Primate of Kenya announces retirement after calling on Moi to quit

Published September 1, 2002

A week after calling on Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi to give up politics and make way for a new generation of leaders, the country’s Anglican archbishop announced his own intention to retire. Archbishop David Gitari said in a letter to church officials in May that he would “retire on reaching 65 years of age in September as required by church edict.” The letter was written a week after the archbishop challenged Mr. Moi, 76, to quit the chairmanship of the ruling party, KANU (Kenya African National Union), when his presidential term expired at the end of this year. Mr. Moi has been president of Kenya for 24 years. Archbishop Gitari has been a vocal critic of Kenyan authorities, and has sparred with Mr. Moi on several occasions. Archbishop Gitari and other church leaders have at various times called for political reforms, including limitations on presidential powers and measures to ensure fairness in elections. Mr. Moi became president in 1978 after the death of Kenya?s first president, Jomo Kenyatta. It was not until 1992, in the midst of a struggle between political parties, that the nation’s constitution was altered to limit the president?s office to two terms of five years each. During a visit to eastern Kenya, the president rejected Archbishop Gitari’s call to leave politics. “Tell Archbishop Gitari I will not abandon the chairmanship of my party,” the president bantered. “I would like to ensure a smooth transition when much younger people take over as future leaders.” Within a few days, Archbishop Gitari found his own plans to retire being questioned. In a report in Kenya’s mass circulation Nation, an unnamed source suggested that the archbishop was seeking to extend his term of office beyond the usual age of 65. According to church law, a committee of the church?s bishops can extend an archbishop’s tenure, the newspaper reported. Angered by the report, Archbishop Gitari stressed “it is not my wish that my term of office be extended even if there is a provision for extension.”


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