Kenya votes "Yes" to new constitution

Thu Aug 5, 2010 5:27pm GMT

By George Obulutsa and Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyans voted in favour of a new constitution in a peaceful referendum that could reshape the political landscape of east Africa's largest economy.

With official results from almost all the polling stations released by the electoral authority, 69 percent of Kenyans had backed the charter, and the "No" camp conceded defeat trailing with an insurmountable gap.

The changes put to voters on Wednesday -- coming two years after allegations over vote-rigging in a presidential election ignited violence that killed 1,300 people -- allow for greater checks on presidential powers.

The new legal framework addresses the corruption, political patronage, land-grabbing and tribalism which have plagued Kenya since it won independence from Britain in 1963.

The "Yes" camp claimed victory in the capital in front of a sea of supporters blowing vuvuzelas, chanting and dancing. President Mwai Kibaki lauded Kenyans for endorsing the new law, welcoming the victory as "a renewal for the nation".

"The historic journey that started more than 20 years ago has come to a happy end," Kibaki said, flanked by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and cabinet ministers who backed the new law.

"We shall soon announce the date of promulgation of the new constitution," said Kibaki, who promised to work with those who opposed the law in realising the dream of Kenya's founders.

Higher Education Minister William Ruto, leader of the "No" side, conceded defeat before Kibaki spoke, but quickly went on the offensive saying 60 percent of registered voters had either abstained or said "No", so there should be immediate consultations with the "Yes" side on amendments to the new law.   Continued...

<p>Prisoners queue to vote in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, August 4, 2010. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga</p>
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