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Kenyan President Concedes Defeat on Constitutional Referendum

  • Josiah Obat

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki Tuesday has conceded defeat in a contest over a government-backed constitution draft.

The speech in which President Mwai Kibaki conceded defeat in the constitutional referendum contest was televised from Nairobi Tuesday and came ahead of the final vote tally.

He said the outcome was a clear verdict that the proposed constitution is not acceptable to the majority of Kenyans and commended them for participating in what he termed a major leap in the democratic governance in the country.

After more than 12 hours of ballot counting, electoral commission chairman, Samuel Kivuitu, declared that opponents of the proposed constitution, the so-called orange team, had won Monday's referendum.

"For 'Yes' is 2,532,918 and that is 43% of the voters who voted," he said. "For 'No,' orange as you prefer to call it, is 3,548,477."

Opponents of the draft document say it concentrated too much power in the office of the president and not enough in the newly-proposed prime minister post.

Speaking shortly after the announcement of the final results in Nairobi, leader of the opposition, Uhuru Kenyatta, extended an olive branch to supporters of the draft, who were united under the symbol of the banana.

"Now that the people of Kenya have decisively spoken, and in the spirit of genuine reconciliation we invite our colleagues in the banana camp to join us in expeditiously charting the way forward for a new constitutional dispensation for our country," he said.

This is the first time Kenyans were able to vote on such a document. The current constitution dates back to the time of independence from British colonial rule 42 years ago.

Analysts say the outcome of the poll should mark a turning point in Mr. Kibaki's presidency.

"As of now probably there could be some kind of soberness for him to look at the result of this referendum as something demanding some kind of reflection," said Mr. Musambai Katumanga, a lecturer of political science at the University of Nairobi. "It would be foolhardy to go ahead and sack people on the other side because you would be sacking regions from the government and that will not help the government to achieve its objectives."

During the campaign President Kibaki had threatened to sack cabinet ministers opposed to the draft, which was a modified version of an earlier document that representatives from all across the country put together after a two-year process. Dubbed the "Bomas draft," parliament proceeded to amend the document to its present form.

Opponents, led by roads minister Raila Odinga, argue that the draft is a major departure from the Bomas draft. Proponents said it was a true reflection of what Kenyans want.

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