Ticking off on his fingers the names of possible successors to the late president Jomo Kenyatta, a knowledgable Kenyan observed that "ideologically, there's not a penny's worth of difference among them. The differences are only of style."
That assessment is widely shared by informed Kenyans and foreign observers here. They say that none of the eligible candidates for the presidency would bring any radical changes into office, either in domestic policy or in foreign affairs.
Assuming that Kenya's new president is chosen according to the constitution, a course to which the major political figures say they are committed, this nation of almost 15 million people is expected to continue on the moderate, pro-Western, capitalist course set by Kenyatta. Indeed, the transition government under interim President Daniel arap Moi wasted little time in pledging itself to do just that.
"No Change, Says Moi," reported Monday's Nairobi Standard in big front-page headlines, again delivering Moi's message that things will be just the same as they were under Kenyatta. It may not be that easy, however.
By mid-November, a successor to Kenyatta will have been chosen - probably Moi, observers here say, but possibly one of three or four other prominent politicans who might challenge him.
Some Kenyans, however, are already looking beyond the succession. Although stable and prosperous by African standards, Kenya has deep-seated problems - unemployment , land-hunger, tribalism, a population explosion - that were kept under control largely by the force of Kenyatta's personality. Over the next decade, analysts here agree, these issues are likely to test the ability of the new generation of leaders.
Kenyatta was the only president this country ever had. Few African nations have managed to achieve an orderly transfer of power after the death of the charismatic figures who led them to independence and Kenya wants to be an exception. The question is whether the political system Kenyatta left behind is strong enough to function over the heads of the personal and tribal ambitions of those who accepted it while he was alive.
"Whoever takes over, the inevitable weakening of the central authority could allow matters to slip out of control," a Western diplomat said. He was assuming, as do others, that no successor will command the authority and respect that Kenyatta did, no matter how strong his electoral mandate.
Kenyan officials agree that a bitter public fight over the succession, or an extra-constitutional move by any individual or faction, could bring turmoil or repression as in neighboring countries.
So far there is no sign of either, but that does not mean that Moi will inherit the presidency unopposed diplomatic and political sources also said an orderly transition does not guarantee that whoever takes charge will be able to control parliament, satisfy the rising aspirations of the people, or keep the army out of politics.
Moi, who was vice president for 11 years, was sworn in as interim president the day Kenyatt died. He has limited powers and the constitution provides that a full successor be chosen within 90 days.
Although ambiguous on some points, the constitution is clear in specifying that the successor must be nominated by a political party. Since Kenya only has one party, the Kenya African National Union, it is assumed that the contest, if there is to be one, will take place at the party convention, for which no date has yet been set. If only one candidate is nominated, which is apparently what is going to happen, there is no balloting - he is declared to be elected.
The constitutional requirement that the president be selected from among the elected members of parliament eliminates some personalities who might challenge Moi if they could run.
Among these are former vice president Oginga Odinga, a leader of the Luo tribe, and former foreign minister Njoroge Mungai. He led a faction within the party that sought last year to change the rules so that Moi would not automatically succeed to the presidency even temporarily. The move failed but this group could still be heard from at the convention.
Among those who are legally eligible and considered potential challengers are the minister of finance, Mwai Kibaki, Minister of State Mbiyu Koinage and Peter Kenyatta, the late president's eldest son.
None of these men is noted for strong dissent from Moi on any issue but observers here say the issue is more the manner in which the selection is handled and the harmony that can be built around the winner is the issue, observers here say.