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Vol 41 No 18

Published 15th September 2000


A soldier's story

Political risk and ethnic balance weigh heavily as President Moi decides whether the army chief should go

His close friends wouldn't claim that Lieutenant General Daudi Tonje is a popular head of the armed forces but they insist he's a good one. Few in the elite ranks of the ruling Kenya African National Union agree. One of Tonje's achievements has been to cut political interference, particularly in the lucrative business of procurement. A news report last month that his tenure as Chief of General Staff (CGS) would be extended for a further three years was followed by a quickfire official denial. One Nairobi business source claims Tonje has cut corruption in procurement by 90 per cent since he took over as CGS in November 1996 (mostly because the forces have been buying much less kit and making older equipment last longer). Anyway, the military budget has shrunk as the economy flags. We hear that the military cuts, and possible effects on stability, were raised in this year's negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. President Daniel arap Moi, who survived a coup attempt in August 1982, doesn't want to take risks with the army ahead of the elections that are due by the end of 2002. If Moi intends to serve one more term, as ultra-loyalists such as Mombasa's Sherriff Nassir demand, the constitution will have to be changed, probably amid mass protests. Even if Moi goes promptly, he is determined to choose his successor as KANU leader, if not as national president. The next two years are sure to trouble the country. The loyalty of the armed forces is crucial.

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