Nairobi — Kenyan's President Daniel arap Moi had wide support for his effort to root out corruption and end government mismanagement.
But now his government has trained its sights on what it says is Marxist subversion - and its drive to root out this perceived subversion is running into resistance from some of the government's early supporters.
The specific government tool to which new objections are raised is use of detention without trial, a practice that has not been used since the 1960s under President Kenyatta.
Moi's government is convinced that the center of subversion is among radical lecturers at the University of Nairobi. Seven people now are in detention, including a lawyer for Sne of the detained university lecturers.
The government got a shock when one of Kenya's most influential newspapers, the Naipobi Standard, which usually supports the government, published a blistering editorial attacking detentions without trial.
George Githii, editor of the Standard, wrote, ''The act that enables the state to deny people their basic human rights should be removed from our Constitution.''
Mr. Githii's view is that the argument advanced for detention without trial is ''both spurious and untenable.'' The detention law is incOoistent wi4h the bill of rights, he says.
Retribution was immediate. The management of the Nairobi Standard, owned by a multinational British conglomerate, quickly sacked Mr. Githii.
There have been calls in Kenya's National Assembly for Githii's arrest and detention and the banning of the newspaper.
Vice-President Mwai Kibaki contended that the editorial was not written by Githii alone. It was, he suggested, ''a well calculated and orchestrated attempt by a political group (unnamed) to destabilize the government and bring chaos to the country.''
Githii had earlier attacked detention of political dissidents as undemocratic.
But what is unusual is that his newspaper had strongly supported detentions when they began in June.
An earlier Standard editorial said, ''We do not need these few elements either on the campus or in public life who are seeking to retard and ultimately destroy the nation. . . . We support the President in the constitutional steps that he takes to deal with them.''
There are some theories about why Githii changed his mind about detentions. One is that he was one of the journalists who signed a petition to the Argentine government seeking the release of three British journalists detained in that country allegedly for spying. This theory holds that Githii was troubled by the inconsistency of appealing for their release while supporting detention at home.
So far Githii remains a free man, despite a vigorous campaign against him, though it is known Kenya's attorney-general is ''studying the case.''