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Kibaki Sworn in as Kenyan President - 2003-01-01

Former opposition party leader Mwai Kibaki was formally sworn in Monday as Kenya’s third president before tens of thousands of jubilant supporters at a mass public rally in the capital, Nairobi.

Mr. Kibaki, a former vice-president, won a landslide victory in national elections last week. According to official results, Mr. Kibaki captured 63-percent of the popular vote. Finishing with 30-percent was Ihara Kenyatta, a son of Kenya’s founding father, and the handpicked successor of outgoing president Daniel Arap Moi.

Mr. Kibaki took the oath of office in a wheelchair, to which he has been confined since being injured in a serious car accident earlier this month. Later, the new president addressed the nation.

“Fellow Kenyans, my friends and fellow Kenyans, ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely happy to address you today. I am overwhelmed by your love. I am emboldened by your support and enthusiasm. I am thrilled by your sense of dedication and commitment to our country. You have renewed my hope and strengthened my belief in the greatness of this country. Now, all of us, both young and old, men and women, Kenyans of every group, every race, every creed, have embarked on a journey to a promising future with unshakeable determination and faith in God and in ourselves.”

Mr. Kibaki vowed that his first priority after taking office would be to tackle high-level government corruption, which had caused much of the international lending community to suspend economic development assistance to Kenya four years ago.

Making good on campaign promises to turn the tide of Kenya’s steady economic decline will be difficult for the new government. But the current situation did little to dampen the level of enthusiasm.

“We are very excited that God has given us a different government. And there is peace in Kenya. There will be no war. We are proud that now what they have been promisng will be delivered now. Mr. Kibaki has it, and we are so excited that Kenya, our prayers are answered.”

Political violence has traditionally flared during previous national elections in Kenya, but there were few reports of disturbances this year. The U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Johnnie Carson, said the conduct of the Kenyan elections was a positive sign.

“I think that this is an extremely good day for the people of Kenya. I think it’s a very good day for the country of Kenya. And I think it’s a good day for democracy in Africa.”

Mr. Kibaki’s victory ended nearly 40 years of rule by the Kenya African National Union, which led the country to independence from Britain in 1963. Party leaders said they would accept the poll results and would join the loyal opposition.