Affirms Readiness to Run for Kenyan Presidency - 2002-12-18

Kenya's leading presidential candidate, Mwai Kibaki, has held his first news conference since being involved in a serious car accident two weeks ago. With just nine days to go until Kenya's elections, there have been concerns about the 72-year-old opposition leader's health.

Mr. Kibaki hosted the news conference in the garden of his Nairobi home, seated under a tree, with his ankle in a cast raised on a table. He had removed the neck brace and arm bandage that he was wearing when he flew in from London on Saturday.

Mr. Kibaki said he was deeply touched that hundreds of thousands of Kenyans had turned out to welcome him home, lining the route from Nairobi airport to his house.

He said the reception increased his confidence that Kenyans are going to vote his party, the National Rainbow Coalition, into government on December 27.

"It is the most moving thing that has ever happened in my whole life. So I am very pleased," he said. "And the more I listen to the messages I am getting from the rest of Kenya, I have no doubt at all in my mind that Kenyans have indeed made up their minds. They want the National Rainbow Coalition to form the next government. That, we are ready to do."

Mr. Kibaki was flown to London to receive specialized hospital treatment following a car accident two weeks ago.

His opponents have been spreading rumors that he is too weak to become Kenya's next president, and will have to resign after six months. On Wednesday, Mr. Kibaki denied those claims.

Mr. Kibaki also sought to dispel anxiety over the transition process, which is without precedent.

Kenya's only other experience in governmental transition was 24 years ago, when the current president, Daniel arap Moi, then the vice president, took over from Kenya's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, who died in office.

President Moi has set up a committee made up of his own appointees to supervise the handover.

Mr. Kibaki called for members of his party, as well as the ruling KANU party, to be included in that committee.

"There is no authority in the existing constitution for an outgoing president to appoint a committee to supervise transition," he said. "If indeed he believed in good order and wanted a consultation, then we are willing. We are very happy to form a committee with KANU, with NARC. As a nation, we want this transition to be smooth, peaceful and that's what Kenyans want."

Public opinion polls indicate Mr. Kibaki will win the December 27 election, which would be the first opposition victory since Kenya's independence in 1963.

President Moi's chosen successor, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Jomo Kenyatta, is trailing in the polls.