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Home >> World
UPDATED: 08:15, November 23, 2005
Kenya's charter referendum winners invite foes for talks
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Kenya's lawmakers who campaigned for the rejection of the draft constitution Tuesday called on those who supported the document to join the winning team and chart the way for a better constitution.

Now that the people of Kenya have decisively spoken, and in the spirit of genuine reconciliation, "we invite our colleagues in the Banana (Yes) camp to join us in expeditiously charting the way forward for a new constitutional dispensation for our country," they told a news conference in Nairobi.

"We want to work with you to create the Kenya we, all of us together, aspire to," they said in a statement read by Uhuru Kenyatta, the leader of the official opposition and son of Kenya's founding Father Jomo Kenyatta.

"A policy of national inclusion is the only one that can hold us together and ensure that we meet the very basic aspirations our people have," he added.

The rejected draft constitution would have replaced the country's charter, which came into force when Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963.

The country's electoral commission officially declared Orange side, a symbol for the critics of the new charter winners, kicking off frenzied celebrations by supporters throughout the country.

The commission chairman, Samuel Kivuitu said the number of voters who cast their ballot against the proposed constitution was 3.5 million, or 57 percent of the vote, compared to 2.5 million or 43 percent in favor.

"We declare that the proposed new constitution was not ratified by voters as provided by the law," Kivuitu said while announcing the results of Monday's plebiscite.

He said the returns from four of the country's 210 parliamentary constituencies where results had not been received would not significantly alter the total number of ballots cast for either side.

And in a televised speech to the nation, president Kibaki conceded defeat, saying the country is not in a constitution vacuum and would continue to operate with the current constitution.

Kibaki, who had urged Kenyans to approve the proposed new constitution, said he had accepted the verdict of the people.

"It is clear that the majority of the people have opposed the proposed new constitution -- it is a big step in strengthening democracy," said Kibaki.

"I congratulate you all for taking part in this historic event peacefully," he added.

He said that the country would continue to be run in accordance with the existing constitution and that issues regarding constitutional review would continue to be addressed as provided for under the law.

But the No proponents said the country would never again return to the dark days of dictatorship and lack of accountability that are the root causes of many years of misrule, corruption and national impoverishment.

"Today we are united as a nation in a renewed quest for a better Kenya. The people have comprehensively and with large majorities voted to strengthen democracy, limit presidential power and devolve power to local communities," said Kenyatta.

"The Orange leadership has consistently fought for the welfare and rights of Kenyans to be addressed in the constitution. The support of this cause by six out of our eight provinces demonstrates the unanimity by which Kenyans have endorsed the national stand of the Orange leaders," he said.

The result caps months of bitter divisions in the run up to the country's first referendum since its 1963 independence.

The rejection of the proposed constitution was widely seen as a significant blow to Kibaki and a major boost for his Roads Minister Raila Odinga.

Odinga, the de facto leader of the ministers who waged an unrelenting campaign for the rejection of the draft constitution, was every elated.

"This is a wonderful day for our country. We have just gone through a referendum and as I said yesterday (Monday), these are historic days of our country," said Odinga.

The process of reviewing the constitution has been going on for at least five years, and has generated extreme temperatures in the country's political landscape.

The most obvious split has been within Kibaki's shaky coalition, with at least seven ministers joining ranks with the opposition to campaign for a No vote, while the president and his supporters promote the Yes vote.

Some 11.6 million Kenyans were eligible to vote in the referendum, held after a bitter campaign marred by violence in which at least nine people were killed and rallies were routinely disrupted.

The polls, however, was largely calm as long lines of voters queued to cast ballots amid tight security.

Source: Xinhua

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