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Kenya Says Constitutional Review Process on Track - 2004-07-14

Kenya's national development minister says the African Union's peer review mechanism is unlikely to blame Kenya's government for the delay in bringing out a new constitution, or for the violence at street demonstrations to protest the delay.

Kenya Minister for Planning and National Development Anyang' Nyong'o told VOA Kenya is on track with its constitutional review process.

"If you look at other countries, which have gone through the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, they take more than two years to get a constitution," he said. "Poland took 10 years. It is not good just to get a new constitution for the sake of beating time, no. The most important thing is [to] get a constitution this country can live with for a long time."

The current government swept into power in December 2002 on the promise of a new constitution within 100 days.

A national constitutional conference produced a draft document last March, and President Mwai Kibaki said the final version would be released June 30.

But the deadline came and went, and the constitutional draft, mired in court litigation and political infighting, is still to be released.

In early July, angry crowds of Kenyans took to the streets of Nairobi to protest the delay. Police responded by firing teargas, water cannons and live bullets into the crowds.

Mr. Nyong'o says the street protests are a sign of Kenya's progress from a dictatorial government to a democracy.

"If you have an open society, you have to expect people to demonstrate, because this [is] part of expressing their ideas," he said. "And people demonstrate all over the world, for all kinds of things - what happened in Kenya is not unusual at all."

Mr. Nyong'o was one of the speakers at a forum examining Kenya's preparations for implementing the African Peer Review Mechanism process.

The peer review mechanism is the African Union's voluntary initiative to measure and track member countries' political, economic, and social governance and provide guidance.

The initiative falls under the African Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development program, known as NEPAD.

Analysts say the peer review mechanism will encourage investment and development on the continent.

Kenya joins more than 20 African countries that have signed up for the peer review mechanism.

The review process is underway in Ghana and Rwanda. Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, and Mauritius were the first four to volunteer.