Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi can now claim to be popularly elected. His three opponents and some foreign observers may claim vote fraud in the Dec. 29 election, but never mind. Even by official figures, nearly twice as many Kenyans voted to chuck Mr. Moi out as to retain him. He came in first, but with only 37 percent of the recorded vote, against three opponents. That is no mandate for a cult of personality.
Mr. Moi held the election to appease the foreign lending and aid donor community, not to cave in to domestic opponents. He is openly skeptical of multi-party democracy as divisive and tribal. After abruptly changing course and allowing multi-party opposition, he counted on his opponents to oppose each other with equal vigor, which they did. Now they have protested the result as fraud, but he has had himself sworn in, and the international community has little choice but to accede.
The international lending institutions, led by the U.S., may be simplistic in trying to force Western democratic forms of government on African countries. But one-party dictatorships have served those countries ill. African people have pressed for freedom of expression, consent in government, honesty in high places and opportunity for all, in Kenya as everywhere else that allows expression.
What the United States and the World Bank and others with influence should say to Mr. Moi is to keep up the good work, allow the opposition parliamentarians elected to the parliament to function, allow the spirited press to print freely -- in short, to act as the democratically chosen president he now claims to be.
Kenya should not be allowed to slip back into dictatorship. Its people are too varied and sophisticated and don't want or deserve that. If greater freedoms can be maintained, this election will have brought permanent gain to Kenya, the great majority of whose voters wanted a change in leadership.