NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ President Daniel arap Moi urged lawmakers Tuesday to unite to solve Kenya’s problems, and announced publicly for the first time his willingness to meet opposition leaders.
``The challenge ahead of us is to be responsible and resourceful in solving the problems facing our country,″ Moi said in an unusually conciliatory speech at the opening of this parliament.
``Irrespective of party affiliations, we must join hands in order to address these difficulties,″ he said.
Moi, who has ruled Kenya for 19 years, won his fifth, five-year presidential term in December.
But for the first time since Kenya gained independence from Britain, Moi’s ruling Kenya African National Union party has just a thin parliamentary majority _ 113 seats compared to combined opposition’s 109 seats.
Moi has been courting the opposition National Development Party with 22 seats and FORD-Kenya which has 18 seats in hope of getting their support on crucial votes.
On Tuesday, the 74-year-old leader extended an olive branch to his critics.
``I shall be meeting all the leaders from the opposition who also have the genuine desire of finding ways and means of overcoming the challenges ahead of us,″ he said.
Among the difficulties besetting Kenya are poor harvests that will necessitate food imports, already bad roads damaged by unusually heavy rains, and a huge drop in tourism caused by politically inspired violence.
Moi said Kenyans expect this parliament to be more responsible, a reference to the many disruptions of debate by opposition members in the last parliament.
Last July, for example, the opposition shouted down then-Finance Minister Musalia Mudavadi as he tried to give a budget speech.
Moi also condemned corruption, saying it must be fought at every level of society. The government also will ``continue efforts to strengthen our democratic institutions,″ he said.
The International Monetary Fund is withholding a $220 million loan, partly because of the government’s mismanagement of the economy and failure to curb high-level corruption.