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Kenya's President-Elect Promises to Tackle Corruption, Revive Economy - 2002-12-29

Kenya's new president-elect, Mwai Kibaki, said he is overjoyed to have won Friday's elections. He promises to get straight to work on fulfilling his election promises.

Speaking from the garden of his Nairobi home, Mr. Kibaki of the National Rainbow Coalition said he was very happy and humbled to have been elected as the third president of Kenya.

"For me, it is a great joy. It is also a very humbling occasion. Because it means, in effect, that Kenyans have given me a challenge to go ahead and fulfill all those things that I, personally, have been promising and our party has been promising. And I can assure you that is precisely what we are going to do beginning tomorrow," Mr. Kibaki said.

He said his first priority would be to tackle corruption. He also said his new government will get leaders to declare their wealth so that they cannot steal from public coffers. It will also create an anti-corruption authority to investigate such crimes.

The president-elect also promised to revive Kenya's economy, which is going through its worst recession since independence. And he reaffirmed his intention to provide free primary education, a pledge that appears to have won him millions of votes.

Relaxed and joking with his audience, Mr. Kibaki said he wants to make his government less formal and more accessible to ordinary people.

He said he would abandon a habit common among African leaders, including Kenya's two previous presidents, of naming streets, airports, stadiums and schools after themselves.

Instead, Mr. Kibaki said, he wants to be remembered for improving the lives of ordinary people. "It is not a matter of promoting the ego of a president. A president should prove himself by things he is going to do which change the life of the ordinary Kenyan. Not by naming every street, every corner, every shrub, everything, every nightclub. It's quite ridiculous," he said.

It is the third time that Mr. Kibaki, a former vice-president, has stood for the presidency. In Kenya's 1992 and 1997 elections, he lost when opposition votes were divided among several parties. This time around, more than a dozen political parties formed a coalition backing his bid for the presidency.

The National Rainbow Coalition has won a landslide majority, ousting the ruling KANU party for the first time since Kenya's independence nearly 40 years ago.

Its presidential contender, Uhuru Kenyatta, said he hopes to bring KANU back into government in Kenya's next elections, in 2007.