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Kenyans, independent, still seek some freedoms

Alphonso Van Marsh

By Alphonso Van Marsh
CNN Correspondent

December 27, 1999
Web posted at: 10:17 a.m. EST (1517 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

musings at the millennium

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenya celebrated its 36th year of independence this month. But the rally was overshadowed by a counter-rally of the increasingly vocal opposition to President Daniel arap Moi and his political party's grasp on power.

The counter-rally was one more expression of two generations' worth of frustration: Kenya long since freed itself of Britain's colonial yoke, yet in many ways its people still struggle for personal freedoms.

Self-reliance has yet to solve issues on several fronts:

* Food: Kenya is scrambling to ease famine in the northwest Turkana district, where aid agencies say the government has been ineffective in helping a quarter of a million people suffering from drought.

* Security: In the northeast, lawlessness and cattle rustling prevail; the local independent press says it's sparked by politicians using tribal allegiances to rid their districts of opposition elements.

* Health: One in 11 Kenyans is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to the government.

* Constitutional law: A battle is heating up, between ruling politicians on one side and opposition politicians and religious leaders on the other, over a constitutional review meant to grant basic freedoms to "everyday Kenyans." Some analysts predict change won't come without demonstrations that could result in bloodshed.

* Free speech: Moi, reacting to coverage of the country's constitutional crisis, recently declared the media "the biggest enemy of democracy."

more musings

In December, Kenya hosted a delegation from the International Monetary Fund in hopes of wooing back much-needed aid money. The IMF cut off aid to Kenya in 1997, criticizing it for a lack of openness and accountability and citing allegations of high-level corruption.

Moi has said he will retire at the end of his term with the 2002 elections. Whether anyone can fulfill the dreams of African solutions to African problems is Kenya's challenge in the next millennium.



RELATED STORIES:
CNN Interactive: Analysis

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Kenyan Embassy in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Embassy in Nairobi
International Monetary Fund

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