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Kenyan Government Opponents to Hold Rallies, Despite Ban

In Kenya, organizers of the campaign to defeat the government-backed draft constitution in a recent referendum say they will continue holding rallies, despite the outlawing of such gatherings by the country's vice president.

Opposition official William Ruto tells VOA that Sunday night's statement by Vice President Moody Awori banning the rallies is "inconsequential, unlawful, and illegal."

"What Moody Awori is doing amounts to ruling by decree, which is unheard of in a democratic country like ours. Which law has he used to cancel our rallies? Which part of the constitution is he deriving the enormous powers that gives him the authority to cancel any rally at will?" he asked.

Mr. Awori's statement comes one day after "no" campaign organizers held a huge prayer meeting in the capital, Nairobi, to show their thanks for the "no" result in the November 21 referendum.

Dubbed "the orange movement" because the color came to symbolize supporters of a "no" vote, Mr. Ruto and his colleagues are calling for snap elections.

The orange movement argues that the rejection of the government-backed draft constitution means that Kenyans have also issued a vote of no confidence in the government.

In his statement, Mr. Awori said that the referendum's purpose was to decide upon the constitution and had nothing to do with the peoples' evaluation of the government.

He said the government has no intention of calling elections at this time, and warned ordinary Kenyans, called "wananchi" in Swahili, to stay away from any future orange rallies.

"Government considers these calls for nationwide rallies inappropriate and a threat to national security. The government will not allow the planned rallies and wananchi are cautioned not to attend them," said Mr. Awori.

Opposition official Mr. Ruto says plans for what he calls "thanksgiving meetings" similar to Saturday's prayer meeting, are underway for locations, nationwide.

"It's not for government to decide whether we are going to thank our supporters or not, it is for us to decide. We are planning to have thanksgiving meetings across the country," he said.

The vice president's statement follows a dizzying week in Kenyan politics. After the defeat of last Monday's referendum, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki fired his entire cabinet, then suspended parliament, indefinitely.