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Kenyan Government Drops Proposal to Extend Terms of Office

The Kenyan government has dropped a plan that would have delayed elections until next year. However, opposition politicians fear the issue is far from settled.

Kenya's government has backed down on its proposal to delay elections, due at the end of the year, in the face of intense domestic and international pressure. On Friday, a top official in the ruling KANU party, Otieno Kajwang, was quoted as saying the party was tired of being portrayed as trying to cling to power.

KANU had wanted to extend the life of parliament to May of next year until a new constitution, now being drafted, was fully implemented.

The chairman of the commission drafting the constitution, Yash Pal Ghai, has said the draft should be ready by September, which meant that the constitution could be implemented in time for the elections at the end of the year.

However, Mr. Kajwang, who is KANU's secretary for constitutional and legal affairs, expressed doubts the draft will be ready, and he accused Mr. Ghai of misleading the public.

That drew a quick response from an opposition parliamentarian who is at the forefront of efforts to block the government's extension plan. Mwangi Kiunjuri says it is Mr. Kajwang who is misleading the public.

"Kajwang knows very well that Ghai can complete his work," Mr. Kiunjuri said. "Ghai is very, very clear that by September there will be the draft. And from September we have three months, which are enough for us to go for a referendum, constituent assembly. And this all can be done in those months remaining. And Kajwang knows that."

Mr. Kiunjuri believes the government will come up with another plan to extend the parliament because it wants to solve its internal problems before any elections are held. "We know one thing," he explained, "that the government is not prepared for elections. That is why there's internal wrangling between the members of parliament. They're only looking for ways of extending the House. We shall wait and see what will happen."

Many analysts say KANU wants the new constitution so it can create more senior posts in the government. Only one person will succeed President Moi and the analysts say creating more senior positions is a way of satisfying unsuccessful presidential contenders.

Otherwise, they say, the rivalry over who will succeed President Moi, in power for 24 years, could split the ruling party.