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Supporters of new constitution hail referendum victory

Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-08-05

The 'No' campaign in Kenya's referendum has conceded defeat after official results showed that 67 percent were in favour of a new constitution.

Kenya officially embraced a new constitution by a vote of 67 percent on Thursday, after a referendum that defied fears of a repeat of mass bloodshed unleashed by the 2007 presidential election.
 
Opponents of the new constitution had conceded defeat earlier on Thursday after preliminary results showed that the 'Yes' camp had secured an overwhelming percentage of the votes cast in a national referendum.
 
Supporters of the new constitution, which will transfer key presidential powers to local governments, hailed their group's victory.
 
According to correspondent Mike Pflanz, there was an enthusiastic response across Kenya on Thursday morning as people woke up to the news that the 'Yes' side was winning. “People I’ve been speaking to say this is a new Kenya that has been born this morning,” said Pflanz.
 
The official results were announced late on Thursday.
 
The 'Yes' proposition to change the constitution had garnered 67 percent of votes, and 30 percent had voted 'No'. 
 
Kenya's current constitution, drawn up in the lead-up to Kenya's 1963 independence from Britain, grants the president sweeping powers.
 
The new constitution will dramatically cut back the president’s powers by setting up a system of checks and balances and give impetus to much-needed land reform legislation.
 
Leaders of the 'No' vote fought against the new constitution for threatening to upset land ownership, legalising abortion and its recognition of Muslim family tribunals.
 
"(The) majority had their way, we had our say. Now that Kenyans have endorsed that we pass, we are now proposing immediate consultations," said Higher Education Minister William Ruto, who led the 'No' campaign.
 
"We want to be part of taking Kenya to the future," Ruto added.
 
A notoriously slow parliament
 
“There is a huge amount of expectation that within weeks or months we’re going to see benefits from the new constitution. That’s not going to happen,” said Pflanz.
 
“There is a great deal of legislation which needs to be enacted by parliament, and Kenya’s parliament is notoriously slow at passing these kinds of laws.”
 
“We’re going to find a long period of time, maybe as long as one or two years leading to the next elections before we see the dividend from the referendum, and that in itself is going to create a great deal of frustration among those people who this morning feel enthusiastic that the country has turned a corner,” Pflanz said.
 
Pflanz also said the notorious corruption in Kenya’s highest annals of power would continue to be a hurdle for the ratification of the new constitution. “Those with a vested interest in keep the pork barrel, in winning contracts they can skim money off, those are the politicians themselves,” he said.
 
The referendum was one of the conditions of the power-sharing agreement between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minster Raila Odinga that ended the 2007-08 violence. Both back the new constitution, and both appealed to Kenyans to vote peacefully.
 
Ethnically charged violence left between 1,000 -1,500 people dead, according to different estimates, following the disputed 2007 presidential election. No major violence has been reported this time, but authorities deployed police around the country en masse.

 

Date created : 2010-08-05

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