SPENCER MICHELS: The mood was euphoric in Nairobi's Uhuru Park today, as hundreds of thousands of jubilant onlookers gathered for the swearing in of Kenya's third president, Mwai Kibaki.
Seated in a wheelchair after a car accident on the campaign trail, the 71-year-old economist and veteran politician vowed to tackle the monumental task of rebuilding Kenya.
PRESIDENT MWAI KIBAKI, Kenya: The era of… decisions, declarations have gone. My government decisions will be guided by teamwork and consultations.
I am calling upon all of you to come out and fight corruption and agree to support the government in fighting corruption. (Cheers and applause)
SPENCER MICHELS: The crowd roared with approval after a 21-gun salute signaled the end to Daniel arap Moi's 24 years as president. Moi's ruling Kenya African National Union Party, or KANU, had run the country since independence from Britain in 1963. But Moi was constitutionally obliged to step down this year and he backed Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president, as the ruling party candidate.
But in Friday's general election Kenya's voters had made it clear they wanted change. Kibaki and his opposition alliance, called the National Rainbow Coalition, won a landslide victory with 63 percent of the vote, and a parliamentary majority.
Kibaki, who began his political career in the KANU Party in 1963, served as finance minister under Kenya's first president, then as vice president under Moi between 1978 and 1988. In 1991, he left the ruling party and founded the opposition Democratic Party. Kibaki lost two presidential elections in the '90s.
During this year's campaign both candidates ran on a message of change, promising to end rampant corruption and boost the ailing economy. Once tourists from throughout the world visited Kenya for its popular safari destinations, which helped support its economy.
But after years of economic mismanagement, the economy is suffering. Half its 30 million people live on less than a dollar a day, and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have suspended hundreds of millions of dollars of loans because of corruption. HIV/AIDS is also devastating the population, the rate of infection as high as 30 percent in some parts of the country.
Even so, it remains the largest economy in East Africa. It is also a key U.S. ally in the unstable region known as the Horn of Africa. That instability has hit Kenya directly -- the 1998 al-Qaida attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in which some two hundred Kenyans were killed. And more recently, the suicide bombing targeting Israeli tourists in Kikambala and the attempt to shoot down an Israeli tourist charter flying out of Mombassa.
MARGARET WARNER: For more on the election and what it will mean, we get two views. Herman Cohen was assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the first Bush administration. He's now president of Cohen and Woods International, a consulting firm specializing in African issues, and he also teaches at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. And Michael Chege, a professor of political science at the University of Florida; he was born and raised in Kenya, and holds dual U.S. and Kenyan citizenship. Welcome to you both.
Michael Chege, Mr. Kibaki defeated a man 30 years his junior who had the whole apparatus of the ruling party behind him. Are you at all surprised by the results?
MICHAEL CHEGE: I'm not at all surprised by the results Margaret. I think this is welcome news to the people of Kenya first and foremost, to people in that region to the rest of the world.
What Mr. Kibaki did, he and his colleagues, was to put together a broad coalition that united smaller position parties that previously lost Mr. Moi's political party, and by bringing them together it was quite clear. An opinion poll conducted by the International Republican Institute some 10 days ago came out with figures that are not very different from what you're seeing now. It's a landslide and I think that's good for Kenya.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Herman Cohen, the Kenyan people, really they didn't want just a candidate who promised change, they wanted a different party?
HERMAN COHEN: They had to get rid of this very corrupt worn-out tired party that's been in power for 40 years, and they just, I think if they had tried to fiddle the election and tried to cheat, it would have been such an outburst of feeling that the place would have become very violent.
MARGARET WARNER: So Mr. Chege, tell us more about this new president. He after all was part of the KANU Party, as Spencer's piece pointed out, all tell way up to '91 when first other parties were permitted, but he held leadership positions and so on. Why do people have such high expectations for him to really change things?
MICHAEL CHEGE: I think mostly Margaret it's because people respect his personal integrity. He basically came out of the universities as a professor of economics… in the 1960s to go into politics. And his tenure as finance minister under the founding president of Kenya, President Jomo Kenyatta, between 1969 or thereabouts to 1980 or thereabouts, characterized Kenya as a fast growing and efficient run economy. And that's the memory people have of him.
He served as vice president and yes he was under President Moi, vice president when things began deteriorating.
And the oppression and economic decay set in. Mr. Kibaki has never been known as a fighter, somebody who takes a forward approach to confront people…. He's more like a consensus builder, and people... in Kenya understand pretty well he really… at the forefront for fighting. But he has come in at the right moment; he's a man for the moment. A consensus builder. Somebody that can unite people that believe in different things towards a common good, towards the good of the country, and you've got to give it to him, he's done it.
MARGARET WARNER: Herman Cohen, what would you add to that in terms of the new president, both his personal style and his political?
HERMAN COHEN, Well, I think he's a coalition builder, as we saw in the segment, and he will be inclusive. President Moi was rather exclusive. Certain tribal ethnic groups were excluded from resources and excluded from power. I think this fellow will be inclusive and also he'll have transparency and he means what he says when he says we're going to have an independent judiciary, we're going to give power to parliament.
MARGARET WARNER: He did emphasize in his speech, I think his line was, corruption will now cease to be a way of life in Kenya. Is that the most important thing he has to tackle first?
HERMAN COHEN: I think so. Because if you look at the World Bank and the IMF, which has suspended aid for the last two years, their biggest priority is so set up an anti-corruption board or commission, and to pass ethics laws and laws that will punish any sort of corrupt practices.
Once he does that -- and Moi was not doing it for two years -- once he does that, I think they'll be sort of a honeymoon with the international financial institutions and they will open up the faucet in some of these hundreds of millions of dollars that have been held up will start to flow.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Chege, what would you add to that in terms of what it's going to take to start to turn this economy around, as the piece pointed out, and as you said, you know, Kenya, and it still is has the biggest economy and that part of Africa.
But it is really in a terrible, terrible shape with so many people living in poverty and disease and the public services just a disaster. Is international aid and loans the answer?
MICHAEL CHEGE: International aid and loans will be an answer only as long as the domestic investors have the confidence to begin investing and playing a critical role in their rejuvenation of that economy.
And that will not come in my view until they see the policies of this government working. Actually, first and foremost the rule of law, internal peace and security and security in the region, so people are sure that their money when invested grows perfect.
The good thing about Mr. Kibaki's statements so far is that he has got the full agenda under control and has spoken very well today at his inauguration speech about what it will take: The rule of law, internal security and an efficient and lean bureaucracy. These are the right things; once they are done, local investment supplemented by external investment will be the formula that works.
MARGARET WARNER: But Mr. Cohen ending corruption is easier said than done, isn't it? I mean many members of this coalition of his are people who were in the KANU Party until just this past year who suddenly switched sides. How do you really ring corruption out of an economy when it's really built into the fabric now from what I understand?
HERMAN COHEN: You're right, it's equally entrenched; it's not going to be easy. But sometimes people who have been involved in a corrupt system are the best people to work out of it. Look at some of our American leaders like Harry Truman and others, they came out of these machine politicians, St. Louis and others, so I think the first thing to do is, as he said, we're going to ask every politician in power to declare their assets. I mean, that would be a fabulous thing, just because nobody else does that in Africa. And you take it step by step.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Chege, another aspect of at least the importance of Kenya to the United States is as a partner in the war against terror yet of course it's been the scene of one very horrific terror attack. How much of a threat is Islamic terrorism in Kenya and what are its roots?
MICHAEL CHEGE: Not much of a threat, fortunately. The Muslims in Kenya who come from possibly 15 to 25 percent, nobody know for sure, the total population, have co-existed with other faiths very amicably over a long period of time, with Christians, with Hindus, with people that believe in different faiths.
We're seeing over the last few years a small element of young frustrated people along the coast particularly who watch al Jazeera television and CNN and who are concerned about the role the United States is playing in the Middle East and particularly in Palestine. So of course they're voicing frustration against the Kenya government, and some of them, a few of them are expressing sympathy for Osama bin Laden and others. But by and large, Muslims in Kenya have been very, very accommodating to other faiths, and to ways of life that are different from theirs.
This, in this election I was looking at the figures, upwards of 85 percent of the Muslim population voted for Mr. Kibaki, who is a Christian. I think Kenya's danger as far as terrorism is concerned is infiltration by outsiders. That's what happened when the U.S. embassy was bombed in 1989. That's what happened when this Israeli owned hotel was bombed in Mombasa. And let me say it goes far back, in 1980, a hotel owned by a Kenyan of Jewish descent was bombed by people who had grievances not in Kenya but grievances in the Middle East. Kenya is in a tough neighborhood and that is its primary misfortune.
MARGARET WARNER: It's very important, Mr. Cohen, is it's not, that Kenya remain a strong U.S. ally in that tough neighborhood, Somalia, Sudan, all these countries nearby?
HERMAN COHEN: I agree with that, and I must say that despite what we've said about Daniel arap Moi and his mismanagement of the economy, he has been the United States' best friend in terms of national security interests, he has never refused U.S. requests to use the Nairobi airport, the Mombasa, very important port, for our operations in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, and it's very important that we keep the new president on the same wave length as us.
And I might add to what Professor Chege said, that the big danger in Kenya is not the indigenous Muslim population but the very long border with Somalia, we all know the chaos that is in Somalia and the capability of people to infiltrate arms and terrorists across that border. So that's the danger. It's not the fundamentalism that might arise in Kenya, I don't expect it will.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Thank you Herman Cohen, Michael Chege, thank you both.
MICHAEL CHEGE: Thank you.